All-female mine clearers

When I read David Axe’s blog post about an exclusively female de-mining team in South Sudan, my feminist inclinations were mixed. In the model of the celebrated all-female batch of peacekeepers in Liberia, surely this was a positive step for gender equality. But what if, I darkly wondered, these women were put to de-mining work because they were female? I was keyed onto this suspicion, or some variant of it, by the de-mining program director’s statement that women were effective because with them, there were no “problems of fighting or drinking.”

My worries were misplaced, it turns out, though. From the perspective of the female de-miners themselves:

“Some say it is dangerous for a woman, but they are jealous because we are doing the same job as the men,” said Ms Besta, with a laugh.

“What is dangerous is leaving mines hidden in the ground.”

That’s certainly true, though why someone would be jealous of what seems like hard and dangerous work is beyond me.  This is the country, though, that has sentenced a woman to forty lashes for the crime of wearing pants trousers, so I suppose I should not be surprised by its illogical sexist attitudes.

(image from flickr user World Bank Photo Collection under a Creative Commons license)