Saves Lives, Builds a Future

Saves Lives, Builds a Future
Mine Risk Education activity in local community, Photo by TMAC

This story is about the hazard posed by antipersonnel mines located close to the pastures, hills and farm fields of the village Qizilpilol, Isfara district. The village lies on Tajikistan’s border with Uzbekistan and inhabitants of this village represent two friendly nations – Tajik and Uzbek. Historically, they are closely related by traditions and customs. The first antipersonnel explosion in Qizilpilol was in the summer of 2000 and it involved six local women and girls. Out of the six victims, two of them – a mother and daughter – survived. At that time inhabitants of the border village had not any information about mine affected area.

Highlights:

  • Local voluntary and teaching networks have been enhanced in the north communities.
  • MRE safety messages and materials have been used widely by advocacy events and local traditional media.
  • MRE students’ school performances and parents’ involvement have been followed up.
  • Women’s role as MRE key informant has been recognized by local authorities.
  • MRE plans to involve communities and district officials to pursue a gender approach in planning the district development program.

“The sound of the explosion still rings in my head and I am still suffering over the loss of my friends, the women and girls, and I have bad dreams about it. It was a hot August and we went to the hills together to collect wood. We usually collect wood in the field near our village as we can’t cook without it, living in as remote a place as we do. We were talking about our problems, opening up our hearts and advising each other not to be weighed down by family burdens… oh, women can empathize with the problems of women everywhere. Suddenly, we heard a terrible noise in the field and the agonized voice of my friend who had gone on ahead. I saw smoke and dust and fear rooted me to the spot when I saw the dead bodies,” Mujibakhon, one of the survivors, says.

In 2003, UNDP focused on mine action support in Tajikistan. Mine Risk Education (MRE) started to coordinate and disseminate safety messages in partnership with Tajik Red Crescent Society, Community Women Councils, Committees of Emergency Situations, districts education departments, media, village schools, shepherds and farmers and with the involvement of local organizations. The projects increased the number of local volunteers and focal points to educate people on reducing casualties. Year by year they contributed to saving lives through an established network. UNDP promoted the development of awareness on gender policy and women’s empowerment. Fortunately, through planned community and school-based MRE activities, the number of casualties has fallen.

“Everybody has developed communication on safety messages and everybody living in mine-affected areas needs to be protected from all risks. My team continues to educate adults and children to prevent mine risk and share their best MRE skills with other mine-affected border villages,” Salima, an MRE teacher from the northern border community, says.

MRE coordinated steps to be more gender-friendly and involved stakeholders to support mine action on provision of safety messages to the wider public. MRE is provided by implementing partners and community members to all mine/ERW affected communities and at-risk groups in 25 districts (7 districts along Uzbek border, 5 districts in central region and 13 districts along Afghan border). MRE is conducted by volunteers through community- and school-based activities, traditional media, mass media, and public events. Furthermore, MRE activities have aimed to attract more women and girls into implementation of MRE, which gave them the chance to be recognized as an important force by the community. Due to the MRE network every year 75,000 inhabitants of the contaminated communities in 25 districts receive safety messages to reduce the number of casualties.