3027941909_0187df7abd1During my time in Lebanon I visited an all-women cluster munition clearance project run by Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) in Tibnine, a town in the central part of South Lebanon. I wanted to see their work and brief two of the women that were invited to attend the Oslo Signing Conference of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. I haven’t found a place to write up the notes of this visit so thought I’d share it here.

During the 2006 conflict, a cluster bomb landed opposite the main entrance to the hospital in the town and 100s, perhaps 1,000s of unexploded cluster bomblets. David Shearer, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Lebanon at the time, told Haaretz after he toured the town that: “I saw these kinds of bombs on houses, inside houses and next to houses… I saw them clear 16 or 17 away from a school soccer field. I saw them on the road and in orchards next to the road, caught in the trees.”

So when I visited the town more than two years on it was no surprise that clearance teams were still removing and destroying these bomblets. The eight-woman clearance team was conducting surface and sub-surface clearance in gardens and orchards and entrances to houses on a hillside. Normally the team is larger, but two of the women are pregnant.

The NPA site supervisor Lamis Khalil Zein (on the left in this photo) gave us an excellent briefing on the team’s work. I found the terminology quite different from mine clearance. The women call themselves “searchers” (not deminers) who engage in “battle area clearance” (not demining) using “locators” (not metal detectors).

Lamis told me that she decided to apply for the clearance job in 2007 after hearing that NPA wahiring women. Previously an English teacher in Tyre, Lamis is a mother of two. The other woman who came to Oslo was Mirna Mahmmoud Aashour (on the right in the photo). Mirna lives with her family in Tyre and is completing a university degree in geography.