Female sapper Dieu Linh has just attended a virtual ministerial meeting entitled “Maintenance of international peace and security: Mine action and sustaining peace: Stronger partnerships for better delivery,” held by the UN Security Council. She was one of the three keynote speakers at the discussion session of the meeting.

Nguyen Thi Dieu Linh speaks at the virtual ministerial meeting held by the UN Security Council recently.

Dieu Linh was born and grew up in Quang Tri, Vietnam’s central province, which suffered thousands of tons of bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force during the war.

She said fate has brought her to the work of clearing UXO.

“At first, I worked as an interpreter for a Norway-sponsored mine action project. I learnt a lot about the huge consequences of war legacy in my home land. Although decades have passed since the end of the war, UXO is often found in paddy fields, up on hills and in residential areas. I recall when I was small, my friends and I picked up a number of metal pieces and played with them. With our little knowledge, we did not know the metal pieces were grenades or artillery shells. I now feel lucky as these deadly things did not boom. But not all people are as lucky as we were. Since the end of the war [1975], nearly 3,500 were killed and more than 5,000 others were wounded by UXO in Quang Tri,” Dieu Linh spoke to reporters on the sidelines of the meeting. 

With her strong desire to contribute to her homeland, Dieu Linh studied to become a field officer and then a field manager in 2015. Now she is the Chief of the Quang Tri Female Sapper Squad, leading 300 sappers and workers.

Every day, she leads the sapper squad to detect and move UXO to safe sites for neutralization. She and members of the squad are trying their best to bring peace and safety to local people and turn UXO-polluted land – the so called “land of death” into farmland for them.

Regarding her female sapper squad, Dieu Linh said, “In the past, people used to think that bomb and mine clearance was men’s job, and that women should only serve in support forces like medical workers in the field. Today, female officers make up 30% of the total field sappers and hold important positions in international mine action organizations. Some female officers are country managers, project managers or leaders of sapper squads. Like their male peers, female sappers have undergone various training courses on types of UXO, UXO clearance procedures and UXO clearance skills. I’m proud to be a founding member of the Quang Tri Female Sapper Squad, the first female sapper team in Vietnam responsible for clearing UXO left over by the war.”

When she is asked if she feel fear when working in the field, Dieu Linh shook her head, saying that a sapper working in the field should always be patient and 100% attentive to the work so he/she has no time to fear. She told that she saw her colleague be killed in an accident while clearing UXO in the field some years ago. She was shocked but she quickly recovered her calmness and handled the situation. 

Over the past years, thanks to the effective collaboration among the Government, the Army, the local authorities and international organizations, the pace of UXO clearance in Quang Tri increased.

So far, more than 600 villages in the province have been cleared up, 21 million square meters of land has been freed from UXO, and nearly 900,000 local people, including 300,000 women and female children, have received humanitarian aid.

Speaking at the discussion session of the UN Security Council-sponsored virtual ministerial meeting, Dieu Linh suggested that the UN should help UXO-affected countries improve their capacity for UXO clearance. Secondly, UXO-affected countries’ agencies and international organizations should strengthen coordination in UXO clearance. Thirdly, international organizations and countries should frequently share experience in UXO clearance. Finally, the UN, international organizations and countries should increase the participation of women in UXO clearance.

She concluded her speech by saying, “I very much wish that the world would be free of UXO and people could have a safe life without UXO threat.”

All delegates at the meeting clapped their hands after the Vietnamese female sapper’s speech. 

Translated by Thu Nguyen