Effects of Mixed Teams on Land Release

by Arianna Calza Bini, Nyske Janssen and Abigail Jones [ Gender and Mine Action Programme ] - view pdf

The Gender and Mine Action Programme (GMAP) investigated the impact of mixed gender teams on land release. Based on the opinion of the respondents, as well as gender baseline assessments conducted by GMAP, the organization found that in most cases mixed teams in the land release process are primarily associated with the employment of women and its effect on the teams. Some mine action managers indicated that mixed teams actually enable better access to information while only a few respondents indicated that more accurate and inclusive information will allow mine action organizations to prioritize tasks where the impact is highest. This demonstrates that despite arguments in favor of mixed teams, their importance is still not fully understood in the mine action sector.

HALO non-technical survey training in March 2013 in El Retiro, Colombia.
Photo courtesy of Grant Salisbury.HALO non-technical survey training in March 2013 in
El Retiro, Colombia.
Photo courtesy of Grant Salisbury.

Despite increasing global recognition that mixed gender teams can benefit land release, sufficient documentation does not exist to support this. In 2013 the Gender and Mine Action Programme (GMAP) started to map first-hand experiences by sending a short questionnaire to current and former operations, program and community liaison managers working in the field of mine action. The 10 respondents have worked for different international nongovernmental organizations in North and Central Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The respondents were invited to share their personal experiences from 2003–2013 as well as opinions on the perceived impact of mixed gender and male teams on non-technical survey, clearance and handover.

In addition, findings were analyzed from seven gender baseline assessments involving more than 400 people. For these assessments, GMAP conducted individual interviews, focus group discussions, staff surveys and direct observation of local staff and expatriates in six different countries during 2012–2013. GMAP observed that impact was most frequently interpreted as effect; hence, the results of this analysis are presented as effects on the individual, effects on the team and effects on younger and older members of impacted communities, both male and female.1,2

Mixed Teams in Land Release

Land release in mine action focuses on operational efficiency, the quality of the process and its results. Relative to a gender perspective, the three key steps are

Due to cultural restrictions, access to information is limited in many impacted countries. As a result, teams should be composed of mixed genders. The benefits of mixed gender teams are threefold:

Moreover, frameworks of international guidance for gender mainstreaming in land release exist. The Cartagena Action Plan of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention or APMBC), the Vientiane Action Plan of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the International Mine Action Standards on land release each reference the need for an integrated gender dimension within land release activities.4,5,6

Figure 1. Perceived positive effects of mixed teams at the 
individual, team and community levels.
Figure courtesy of the authors..Figure 1. Perceived positive effects of mixed teams at the
individual, team and community levels.
Figure courtesy of the authors.

Effects on the Individual

Earlier GMAP research illustrates that female employment has a positive impact at the individual level.7 Employing women in management positions demonstrates to the community that women are physically and psychologically capable of fulfilling high-level positions with equal productivity. Individually, income often empowers women, and other females within the community see them as positive role models. Relatedly, a woman's status in her family and community rises. However, what happens to the women after mine action activities conclude is not documented. Based on experience with female deminers, one respondent said, “If women did not hold a mid-management position, they most likely fall back into the roles they held before their employment.”

The gender baseline assessments and staff survey findings supported arguments for mixed employment in mine action. Respondents stated that financial needs, helping the community and the opportunity to learn new skills were frequently reasons for both men and women to work in mine action. Questionnaire responses from managers suggested that most women become deminers due to financial motivations. The effect of employment on women's lives and their role in the community was seldom referenced, and only one respondent mentioned that employment in mine action could empower women.

Effects on the Team

When asked about their experience regarding mixed-team employment, the surveyed local managers and field staff typically highlighted positive effects on their projects. These testimonies noted

A frequent survey answer from expat operations managers (typically from developed countries) with mixed team experience seemed less positive, because in their opinion “its success is country specific” and “should never be forced when it is not in accordance with cultural norms,” and therefore the focus should be on “only employing the best candidate.”

Effects in Impacted Communities

In examining the effects of mixed teams during non-technical surveys, survey responses suggested that teams employing women had better access to women and children in affected communities. Whether this better access leads to the collection of more complete and accurate information about the locations of potential explosive hazards or other risk factors is undocumented. Although not every participant demonstrated improved effectiveness from mixed teams, certainly better access to information allows them to prioritize the tasks where the impact for all groups is highest. In focus group discussions, participants agreed on the significance of having women conduct surveys and fulfill community liaison activities in order to access a wider range of stakeholders in a community and collect information on contamination and priorities for clearance from women, girls, boys and men.

Regarding the perceived effect of mixed teams during the handover of cleared land to younger and older men and women, a range of answers included

The unique circumstances the participants in the survey faced likely influenced these varied responses. Negative experiences commonly came from those working in North African countries, whereas positive experiences often came from Central and South African countries. Other regions reported no effect of mixed teams.

Areas of Future Research

Respondents associate mixed teams in the land release process primarily with the employment of women and its effect on the team. Many practitioners seem less aware of the broader positive benefits on males and females of all ages, i.e., better access to information from women, girls, boys and men in affected communities, which allows mine action organizations to prioritize tasks where the impact for all groups is highest.

The findings also point to a number of areas that require further research in order to better understand the long-term journalal impact of mixed teams in land release settings:

GMAP is interested in receiving details about the experience and opinions of any interested party on the effect of mixed (male/female) non-technical survey teams on mine/explosive remnants of war affected communities. To participate in the study, contact info@gmap.ch. c



Arianna Calza BiniArianna Calza Bini is the director of the Gender and Mine Action Programme (GMAP). She has worked as program manager and gender adviser at the European Union Delegation to Brazil and as gender and poverty officer for the United Nations journal Programme in El Salvador. She holds a Master of Philosophy in journal studies from the Institute of journal Studies (U.K.) and an advanced degree in economics from the University of Rome (Italy).

Nyske JanssenNyske Janssen is programme assistant at the Gender and Mine Action Programme in Geneva. She previously worked with the International Labour Organization on the feminization of the informal sector and with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Millennium journal Goal 3 Fund. Janssen holds a master's degree in gender studies from the University of Sussex (U.K.) and a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands).

Abigail JonesAbigail Jones is the programme manager at the Gender and Mine Action Programme in Geneva. She previously worked as a community liaison manager with MAG (Mines Advisory Group) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has also worked in Kenya, Pakistan and Sierra Leone. Her academic background includes a Master of Science in international journal from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (U.K.) and a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in international relations from the University of Birmingham (U.K.).

Contact Information

Arianna Calza Bini
Programme Director
Gender and Mine Action Programme
P.O. Box 1300 | 1211
Geneva 1 / Switzerland
Tel: +41 (0)22 730 9335
Fax: +41 22 730 9362
Email: a.calza-bini@gmap.ch
Website: http://gmap.ch

Nyske Janssen
Programme Assistant
Gender and Mine Action Programme
Email: gmap02@gmap.ch

Abigail Jones
Programme Manager
Gender and Mine Action Programme
Tel: + 41 (0)22 730 9336
Email: a.jones@gmap.ch



  1. Baseline assessments were conducted in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and South Sudan (two different organizations). These assessments were conducted for different organizations and have not been published.
  2. Note that all answers from respondents represent their personal views and experiences and do not always reflect GMAP's views.
  3. The land release process encompasses the efficient application of survey and clearance and the subsequent handover of land.
  4. "Cartagena Action Plan 2010–2014: Ending the Suffering Caused by Anti-personnel Mines." Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World, Action No. 15, 20 and 52. Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, 30 November–4 December 2009. http://www.cartagenasummit.org/fileadmin/pdf/review-conference-2nd/2RC-ActionPlanFINAL-UNOFFICIAL-11Dec2009.pdf.
  5. "Vientiane Action Plan." Convention on Cluster Munitions, Action No. 14. Vientiane, Laos, 12 November 2010. http://www.clusterconvention.org/files/2011/01/VIENTIANE-ACTION-PLAN-Final2.pdf.
  6. United Nations Mine Action Service. IMAS 07.11: Land Release. Section 5. New York: UNMAS, 10 June 2009. http://www.mineactionstandards.org/fileadmin/user_upload/MAS/documents/imas-international-standards/english/series-07/IMAS-07.11-Ed.1-Am2.pdf.
  7. Gender and Mine Action Programme. "Gender-sensitive recruitment and training in mine action: Guidelines." Geneva: GMAP, 2013. http://www.gmap.ch/fileadmin/GMAP_Articles_and_Papers/R_T_Guidelines_EN_HR.pdf.