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Lend your leg to ban landmines
April 03, 2012

Lend your leg to ban landmines
Young people living in the Shan temporary shelter on the Thai-Burma border lend their legs. (Jesuit Refugee Service)
"I wanted to die with him that day," recalled Yay Mao when looking at a photo of her 10-year old grandson, who died five months ago after discovering a cluster bomb in their yard in Cambodia.

(Phnom Penh) April 3,  2012 — The idea is to end the destruction caused by landmines within our lifetime. How? By lending a leg, of course. Around the world, people are joining together in solidarity to take a stand, to step forward and to ‘Lend a Leg for a mine free world,' all through the simple gesture of rolling up their pants leg. 

'Lend Your Leg' is a month-long call to action on April 4, International Mines Awareness Day.

"Through Lend Your Leg we want to wake the world up and see that by taking part in this simple action and by saying no more to this injustice we truly can put an end to these weapons for good," said Juan Pablo, Director of the Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines, and creator of the 'Lend your Leg' campaign.

Since the Mine Ban Treaty became law 13 years ago, 80 percent of the world's countries have banned landmines, millions of mines have been removed from the ground and billions of dollars have been invested into land release, survivor assistance and mine risk education. But more needs to be done.

• The Treaty is not yet "universal." The United States, China, India and Russia — our world leaders — have not signed the treaty. And for the first time in seven years, landmine use rose.

• The human cost remains high. Last year's Landmine Monitor recorded 4,191 new casualties, nearly 12 people every day, mostly civilian and children. "I wanted to die with him that day," recalled Yay Mao when looking at a photo of her 10-year old grandson, who died five months ago after discovering a cluster bomb in their yard in Cambodia.

• The psychological burden carries on incessantly Landmines are an attack on the mind and the body. Countless people knowingly live and work in suspected hazardous areas with no choice. When asked if there are more mines or cluster bombs near her home, Yay Mao shrugged her shoulders, "Probably… but what can we do? We must live." 

• "If accessing the only source of water for miles means walking through a known minefield, people will do it," said Nick Roseveare, chief executive of Mines Advisory Group.

When Japan donated $16 million worth of de-mining materials to the Cambodian government in February, Jesuit Refugee Service Cambodia kick-started our campaign.

Sr. Denise Coghlan, director of JRS Cambodia and the Cambodia Campaign to Ban Landmines, "rolled up" alongside the deputy prime minister and the Japanese Ambassador. The very day, German parliamentarians and human rights groups joined the campaign and "rolled up."

You can be involved too. It's easy — visit the website and find events in your area. 

"We want to hear what (others) are doing… We want everyone to get involved!" enthused Sister Denise.

The success of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is a strong reminder of the power of civil society, and the partnership between NGOs and governments that this campaign represents. The adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997 was the first time a civil society grass roots campaign had ever succeeded in lobbying for a global ban on a weapon that had been in widespread use. For this achievement, the ICBL was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. 

"Civil society, in partnership with governments won the mine ban treaty. Now come on! Lend your Leg and let's do it again so that we can make a world cleared of mines where survivors live in dignity", Sr Denise said smiling.

By Tess O'Brien, Jesuit Refugee Service Cambodia volunteer



Stories from JRS Asia Pacific about the Campaign to Ban Landmines