This research seeks to address the question of whether women’s participation in humanitarian mine action programmes increases their transformative agency in their families and communities. Transformative agency refers to behaviour that challenges existing social structures and power relations, as opposed to acting in conformity with them.
In addressing this question, we root our research in the relevant literature on gender, empowerment and agency, looking at these terms’ close intertwinement to better conceptualise our findings. We particularly rely on authors using economic indicators of agency, as this seemed especially useful and relevant for this research project. We focus on assessing women’s agency on the family and community levels, analysing two specific country cases, Colombia and Lebanon. The data informing this research was collected through distributing surveys and doing interviews with female employees of humanitarian mine action organisations in both of these countries.
Our findings show interesting accounts of female agency gained through working in humanitarian mine action. We find women to have an increased voice, influence and awareness of issues surrounding them, which had a positive impact on both their families and communities. On the family level, we found a clear increase of decision- making power. On the community level, however, women’s increased voice and influence did not always translate into concrete actions, such as participation in community activities. This suggests that women more often influence people’s mindsets, perceptions and awareness of issues such as traditional gender roles. We call this less tangible form of agency ‘knowledge agency’, which could be transformative in the long term.