ADELE BUTLER – Women of Spirit: Lens of Hope


 Lens of Hope



I watched Miss Landmine Pageant, a documentary on the Documentary Channel.  It was about women maimed by landmines being photographed for a pageant.  One woman had her accident when she was five.  She had one leg.  She said that sometimes she dreams that she has two legs.  She is an activist and was at the United Nations in 1995 campaigning to ban landmines.  There was another woman who had no legs.

The woman are in Cambodia a country known for its many landmines.  Morton Traavick, the creator of the Miss Landmine Pageant travelled to different parts of the country to find and photograph contestants. 

One man said that when a woman was disfigured by landmines it is hard for her to find work.  Some of them live at home but are burdens on their families.  Some of them face the prospect of not getting married.  Some people think that what happened to a woman disfigured by a landmine was her fault.

Kong Nay, a man sang these touching words as the women made their way slowing up some steps, “I sing about the women disabled by landmines.  They are beautiful and charming women but misfortunate makes them disabled everyday.”

One woman stepped on a landmine when she was 15 years old.  She is now a wife and mother.  Her husband sang her praises.  “She’s a good wife and takes good care of our children.  She’s better than non-disabled women.”  She cooks, cleans and takes care of the house.  Both of them are discriminated against.  Some people say that he will be a beggar but he overcame the odds because he had to take care of his family.  He too had lost a leg. 

This woman’s husband spoke very highly of her.  She is a good, hardworking wife.  She reminds me of the virtuous woman Solomon described in Proverbs 31.


Image: corbis

Cambodia is littered with landmines and they continue to maim people.  These people get above the knee amputations.  There was one very touching story of a girl and her father.  Some people hated her and some pitied her.  They called her names.  She told her mother that they called her a cripple which made her want to commit suicide.  Her parents weep—her mother finds it difficult to see her daughter handicapped.  Her father has deep regrets and feels depressed.  He was an officer with the government and was involved in a war with the Khmer Rouge.  Both sides were laying down landmines. 

The officer’s daughter missed him so her mother took her to visit him and it was when they were there that the enemy attacked.  She and her father fled and were both injured by landmines.

When the girl was dressed up and wearing a sash as she had her photo taken, she looked stunning.  Her mother was proud, never imagining that she would see her daughter looking like that. 

One woman stepped on a landmine when she was 15.  She went to plant rice.  She lost both legs.  This happened 22 years ago.  She is married with four children.  She sells food outside of her home to support her family.  She told her children that when they see a disabled person not discriminate against them.  She is a disabled person too.

She has a big, happy smile on her face as she crosses her prosthetic legs and strikes a pose.  I admire these amazing women.  When they are made up and dressed for their photo shoots, you don’t see their disabilities.  All you see is their beauty, grace and determination.

There were newspapers with the headlines, Cambodia Cancels Miss Landmine Contest.  The country rejects the contest.  After being told that the contest was not going to happen, Traavick distributed a magazine with photos of the women he had taken to show the people how happy, hot, sexy and glamorous these women looked.

Some people believe that beauty pageants are sexist and exploits women.  One man accused Traavick of exploiting these disabled women and hiding behind the landmines issue.  The pageant, in some people’s estimation, was making a mockery of women’s disabilities.

These women seemed very happy because they were given the opportunity to feel beautiful and good about themselves.  The pageant was a blessing for them because they were discriminated against. 

The winner of the Miss Landmine Pageant said that the pageant has taught her not to lose hope and that you are capable of doing anything that any able-bodied person can do.  Her goal now in life is to finish school, find a good job and take care of her parents.

Through the lens of the camera, the women regained their dignity, self-worth and self-respect.  They found hope.

It is estimated that there are still between 3 and 6 million active landmines in Cambodia.  An international treaty has been set up for nations to destroy their stock piles of anti-personal line mines .  Unfortunately, nations like the U.S., North and South Korea, China and Pakistan have not signed the treaty.  The U.S.’s official explanation is that landmines are needed to sustain the DMZ between North and South Korea. Read more:

I urge you to appeal to your governments to sign this treaty which would prevent innocent civilians from getting maimed for life.  Think about the farmers who need to plant and plow.  Think about the children who play in the fields.  The people of Cambodia are entitled to safe, landmine free lives.

Visit the official website for Miss Landmine at

~Adele Butler, A Celebration of Women 2011



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