21-year-old Zully clears lethal mines in Colombia

Zully is one of many female deminers working in DRC. The meaningful work makes the community safer, and also means that Zully can be a breadwinner for her family and be a role model for other women.

Zullyem Dewadhy Melo Rayo is 21 years old and has already experienced more terrible things than most. During the armed conflict in Colombia she and her family have suffered the consequences of the armed conflict in Colombia, including kidnapping and other traumatic events who marked their lives.

Zully, as she likes to be called, was born in San José del Fragua (Caquetá, Colombia). She is the main breadwinner of her family, composed by her mother and three younger sisters. Zully also commented that her family is the “fuel” of her life and her strength to face any challenges.

She decided to become a deminer, receiving training by DRC (thanks to SIDA funding) and accreditation by the National Mine Action authorities in April 2019. Since then, she has been part of the clearance team funded by PM/WRA and she is currently demining the confirmed hazardous area of Monserrat Hill (20.000 m2 in San José del Fragua, Caquetá).

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Zully at work in the mine field.

She feels grateful with DRC for the opportunity to join the humanitarian mine action world, expressed in her own words:

“I feel grateful with the Danish Refugee Council for the opportunity they have given to me. It has allowed me to continue my undergraduate studies and improve the quality of life for me and my family, since they depend on me financially.”

Approximately 36% of the DRC operational mine clearance staff in the Caquetá and Nariño are female. In fact, DRC female employees have shown great commitment and professionalism, and are admired by their coworkers and highly respected by their community.

Zully also aspires to become a Team Leader and hopefully one day a Clearance Supervisor. And she hopes to be a role model for other women.

“This is a new experience in my life and every day I give my best to contribute to the clearance and land release process, so that the community can use and transit it without any fear”.

DRC and gender mainstreaming

The Danish Refugee Council is committed with gender mainstreaming within its program and has established an equal opportunity recruitment policy on its different operational and administrative teams. In addition, having women in leadership positions, that are traditionally occupied by men, helps empowering them in the local communities, by proving that women are capable of meeting expectations of high-level roles equally good as men and converting them in role model that can inspire future generations.