Arwa Ali Saeed Wais

When Arwa Ali Saeed Wais was ten years-old, she was herding her sheep and made her way toward a shady spot under a tree in a grazing pasture. She suddenly stepped on a landmine which tore off Arwa’s right leg and left her with a devastated left leg which she later lost at the hospital.

After four months in the hospital, Arwa returned home to find herself inhibited by her injuries. She was unable to go outside and felt like a prisoner in her own home. She was soon guided by the Yemen Association for Landmine Survivors (YALS) and the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC) back into society. She was actually one of YALS first members which was started in 2004. They provided her with elementary schooling and vocational training in computers, handicrafts, sewing, and administrative work. She slowly became adjusted to and accepted her life as a double amputee.

This brave girl has accomplished much at a young age. She became the YALS Secretary in 2006 and, in 2009, began working at Al-Thowrah General Hospital in Sana’a. She is also an official spokeswoman for YEMAC and has shared her story in a number of forums. She aims to raise awareness of landmine contamination in Yemen and the psychological, physical, social, and economic barriers facing landmine survivors there. Over the years, Arwa has also become a role model and good friend to fellow survivors. Her administrative job at YALS and her role as supervisor of the boarding residence for survivors also give Arwa the opportunity to visit other landmine survivors regularly at the hospital and in their homes. In particular, Arwa has been instrumental in inspiring female landmine survivors who live in rural and tribal communities, where old traditions do not encourage disabled girls to reintegrate into their communities or to be self-reliant.

It is clear that Arwa has commited herself to improving the lives of landmine survivors in Yemen. In 2009, MLI honored her with the Clearing the Path Survivors’ Assistance Award presented to her at the annual Gala in Washington DC.

“Every day, I pray for an end to landmines, not only in my country, but in the whole world.”