Botswana to recruit women into the military

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) will recruit its first batch of women soldiers today. Since its inception in 1977, the BDF has only been enlisting men as soldiers. But after the military was opened to women at cadet level, 1,238 applications were received for 30 positions. Out of these, 856 are university graduates.

The officer cadets will be taught basic military skills, drill and groom before they leave for their 12 months training at the Tanzania Military Academy in Monduli. BDF spokesman, Lieutenant Mogorosi Baatweng said the officer cadets would leave for Tanzania in the first week of September.

The enlistment of female soldiers is seen as a welcome development.

Former MP, Shirley Segokgo commended the move as a step in the right direction. She said they had long felt that women should not be excluded from the army. She said the recruitment of women to the BDF creates job opportunities.

University of Botswana (UB) academic, Log Raditlhokwa said the recruitment of female soldiers is a positive step. "It is about gender equality. Women and men should be allowed equality in employment," he said.

He said the recruitment of women into the army is long overdue as other countries in the region have always had female soldiers.

He urged gender activists to lobby for the recruitment of more women into the army. Raditlhokwa stressed that another crucial issue to look at is how women soldiers would be treated. He appealed to male soldiers to be sensitive to the needs of their female colleagues. "What is important is that a conducive environment should be created for women to perform and advance in their military career."

He said sexual harassment and negative behaviour should not be condoned in the army.

Raditlhokwa said Botswana could learn from other countries that have been recruiting women soldiers for a long time.

Source: Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone), 17 September 2007