The US Army has accused the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) of mimicking the Indian army in its current set up and ignored its unique retention and recruitment process.
A report published at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy based in Texas quotes Sgt. Maj. Carolina D. Johnson, as saying that “When they (Botswana) set up the recruiting process, they mimicked the Indian army.” “They literally took it and changed the name. They didn’t craft it to fit their concepts. So what you saw is that they recruited this person with this skill set, but the job required a different skill set,” said Johnson. Johnson made this observations at a workshop she held in April 2013 consisting of 35 male and female Botswana Defence Force soldiers. The workshop was at the invitation of Deputy Commander of the Botswana Defense Force, Maj. Gen. Placid Segokgo. According Jonson, the BDF lieutenants requested a revision of the requirements so that they could recruit individuals with the skill sets that were actually needed. Johnson helped the group as they began to craft new policies. The BDF soldiers also discussed the establishment of fair housing policies.
“If soldiers are not able to obtain housing on-post ÔÇô often the case if they do not have children ÔÇô they are given very little money for off-post accommodations,” Johnson noted. The BDF soldiers also complained to Johnson that they have to be able to live decently. “They don’t want nine soldiers living in a house together, or their soldiers living in the ‘slums’,” Johnson noted. Johnson who was tasked with discussing ways to help integrate females into the BDF with soldiers noted that progress continues slowly in Botswana, “but within the last year, small victories can be noted.”
Based on funding, training and housing, Botswana is not yet ready to bring enlisted females into the force, Johnson said. Through the workshops held with the assistance of the US army, the BDF was able to identify some of the main roadblocks standing in the way of that goal. “Now it is up to the leadership and middle management to make the changes happen”, she said. Johnson also noted that some of the females who participated in the workshops have been promoted with waivers until issues with the physical fitness test can be resolved, and the country has sent its first female soldier to the Defence Command and Staff College in Gaborone, Botswana. The Botswana Defence Force was established in 1977 and began recruiting female officers in 2008.
Most soldiers were supportive of the idea of females in the force, but the transition was not easy, Johnson said. “They said when [females] showed up, they didn’t know what to do with them,” she said. Johnson observed that “Some of the ladies had master’s degrees in intelligence and other areas, but they didn’t know how to use them, because they were stuck on the female role within society ÔÇô my girlfriend, my secretary, my coffee-maker. And so those were the roles that women assumed in the BDF. Now, I think they are all at that point where the females think, ‘I came here to be a soldier, to add value to the defense force. I’m nobody’s “girl.”
Don’t call me “sister.” Respect me as the officer that I am.’” The work shop was also aimed at discussing BDF’s female and male soldiers’ concerns and figure out what the United States could do to help make the integration of females there a success. Johnson notes that after herself and Col. Sara Simmons left Botswana, not much progress was immediately made. The two remained in contact with the group, asking, “Are you moving forward? Are you implementing any of these things?
Are you writing these policies?” They received little feedback. “Of course the females want it, but they don’t have the power or authority to make it happen,” Johnson said. “I think their top leadership wants this as well, but the middle management is not so committed. And middle management is where it really needs to happen for change to take place,” she said.