Thursday, July 7, 2022

BDF integrates female soldiers into combat roles

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) is making personnel changes by integrating its female soldiers into combat arms military occupational specialties, such as infantry and artillery personnel, scouts, tankers, and cavalry and other combat roles.

Information reaching Sunday Standard indicates that the initiative will result in female soldiers serving in combat positions and the change will also give them an official role of killing and dying on the front lines.

It is understood that officers from the U.S. Army were in the country from April 5 to12 to share their successes and also some of the challenges women currently still have in the U.S. Army.
BDF spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Oye, confirmed to the Sunday Standard that the BDF and the US army held a seminar at the Sir Seretse Khama Barracks.

“The seminar between the BDF and the US was intended to assist BDF in developing mechanisms pertaining to the integration of women in the force. The seminar was not focusing on ‘enlisted’ women but on a holistic approach to integration of women in the force,” said Oye.

He explained that the current ongoing initiatives are long term in order to capacitate the defence force to learn from the experience of international partners on issues of women in the military and therefore, was not sorely designed for integration of women in the military.

Col. Sara V. Simmons, U.S. Army Africa G1 director, and Sgt. Maj. Carolina D. Johnson, is quoted as saying that in order to have the working groups, USARAF responded to a request from the BDF chief of defence forces stating the leadership was interested in integrating more women into the BDF.

“We went down to talk with members of the BDF to establish a women’s integration work group that consisted of about 35 males and females,” she said. “Currently [there are only female] officers. When you integrate females into a force, you’re going to make sure that integration is seamless and it doesn’t disrupt the balance or the morale of current force.”

Simmons said they went to Botswana to share not only personal experiences but also how the U.S. Army transitioned from 1775.

“Currently, the BDF has approximately 100 female officers and now they want to broaden it with having enlisted females. During the week, we looked at the different challenges they would have. We want to help them be successful when they integrate the enlisted females into the force. We looked at everything from housing, their current training infrastructure, their instructors, recruiting and retention, women’s health issues — we looked at a myriad of factors that will impact the success of enlisting the females into the Botswana Defense Forces,” Simmons said.

She added that she looks forward to the progress the BDF will make with the integration, but conceded that, in order to have success, Botswana will have to overcome cultural norms that see women as caretakers, not warriors.

“They (BDF) are going to say how they are going to effectively utilize and manage females so they don’t totally break their tradition and their cultures and their norms. The females that were [in the working groups] were very interested and they were all ready for total integration, even in the combat units ÔÇô they’re ready to go forward. It was very gratifying and a very productive meeting so it was great to be a part of something that is so much bigger than yourself,” Simmons said.

Sunday Standard has received information that BDF is also working around the clock on how female soldiers in the private rank could be enlisted in the army after the government changed its mind about recruiting only women officers into the cadet rank into the military as opposed to other ranks.

The BDF initial enrolment of women was in 2008 when it recruited the first female intake, which consisted of degree holders who were later deployed under units like the Air Arm Command, Ground Forces Command, and Defence Logistics Command.

It is understood that enrolments of female recruit in the private rank is open to Cambridge certificate holders only.

During the last sitting of Parliament, the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse, said in the past government had taken a deliberate decision not to recruit women into the Botswana Defence Force (BDF.)

He added that this policy has since changed with the recruitment of the first women officer cadets in 2007. Minister Seretse said it is true that currently, BDF has only recruited women officers as opposed to other ranks.

“This is not due to any form of discrimination against such cadre but rather due to practical difficulties that would occur. The only impediment we have to overcome which we intend to do within a reasonable period, is residential accommodation,” the minister explained.

Seretse was answering a question from MP for Tonota North, Fidelis Molao, who had asked the minister to state when the ministry will allow the employment of females as non commissioned officers in the BDF.

He had asked whether the minister is aware that non employment of females as non commissioned officers is tantamount to discrimination, which is not permitted by the laws of Botswana.

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