I have written and spoken a lot on the participation of women in key decision-making processes for our Country. One of those key elements that I have not really touched on before, is that of peace keeping, military preparedness and security … this is a goal in itself. Their contributions to preventing, managing and resolving conflict; is not just important, it is urgent, and it is essential to a developing nation. A military strategic plan on women, is one of my political priorities. This will put us in a better position to enhance women’s influence and participation and strengthen the image of our Belizean Women, aswell as our Military . It provides a platform to ensure that the contributions of our Women be taken into serious consideration as it relates to our security forces and safety of our Nation.
In Fact, sometime around 2000-2004 the United Nations released a Resolution 1325. The said resolution, reaffirmed the crucial role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and post-conflict reconstruction, and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.
In Belize however, while we have accepted women in both our regular and volunteer forces, Women are accepted mostly in administrative roles and as support staff. We simply must redefine our priorities in terms of gender integration and equality of opportunity between men and women in the Belize Defence Force.
I believe in the mental and physical strength of Belizean women, we are strong, brave, strategic minded and we are disciplined. It is time we are not just given equal opportunity to serve and defend our nation, It is time Belize considers an elite female special unit force in our military.
The idea of the full and equal participation of women in our armed forces, makes room for some important institutional planning principles: gender friendly- equal opportunity, integrated participation of men and women in all professional activities with skills , endurance and abilities as the main criterion for selection( not gender ) , equal treatment, full political support for this crucial section of the strengthening of our security forces.
There are many who still doubt women’s ability and talents with hand to hand combat, strategy and weaponry; yet there are so many examples of women who not only did it but exceeded all expectations. One woman that comes immediately to mind is Joan of Arc: A women in Combat A great leader who defeated many armies lead by men. Our Belizean women are no less able.
Many Countries have now recognized the untapped potential of women warriors and have recruited them in the defence of their countries.
According to Wikipedia , This is how much Russia believes in their women …“ Fifteen formations were created in 1917, including the 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death, a separate unit called the 1st Petrograd Women’s Battalionformed a few weeks later in Petrograd, the 2nd Moscow Women’s Battalion of Death created in Moscow, and the 3rd Kuban Women’s Shock Battalion organized in Ekaterinodar. Four communications detachments were created in Moscow and Petrograd. Seven additional communications units were created in Kiev and Saratov, again employing privately organized women’s units already existing in those cities. Additional unsanctioned battalions sprang in cities across Russia. An all-female naval unit was created in Oranienbaum, the 1st Women’s Naval Detachment, as part of the Naval Infantry Training Detachment. “
But Russia is not the only one , Norway has moved a lot faster to break down military gender barriers. Its parliament introduced legislation in the 1980s that opened up all military roles to women. Infact in 2016, I believe… Norway became the first NATO country to introduce female conscription.
But the introduction of the all-female special forces unit in 2014 raised the profile of women in the Norwegian military the most.
NBC New ran an article last year that told us: “The unit was started after Norway’s Armed Forces’ Special Command saw an increased need for female special operations soldiers — particularly in places like Afghanistan where male troops were forbidden from communicating with women. The exclusion of half the population was having a detrimental impact on intelligence gathering and building community relations.”
In the United Kingdom, The British military has opened the doors to women even in elite forces Like the Royal Marine Commandos.
And from everyone’s observations, Women in the armed forces have been performing with distinction on the front lines, in combat and none combat roles, as medics and as engineers.
Though many are still concerned about the risk of injury, sexual harassment, violence against women in the military. I believe that the concerns are genuine but these problems, like any other can and must be overcome by training, discipline and leadership…
The idea is to focus on the strength and benefits women bring to the field. If Belize overlooks the skills that women can bring – across many roles – especially in our security forces, we would have done a Great disservice to our Nation.