Liberia: Adjust Military Training to Suit Women

Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie says it is possible to adjust recruitment and training standards to suit women, in the wake of Liberian officials' call for more female participation in the military and other security services, but with the bar set high for the recruitment of females into the military.

Delivering a keynote speech Wednesday, 5 February in Monrovia as part of activities leading to the Armed Forces Day celebration due 11 February, Justice Wokollie suggests that when women are recruited in the army, they can better relate and empathize with women and children in crisis and serve as protectors of these vulnerable groups.

"A blanket restriction for women limits the ability of commanders in theatre to pick the most capable person for the job; it is possible to calibrate/adjust recruitment and training standards to suit women," she says at the Monrovia City Hall.

This year's Armed Forces Day will be observed under the theme: "Strategies to incorporate more Females in the Security Sector: AFL in Perspective."Discussants listed for the symposium include Deputy Army Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Geraldine J. George; International Rescue Committee Liberia Country Director Madam Faith A. Cooper; Independent Information Commission Media Officer Miss Facia Harris and Swedish Ambassador to Liberia Madam Ingrid Wetterqvist, among several others.

The Ministry of Defense here says it is not just encouraging females because it wants to have women in their numbers within the Armed Forces of Liberia; but it is encouraging qualified women to sign [up] for the Armed Forces of Liberia.

It stresses on "Women whose capacities are built, women who believe in the forward movement of our country; women who have the requisite educational background; women who live up to standard in terms of human rights, those are the kinds of women that we want to join the Armed Forces of Liberia."

According to Justice Wolokollie, recruiting and incorporating women into the AFL will help to change the perception about the Armed Forces and bring respect instead of fear of the force.She notes that citizens will now consider running to the army for protection instead of running away from it, adding that the image of the AFL can be enhanced by recruitment of females.

"A female recruit may not necessarily serve in combats, but with modern technology, technical expertise and decision making are increasingly more valuable than simple brute strength," Justice Wolokollie continues.

In the same vein, Justice Wolokollie cautions that by women joining the military service, they are putting themselves on riskier ground considering some of their weaknesses.

She explains that there are plenty of factors to consider, but gender has nothing to do with love of country and the desire to render selfless service to country.She recalls that the size of women in the military here had increased to 184 before the civil crisis, but the number reduced due to the war. She notes that there are seven females officers in the AFL and 82 enlisted officers which forms 4.3 percent of the Armed Forces today.

Also speaking at the symposium, Defense Minister Daniel Ziankahn lauds participants of the symposium for the level of contribution and promises the commitment of the AFL in providing quality opportunity for women within the force.He says the AFL is encouraging women to join the Force, but cautions that the army will not lower its standards of recruitment program.

He assures the audience that the issue of gender will be within the Liberian military.For her part, Deputy Army Chief of Staff Brigadier General Geraldine George states that those wishing to join the army, including women will be treated equally.She stresses the need for females to compete with their male counterparts, saying those in other security institutions should seek to attain new heights.

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