November 22, 2006

Army to recruit women soldiers

Forty years after independence, Botswana is ready to recruit its first women soldiers to private and officer ranks, depending on their academic qualifications. The Botswana Defence Force (BDF), established in 1977, plans to recruit its first women soldiers in March 2007, but those aspiring to a career in uniform should not expect any preferential treatment. "They will follow military standards and be required to walk 100km in the burning sun with a pack on their back, just as male soldiers do," BDF commander Lt-Gen Tebogo Masire said.

Despite the strides made since independence in 1966 in opening up previously male-dominated careers in the police force and civil service leadership, recruiting female soldiers into the army was only debated in the Botswana parliament in 2001.

Botswana and three other countries in the region - South Africa, Namibia and Lesotho - are among the few African countries who have made significant progress in achieving gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum's 2006 Gender Gap Report. Botswana was ranked at 36 in the world, just below Belgium and above Israel, said a government statement, a score that also placed it above 13 European Union member states. (Rts)

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