Women enlist in Colombia’s military for first time in 25 years


BOGOTA, Colombia — Dressed in camouflage, Zulma Stefania Perez mirrored on her first weeks of coaching at a army base within the capital — and on her life as one among Colombia’s first feminine recruits in additional than 20 years.

“The physical drills we must endure are the same” as these for males, she stated. “Being women doesn’t make us less capable. In fact, there are many skills and strengths we have that men may not have.”

Perez, 24, is a part of a cohort of 1,296 ladies who enlisted in Colombia’s military in February, when the South American nation opened army service to ladies for the primary time in 25 years.

Colombia has lengthy had obligatory army service for males ages 18 to 24. The military depends closely on these younger recruits to employees bases, defend infrastructure and perform administrative duties, whereas its skilled troopers confront drug trafficking gangs and insurgent teams.

This yr, officers allowed females in the identical age vary to voluntary be a part of the army, in what the military says is a part of an effort to “strengthen the role of women” in its ranks.

Recruits should stay on army bases for a number of months and earn a month-to-month stipend of solely about $75, however a number of the ladies within the new program hope it helps them construct a profession within the armed forces. They see it as an opportunity for a steady job and academic alternatives.

“I like the lessons we get here about human rights, and international humanitarian law, because that’s my field of expertise” stated Perez, who a has a regulation diploma however has struggled to seek out work within the authorized occupation.

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She stated that after her primary coaching she is going to doubtless get a job within the army’s judicial affairs division.

First, she should endure three months of primary coaching, waking up every day at 6 a.m. and being given just one minute to take a chilly bathe. She has additionally realized to run whereas carrying a 3-kilogram (6 1/2-pound) rifle.

“The toughest thing has been to adapt to all of this exercise” she stated. “As a civilian you live a sedentary lifestyle.”

Others stated they determined to hitch the army as a result of being in regulation enforcement runs of their households.

“Since I was small I always wanted to wear this uniform with pride, discipline and honor” stated Yariany Alvarez, a 20-year-old recruit in Bogota who has a police officer uncle.

She stated she was not afraid of being a soldier in Colombia, the place the military remains to be struggling to free some rural pockets of the nation from the grip of drug gangs and insurgent teams.

“This is a dangerous job” she stated. “But if we learn our drills and follow instructions, I think we will be able to stand out.”

Colombia’s military has round 200,000 troopers. Around 1% are ladies, who till now joined after attending army universities or making use of for administrative jobs.

Every yr, the South American nation drafts round 50,000 males into the armed forces for 12 months of obligatory army service.

It is a apply criticized by human rights activists and a few politicians, who complain that almost all recruits are males from low earnings city neighborhoods or rural areas, whereas wealthier Colombians who graduate from non-public colleges discover methods to keep away from service.

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The new push to permit females to enlist comes as Colombia’s congress debates a invoice that might eradicate obligatory army service and allow younger males to interchange it with internships in instructional packages, environmental initiatives or human rights initiatives.

Military officers in Colombia have opposed this laws, saying it might diminish the military’s capabilities.

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