Feedback session asks if the SANDF is ready for a woman chief

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In the two years since it was launched, the National Action Plan on Women in Peace and Security has, among others, progressed as far as “readiness of women to lead the SA National Defence Force (SANDF)” and increase the number of women deployed in operational theatres.

This emerged from a feedback session on its implementation hosted by the Netherlands Embassy and facilitated by Professor Cheryl Hendricks.  She is Executive Director of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) and previously Executive Head of the Africa Institute of South Africa in the HSRC (Human Sciences Research Council).

Reporting on the session, Colonel Dipuo Raadt said attention was given to increasing the percentage of women in defence leadership positions to 40% from the current 30%.

Two United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions pertaining to women in peacekeeping also came under the spotlight as did empowerment, career management, “youth rejuvenation”, disability programmes and “constant monitoring and evaluation”.

In her report, Raadt indicated “positive strides” to date with “much” still to be done. Speakers gave an overview of implementation as well as a co-ordinated and integrated approach to utilising best practices to ensure further proper implementation. This will all go toward information and knowledge management of women in peace and security, according to her.

Raadt, alongside retired general Portia More, represented the SANDF at the feedback session.

Speaking at a women’s month parade in Thaba Tshwane last August, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise said she would like to see more women in the SANDF, which at present comprises 28% women in the uniformed services.

She urged acceleration of a conducive environment for women in uniform. Despite “commendable progress” regarding women serving in the military and progress in promoting women, “it is important to reflect on the gender parity status in the Department of Defence (DoD). The overall figure for uniformed women stands at an unacceptable 28%, compared to 72% for men”.

“With regard to the civilian component, it is heartening to note women representation stands at 55% compared to 45% men. The uniformed component remains a matter of concern. I challenge the leadership of the SANDF to address this weakness as a matter of urgency. In the lower ranks, I note recruitment of young agile women increased to 40% of the intake,” Modise said at the parade.

During the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition in September last year, Modise said the ‘next frontier’ was for the SANDF to its first female chief.