South Africa deploys the largest number of female soldiers in peace-keeping missions compared with other troop contributing countries, says Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
According to Sisulu, 21% of the soldiers deployed in peace-keeping missions are women. Speaking at the SANDF Women’s Day Parade, aimed at acknowledging women in the service, Sisulu said the protection and defence of the country’s sovereignty is no longer a male only preserve, the state BuaNews agency reports. This was the first time the SANDF hosted the event.
Sisulu said women have a duty to liberate men from “antique” concept and attitudes about the place and role of women in society, and the development and direction of democracy. “Our women should not behave as if there was no place for them in the organisation above the level of certain categories. Every passing day brings confirmation that women in defence occupy an exceptional place in our society because they have chosen to lay their lives for the protection of the sovereignty of the Republic,” the minister said.
Sisulu said female peacekeepers regard their deployment as an opportunity to put their military training into practice and make it their business to reach out to women and children vulnerable in any civil war. About 450 female soldiers from all the Defence Force’s units took part in the parade. Sisulu said this would now be an annual event on the calendar of the force.
“We salute our women for the sterling contribution they have made and continue to make to ensure the realisation of peace and stability in our country, region and continent,” the minister said. Sisulu added that South Africa has made concerted efforts to accelerate women’s involvement in a range of spheres in the military environment, and thus has been recognised as good democratic practice.
In 2007, eight women in the SANDF were promoted to the rank of brigadier-general. “Young women are joining the SANDF with the realisation that the protection of our country’s sovereignty is no longer a male preserve,” she said. South Africa has been contributing to peace-keeping missions for 10 years.