The Colombian Army has received its first female contingent to provide military service, after 20 years of receiving only men. Paula Espinel was assigned to the Presidential Guard battalion and this Friday was her first day as a soldier in Bogota. In the morning, before the military welcoming ceremony, they all got up early to take a pregnancy test. Paula says that she summoned them almost at dawn and after the exams they took them on a bus to the barracks, near the Casa de Narino. There will be 82 of the 1,296 women who joined the Army this weekend.
“No necklaces, no makeup and always cold water,” the 20-year-old lists some of the rules she is willing to follow starting this Friday. Her interest in joining the Colombian Army has been “massive” among women, according to the institution, due to the opportunities it offers, such as financial remuneration, physical training, and military training. Nayeli Pinto left her job making shoes to join the ranks. She says that her classmates told her that she was “crazy” when she told them that she was going to serve in the military and in her family her mother was not very happy with her. “In my house there is no military only. My parents believed that with three female daughters they would be saved, but I always liked this, ”says Nayeli. Before applying to the Army, she tried seven times in the Police. “I never passed”, she recalls disappointed, but she says that now she is happy: “This is a dream. At last what I wanted ”, she assures, together with her boyfriend and her family, who say goodbye with a sadness that they cannot hide.
The Army recruitment director, Colonel Alexander Rojas, has described the response of the women to his call as “successful”. “It was planned to incorporate some 1,200 by contingent, but pleasantly the first day the total goal of the year was met and many were postponed for the three remaining calls,” he told Time. In Monteria, for example, there were 30 places and 300 people showed up.
Although in recent years quotas have been established for the selection of women in officer training schools and specific training programs have been created for women, their role in the Army remains limited. They occupy barely 10% of the military forces.
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They all claim to be here because they want to. The military service they provide for one year is voluntary. In December 2022, the Army announced that it would open positions for women after 20 years of only accepting men. In January more than 5,000 showed up and this month the first female contingent has entered, young people between 18 and 23 years old.
“We all have to take care of each other,” says Greisy Tenjo, when talking about the minority that they are within the battalion. When she applied to enter the Army, she expected a job in what she studied, occupational health, but when she was selected, she changed her plans and moved from La Esmeralda, in Norte de Santander, to Bogota. “A guy called me to ask me if she was determined, I told him: ‘do it!’ “It’s not easy being away from my family, but being here is what I wanted,” says the 18-year-old.
The Army has explained that it resumed the inclusion of women after 20 years to “strengthen” their role within the institution, where there are barely 1,212 officers and 973 non-commissioned officers women. Those who have entered this Friday will be designated in administrative tasks, attention in military health establishments, security tasks in the cantons and preservation of the environment, the institution has said.