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Clinical psychologist and consultant for the Military Community Support Service (MCSS) Dr Dianne Douglas said yesterday there is a need to increase the number of women in the Defence Force.

Speaking at the launch of the Chief of Defence Staff’s Military Women’s Initiative, at the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s, Douglas said research by the MCSS showed the women of the force were invisible as far as the public is concerned.

Douglas said the national community will see the women of the force at the Independence Day parade – then they will disappear from the public perception.

There’s a need for another wave, she said, and it should make women more visible.

“If in our lifetime we have seen our commander in chief as a woman, I think it is not far-fetched to expect that the next generation will produce the women for nation commanders and next a woman Chief of Defence Staff,” she said.

Fourteen per cent of the force are women, she said.

“Gender equity speaks of equal treatment for women and equality in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunity.

“When women enter an institution that is 85 per cent men, it is important that the women and men of the military find a way to lead the nation in finding a healthy way for men and women to work with mutuality and respect.”

National Security Minister Stuart Young said he is aware of the scourge of abuse of women not only in TT but across the world, and he will stand at the forefront and work along with all stakeholders to do whatever is needed to expose it. He said it is not something people should put their heads in the sand and hide from.

“It must be stamped out. There are too many males in our society who think they have the right to treat females in society in a less than appropriate manner, from the highest levels to the lowest levels.

“As a citizen of TT, I stand here today and encourage you, who wear your uniforms with pride, that you have in me an advocate for your rights and someone who is prepared to fight to stamp that scourge of society out.”

Young told the pioneer women not to underestimate for a second how other women in society, especially young women, look up to them when they are in uniform and serving the country with pride. He urged them to continue carrying themselves with a sense of pride and never underestimate their influence and presence in society.

“You are strong and invincible. Wear your uniforms with pride and understand the positive effect you are having beyond the service and the rest of TT. As you continue to serve your country, I thank you for doing so. Understand, this is one of the things that we have to tackle as a society – otherwise we will fail as a society.

“To the men out there who participate in this destructive, disgusting behaviour, it is not to be tolerated.”

Chief of Defence Staff Rear Admiral Hayden Pritchard said the catalyst for the programme was multifold, because at last year’s International Women’s Day ceremony to recognise women, he commented that getting together on one day every year was not enough.

Pritchard said the initiative will provide a forum for TTDF “women warriors” to engage in discussions on professional development and gender issues within the military.

In 2020, he pointed out, the TTDF will celebrate 40 years since women have been involved in the military service.

“I intend to use this milestone as a catalyst to celebrate the achievements of, as well as promote positive change with regard to women serving in the TTDF.

“This will be achieved through a series of events up to and beyond 2020. The full title of the initiative reads: The Chief of Defence Staff Military Women’s Initiative: Gender Equity in a Framework of Operational Readiness.’”

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