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Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar moots the idea of women’s entry in NDA, on warships and in Sainik schools

Parikkar believes that this status quo, which resists women in these roles, needs to be challenged

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Women officers at medal parade in Monrovia. Image Source: un.org
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  • Parikkar believes that this status quo, which resists women in these roles, needs to be challenged
  • The army and the navy are yet to accept the women power in combat roles
  • He also gave thumbs up to admitting girls in Sainik schools and allowing them into NDA as well

Seems like women will soon foray into combat roles and march into new frontiers in the armed forces.

Addressing the Ladies organisation at FICCI on July 4, the Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, said, “I support women rights, empowerment, but I believe changes have to be done in a gradual manner because if you don’t do that there will be problems.”

While it took more than two decades for women to be inducted as fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force (IAF), the army and the navy are yet to accept the women power in combat roles.

First batch of women fighter pilots. Image Source: Indian Express
The First batch of women fighter pilots. Image Source: Indian Express

Parikkar believes that this status quo, which resists women in these roles, needs to be challenged.

Though there still are some “no-go” areas in the armed forces, barring women to take up bigger roles, the Defence Minister wants these obsolete notions to be buried in the history.

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Talking about India being the land of women with impeccable strength, Parrikar said that women have been kept away from the armed forces for far too long.

He also feels that before this acceptance to come along, a great battle of mind needs to be fought.

Debunking general notions that soldiers will not listen to their lady commanding officer, the Defence Minister said, this is not the case. The only limiting factor is the “infrastructure”, he said.

He added, “In combat roles also there can be women. Why not have a complete women’s team; a battalion of women? So the question of women officers leading a men’s team – if there is a question of initial resistance – can also be taken care of,” quoted India Today.

Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar. Image Source: Wikipedia.org
Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar. Image Source: Wikipedia.org

Parrikar also advocated that women officers should be allowed on warships, once the ships are modified into women friendly warships, said IndiaToday report.

Stressing that this change would be a gradual one, he said that for now, he can’t allow women on submarines and warships as the current infrastructure lacks necessary facility.

Parrikar explained, “I don’t understand why we can’t place women on ships. At this stage, I will not support a submarine operation because submarines are designed for male staff.”

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Apart from the entry of women in the combat roles, Parrikar also gave thumbs up to admitting girls in Sainik schools and allowing them into NDA as well.

The defence minister did not merely end at giving suggestions, but he also assured to take up the issues with the service chiefs.

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  • Aparna Gupta

    This is really helpful in upliftment of women. This will make them independent in terms of security and financially.

  • AJ Krish

    It is good to see that changes are wiling to be made. Breaking the tradition and creating history, women will serve crucial roles in the defense of our country.

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Meet Kelly Oliveira, Brazilian By Birth But ‘American’ By Heart

Embarking on a 'new journey'

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Kelly Oliveira reacts after becoming a U.S. Citizen during a naturalization ceremony in Baltimore, Maryland.
Kelly Oliveira reacts after becoming a U.S. Citizen during a naturalization ceremony in Baltimore, Maryland. VOA

When Brazilian native Kelly Oliveira signed up for the U.S. Army through a program that offered her citizenship for her service, she thought she had it made.

But it took two years for the army to work through the added background checks. During that time she struggled to remain legal.

Oliveira finally made it through the process and was sworn in as a citizen last week.

She took the oath on a day designated to honor the U.S. flag, a group of 28 people from 18 countries became American citizens at the historic house where the flag that inspired the national anthem was made.

“I learned to love this country that I adopted as my own. … I’ve always [thought] of myself as an American by heart,” she said.

But it took 13 years to make it official. On a day designated to honor the U.S. flag, a group of 28 people, including Oliveira, from 18 countries became American citizens at the historic house where the flag that inspired the national anthem was made.

“It’s been a long journey. … Of course there were moments that I was thinking ‘Should I continue waiting?’” she said.

Oliveira’s wait was due to changes in a military program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, or MAVNI reported on by VOAlast December. It was launched in 2009 to bring immigrants with medical or language skills into the armed services.

Kelly Oliveira examines paperwork before her naturalization ceremony in Baltimore, Maryland.
Kelly Oliveira examines paperwork before her naturalization ceremony in Baltimore, Maryland. VOA

She enlisted in the Army in March 2016 under MAVNI, which promised her citizenship in exchange for service.

Enlisting for status

Oliveira had tried other ways to stay legal. But nothing worked.

“I went to school and I had my OPT, and I got a teaching position job as a preschool teacher,” Oliveira said.

The OPT or Optional Practical Training allows international students with an F-1 visa to work in the U.S. for up to one year in a field related to their studies. She tried to get a work visa through the schools where she was employed at the time.

“Unfortunately the school where I was working at; they could not [sponsor] me,” she said.

That’s when she entered the MAVNI program. But on June 2016, the program was shut down, which affected Oliveira’s enlistment.

The U.S. government retroactively required background checks on anyone who had enlisted in the military through the MAVNI program, including anyone who was currently serving or waiting to be shipped to basic training.

For Oliveira that meant a two-year wait. She went to training drills and struggled to stay legal.

Those who witnessed her journey said it was tough. “I don’t think I’d be able to do it because it’s, I mean, it’s been a, it’s been a long journey. It’s been a struggle and it’s, it’s been like a nightmare,” Lauren Schroeder, a D.C. native who has been friends with Oliveira for many years, told VOA.

“I mean the down was the fact that it took so long. And I guess the up is that she was able to join the military and get a citizenship that way. So finally, it happened,” Schroeder said.

Kelly Oliveira, during her naturalization ceremony in Baltimore, Maryland
Kelly Oliveira, during her naturalization ceremony in Baltimore, Maryland, VOA

Embarking on a ‘new journey’

Margaret Stock, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who created the MAVNI program, told VOA she is not surprised by Oliveira’s successful story.

“That’s what’s supposed to happen. They’re eligible for citizenship and they’re supposed to be able to get it quickly,” Stock said.

But the retired Army lieutenant colonel said, even though there are stories like Oliveira’s, lots of recruits are still falling out of status due to the additional checks.

“So people are timing out and they can’t ship out to basic training until the [U.S. government] completes all these background checks,” she said.

In a previous interview with VOA, Stock said everyone who wants to serve in the military has to go through background checks but the government was already doing a lot more background checking on the MAVNIs.

“They are the most checked group of people that entered the U.S. military,” Stock said adding this is an investigation normally done on someone getting top-secret clearance with the U.S. government.

On Flag Day, Oliveira signed the papers. She checked in with immigration officials. Then the ceremony started.

Also read: Indian-American Diaspora Plays an Important Role in Country’s Development

“Sky’s the limit for me now it’s just the beginning of my new journey. Now I’m going to basic training in a couple of months, and I’m very excited about that,” Oliveira said. (VOA)