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 Tuesday, 31 December, 2002, 14:49 GMT
Bangladeshi women fit to fight
Bangladeshi army women
Women will not be in front-line combat roles

History has been made in Bangladesh with the commissioning of the first batch of women officers into the 100,000-strong army.

Ladies in Bangladesh are not doing physical activity too much so in the physical aspect we had some problems

Female army officer
Twenty women were commissioned in a ceremony held in the southern city of Chittagong.

Their passing out parade follows a tough selection process and two years of intensive training alongside their male counterparts.

The occasion means that Bangladesh now becomes one of the few Muslim countries to have female soldiers.

The passing out ceremony was especially significant for the women cadets as it was presided over by Khaleda Zia, the female prime minister of Bangladesh.

Tough beginning

The women who graduated are the cream of the cream from 30,000 applicants who applied to become officers in the Bangladesh Army.

Only a handful were selected to do the course and of those about a third dropped out.

Bangladeshi woman army officer
It was hard work at the start
The successful women join an army which over the years has earned a sound reputation as a regular contributor to UN peacekeeping missions.

They say that while the course was tough, they succeeded in keeping up with their male counterparts.

"Ladies in Bangladesh are not doing physical activity too much so in the physical aspect we had some problems," admits one female soldier.

"But nowadays we have coped with the training and I don't find any problems and I want to prove that the Bangladeshi girls, they can do anything."

Keeping up

Another woman says that at first it was difficult as each day they had less and less time to rest.

"Every moment we have to be busy with various type of trainings like assault course and drill PT, academic exams.

"So it was hard but we have cope up with that and now it is not too hard for us."

The idea is to introduce women as officers first and then put them in the ranks of active service soldiers.

Previously, women were restricted to the medical corps.

At present, there are no plans to put women in combat roles - even though senior officers say that male soldiers would have no problems accepting orders from a woman.

See also:

08 Oct 02 | Technology
18 Jun 02 | South Asia
05 Feb 02 | South Asia
30 Mar 98 | S/W Asia
01 Nov 02 | Country profiles
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