Hundreds of women gathered Saturday at five military bases around the country, where some 200 of them were to be recruited for volunteer military service in the Ecuadorian army.
Expectations and excitement gripped many of the young applicants in Quito, where a heavy morning rainstorm did not deter them from turning out at Fort Marco Aurelio Subia on the south side of town to be among the first in line.
Qualifying is not easy – the first 50 women in line entered directly in the process of classification, but the rest had to wait all day until they were told whether or not they would be evaluated.
“We’re just beginning, this is the first time we’ve done this,” said Col. Hugo Gomez Pozo, justifying the wait outside the military confines in the El Pintado neighborhood.
“This was a historic day in Ecuador, being the first time women were allowed to sign up for volunteer military service,” Pozo said.
Based on its constitution, Ecuador announced its intention to open volunteer military service to women last Feb. 24, when President Lenin Moreno used a military parade to recall the bravery of Manuela Saenz, a Quito patriot honored as a heroine of South American independence.
He said the armed forces are among the “most beloved institutions in the country,” and are constantly being modernized and adopting changes in line with the new times, a reason why there should be no kind of exclusion, least of all regarding gender.
The first quota is for 199 women, of whom 50 are being enlisted this Saturday in Quito, another 74 at two bases in Guayaquil, another 50 in Cuenca and 25 more in Manta.
Col. Gomez said that there are already women in the Ecuadorian armed forces, but they have always joined up from professional schools, never recruited for volunteer service.
“Maybe we don’t have the physical strength of men, but intellectually we’re equal to them and often superior,” one recruit said Sgt. Paulina Mora, who has been in the ranks for six years and has been put in charge of the new volunteers.
Many of the applicants, above all those from other cities, began to line up on Friday so they would be closest to the front for the purpose of achieving their wish for a career in the army.
Credit: Latin American Herald Tribune, www.laht.com