Bango- Senegal (PANA) -- The Senegalese army entered a new phase on Friday in its gender programme with the presentation in Bango, in the north of the country, o f the national flag to the first of the 2008 contingent which comprised the first intake of women soldiers.
Some 122 Senegalese women representing the first batch of women soldiers success fully underwent the military training started on 7 January at the 12th training b attalion at the Momar Ngary Deh military camp, located some 10 km from Saint in t he north.
The women underwent the same military exercises as male in their counterparts at training sessions based on handling of weapons, fighting and marching, accordin g to Captain Saliou Ngom of the Senegalese Army's Information and Public Relation s Division (DIRPA).
"During outings, the girls behaved very well in activities such as shooting, fig hting and marching.
With regard to the fears and initial legitimate doubts, it h a s to be recognised today that everything is running smoothly," Lieutenant Colonel Amadou Anta Guèye, commander of the 12th t raining battalion, added.
Lieutenant Colonel Guèye recognized, however, that there were "difficulties" at the beginning during the physical training "where the intensity of activities ca u sed several cases of unavailability among women recruits".
He noted that "measures taken to curb these problems, such as the reduction of t he natural course circuit and getting round height obstacles were quickly going t o produce their effects".
"After two weeks of training, a real reduction of the cases of trauma and increa singly active participation of girls in the different activities" was noted, Lt.
The introduction of women into the Senegalese army, which on Friday celebrates t he graduation of the first intake of women soldiers, started slowly in 1984, whe n the army opened its doors to females to train in military medicine at the Dakar - based medical military academy.
Eighteen years on, the Senegalese Gendarmerie is going to admit within its ranks about 50 women non-commissioned officers trained at the Dakar-based Paul Lapeyr e national gendarmerie training college.
About 12 of these female gendarmes also p articipated in the training of the first intake of women soldiers.
Treating with disdain "the social constraints which have always contributed to d iscrimination" in its ranks, the Senegalese army is going to definitively cross t he Rubicon in 2007 by announcing its intention to authorise women to compete for entrance in the major military academies.
"Things went on extraordinarily well.
We believed that they could not deliver th e goods.
But during the training, it was noted that there were more desertions a m ong men than women," Captain Ngom said, adding that at the end of the training o f the first part of the 2008 contingent, 29 men were "declared unfit for service" as against 8 girls.
The Public Relations officer does not rule out that in the future these women so ldiers would be deployed in peacekeeping operations around the world.
The Senegalese army has been involved in peacekeeping over the years in Chad (De cember 1981 and July 1982), Western Sahara (April 1991), Rwanda (October 1993), S ierra Leone (October 1999), Democratic Republic of Congo (November 1999), Côte d ' Ivoire (May 2003), Eritrea (July 2000), Sudan and in Burundi (May 2004) as well as outside Africa.