ON July 1, 1980, the first group of women to enter the TT Defence Force joined the regiment. Out of that group, Lt Col (retired) Sharon Alfonso-Farrell became the highest-ever-ranking woman in the TT military.
Yesterday, at a ceremony at the regiment’s headquarters in Aranjuez to celebrate International Women’s Day, the Defence Force honoured Alfonso-Farrell, 18 other members of that first group, and a host of other current remarkable women serving in the protective services.
“Pioneering has its difficulties, but also its satisfactions,” Alfonso-Farrell said. One of the burdens, she said, was being the lone woman when she first started training to be an officer. To the women gathered she said, “You are pioneering too. What you do now will set the stage for the women after you. Let it encourage you to excellence.”
There are currently 696 women in the armed services— a mere 13.64 per cent of the total.
“As we celebrate International Women’s Day, and as we contemplate the accomplishment of women in the Defence Force, there is a lot to be proud of but we still have further to go,” acting President and Commander of the Armed Forces Christine Kangaloo said, acknowledging that the military is male-dominated, but also that in two weeks, the new Commander, President Paula-Mae Weekes, will be inaugurated. Another speaker, clinical psychiatrist Dr Dianne Douglas, noted the military needed to remember the importance of gender parity and challenging stereotype.
Chief of the Defence Force Staff Hayden Pritchard also acknowledged that women face challenges. But, he assured, the force would stand by them, removing any obstructions they may face.
“Your sacrifices are not unnoticed; your concerns not ignored. I give you my assurance that culture and institutional bias do not stand in your path to achievement,” he said.