Women on the front line
By Manohari Katugampala
In the past, women were confined to the house to be full-time housewives and their spouses were the sole breadwinners for the family. The role of women in the 21st century has changed and they share equal responsibilities with men in the betterment of nations; it is undeniable that female employees are indeed selfish, tougher and intellectual in professional life.
However, empowered women are not trying to dominate the opposite sex, but to resist an ever-increasing competitive environment. The contribution of women in all spheres of life is massive. They contribute to the lives of their family members, as well as to the country.
Women’s Day has become a custom every year and is celebrated for women around the world. All of these women deserve respect, love, care and happiness because they have equal opportunities at work.
The Sri Lanka Army Women’s Corps (SLAWC), which is such a prestigious women’s battalion in the South Asian region, has been steadily advancing for 43 years since its inception in September 1979 and has contributed immensely in achieving the organizational goals of the victories of the Sri Lankan Army. Upholding the motto “The Mighty Mind is the Mightiest Weapon,” Women’s Corps members bravely assisted troops on the battlefield during humanitarian operations.
A considerable number of female soldiers have sacrificed their lives performing their outstanding service to the mother country. Sergeant PBS Pushpamala, Corporal H. Ariyawathee, IMB Padma Kumari, Lance Corporal HM Rupawathee, UPD Kumuduni, RC Swarnalatha, IN Silva, RM Ajantha, A. Sriyani Deepika, NA Kaluvillaarachhci, KPN Abeysinghe, NBPSK Dharmawardena, UD Nayana Thushari, RMTK Dilini Rathnayake, WP Wijesundera, RMP Rathnayake, PRS Malkanthi, HW Damayanthi, DSSP Gunathilake, PN Piyadasa, MKA Dilrukshi, RM Nilanka Kumari, HML Sewwandi, SMPKD Godakumbura, PVD Wijewardena are some of the valiant female soldiers.
Fulfilling multiple responsibilities while playing multiple roles as mother, daughter, wife, leader, or soldier amply demonstrates the strength of SLAWC in achieving its primary goal of gaining professionalism. Although the Women’s Corps was established as a service unit to perform administrative duties, at present they are accompanied by the Women’s Para Military Team, a Women’s Quick Reaction Rider Team, Medalists athletics, a team of field engineers and a humanitarian team of demining trainers. In the beginning, the Women’s Corps of the Sri Lankan Army comprised professional female soldiers in telecommunications, health services, military intelligence, nursing duties, military police duties, lawyers , accountants, English instructors, psychologists, physiotherapists, veterinarians, speech therapists, agricultural officers, software officers, software engineers, quality control engineers, cybersecurity officers, civil engineers, architects, surveyors, technical officers , etc and currently they have been transferred to support the respective regiments performing these professionalized services in Sri Lanka Signal Corps, Military Intelligence Corps, Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps, Sri Lanka Military Police Corps, General Service Corps of the Sri Lankan Army, Engineer Service Corps, Sri Lanka Army Ordnance Corps, Sri Lanka Army Service Corps.
In the post-humanitarian operation, female soldiers were employed in many circumstantial situations for the provision of services, including cordon and search operations. Hold roadblocks where needed and cannot be filled by the male cadre himself. In addition, female soldiers have been employed in civil-military coordination activities, internal security tasks, rehabilitation of former LTTE cadres, maintenance of harmony centers, provision of food and other necessary items , conducting women empowerment programs for Tamil civilians and Tamil ex-combatants. . Moving to a new stage, some of the female officers and other ranks were trained and qualified as paratroopers as well as paratroopers.
A Special Operations Support Group was established to support VVIP security and territorial integrity of the homeland. The first female paratrooper (female officer) in the Basic Parachutist Course is Captain VNS Vidanage while the first female paratroopers (other ranks) are Corporal Hemanthi and Corporal Kahawala. The Basic Field Engineering Module and the Humanitarian Demining Course were also provided to female soldiers by the Sri Lankan Army Corps of Engineers.
Also, the first female officer of SLAWC was Lieutenant Colonel KC Weerasekara (retired) who was drafted into the army in 1979 and she served as the first commander of SLAWC. The first female soldier was Corporal MLKR Wilson (Retd) who was enlisted in 1980. The senior officer in the Sri Lankan Army Medical Corps is Consultant Radiologist Brigadier DTN Munasinghe while Corps Major Dishanthi Mendis General Service of the Sri Lankan Army was the first Officer to fly to the Central African Republic as part of UN peacekeeping missions.
Not only do these gallant women perform on the battlefield, but also in the sports arena. They left an indelible mark on the sports world with numerous gold, silver and bronze medals. Susanthika Jayasinghe, Dilshi Kumarasinghe, Nilani Rathnayake, Sarangi Silva, Lakshika Sugandhi, Nadeesha Lekamge and Lakshani Vidusha are some of the best on the international sports scene.
The role of mother and wife never changes because the existence of life depends on them. With the greatest dedication, they made sacrifices by sending their sons and daughters to the front. But their commitment as mother and wife is invaluable and must be remembered especially on this Women’s Day. Paying tribute to all the support they have provided so far, the military has not forgotten to repay.
In this context, under the leadership of the Chief of the Defense Staff and Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva, the army extends its fullest cooperation and unwavering commitment to raising the standard of living of the spouses of family members of fallen war heroes, differently- able war heroes and municipal employees of the Sri Lankan army to enrich their lives.