We want to join call of duty too, say female Emirati high school students

Schoolgirls in Sharjah ask for conscription to be extended to women and more Emirati families made aware of National Service.
Emirati women recruited for the national service, in September. Wam
Emirati women recruited for the national service, in September. Wam

SHARJAH // Female Emirati high-school pupils have called for national service to be made mandatory for both sexes so that more women can have the chance to “defend our country”.

Speaking at the third student forum organised by the Sharjah Educational Zone, the young women asked that information about the importance of National Service for females be made available to more Emirati families so that they allow their daughters to enlist.

The National and Reserve Service Law, which requires all men who have finished secondary school or are between 18 and 30 to undergo military training, was brought into effect this year. It is optional for women between 18 and 30 and they should have their parents’ consent.

The first batch of recruits began their training in September.

“National Service should be mandatory for both genders,” said Maitha Saif who attends Al Zahra secondary school. “Not just the men, everyone should defend our country. We love our country as much as anyone else.”

Sheikha Said, who attends the same school, agreed, saying the National Service would “turn students into responsible adults”.

“The service will teach us the meaning of hard work. It will shape our personalities and turn us from teenagers who party and spend time enjoying what life offers us without care, to responsible adults who are disciplined and follow the rules and commands from our superiors to serve this country.”

The pupils said National Service should begin for women either after they graduate from high school, or after they finish their studies in university, but exceptions should be made for married women.

They also requested that more focus is paid to topics such as patriotism and nationalism in elementary schools.

But not all of the pupils were convinced that women’s role in the Armed Services should be increased as a rule.

“We have culture and traditions. Some Emirati girls might get married early in their life,” said Fatima Ahmad, from Roqaya secondary school. “We can’t force her to abandon her responsibilities at home for the service.”

However, Fatima said parents of women who wanted to enrol now should not stand in their way.

“The government should raise awareness among the parents who don’t allow their daughters to join.”

Alia Hamad Althani, principal of Aisha bint Abdulla school, said she was impressed that female students were so keen to join the ranks of the Armed Forces. “The suggestions by the students to have the National Service mandatory for females is impressive. It shows their deep- seated love and commitment for their country,” said Ms Althani, adding the general perception of this generation of pupils as spoilt and interested only in leisure and wasting their time was wrong.

“Those demands by the female students clearly show that they are capable and eager to serve and protect their country alongside the men,” she said.

The student forum was held this month to mark the 43rd National Day at University City theatre in Sharjah, with pupils from public and private schools attending 13 classes that included theatre shows, presentations and discussions on topics such as National Service, volunteering and patriotism.

“This year’s forum was all about developing and diversifying student ideas,” said Noura Al Marri, director of Sharjah Educational Zone.

“It focused and showcased on the creativity of the students and also celebrating the anniversary of the National day.”

tzriqat@thenational.ae

Published: December 14, 2014 04:00 AM

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