ABU DHABI // Many female Emiratis are as keen as men to enlist for national service, believing it will benefit themselves and society.
As the first batch of male recruits prepares to begin their national service next month, the Khawla bint Al Azwar Military School, the first military college for women in the Arabian Gulf, is gearing up to welcome female recruits for the nine-month military training under the national and reserve service law.
Military service is compulsory for some men but it is optional for women aged 18 to 30, provided they have their parents’ consent.
Abeer A, a 25-year-old Emirati graduate who is a civil servant, said military service was an opportunity to give back to the community.
“I think it’s a sense of pride and patriotism mostly,” she said. “When you think about the training and what you get outside of the training, you really do grow as a person in all aspects.”
Having spent most of her life in the United States after completing secondary school, she said she was impressed by the changes in the UAE. So she wanted to show her patriotism by enlisting for military service.
She has missed the deadline to do so this year, but plans to sign up next year. “The country has changed, the way it’s progressed has helped people,” said Abeer.
“It’s the least anyone can do, to serve. My family was telling me that if I do train, I might get called up to fight. But I’ll do it gladly. I won’t even blink.”
Abeer believes that many Emirati women would benefit from receiving military training.
“This kind of training will empower our women and strengthen us to take on any challenge thrown our way,” she said.
“People live in a bubble, but once we get into a place like the army, it’s a challenge that won’t be easy. And I’ll be able to learn and live with people from all over the UAE.”
She also thinks that the military will help to improve her interpersonal skills.
“You learn so much. Aside from learning how to deal with weapons, I’ll learn to deal with different kinds of people, which are discipline and skills that will benefit me in my professional and day-to-day life,” she said.
Being a regular gym patron and a certified crossfit trainer, Abeer said the military training would help her achieve her fitness goals.
“Then there’s the physical aspect, where you are training and getting healthier, learning how to fight and how to defend yourself,” she said.
“I think the only thing that would hold anyone back is that you’d be away from family, and if you’re called to go into battle.”
During the three-month-long basic training, the first two weeks will be spent at Khawla bint Al Azwar Military School
Conscripts will subsequently be released at the weekends.
Lt Col Afra Al Falasi, the military school’s commander, said the UAE leadership wanted to empower Emirati women so that they could be on an equal footing with their male compatriots in serving the nation.
“Women are today holding leadership roles, and the Federal Law on national and reserve service has opened the door for them to contribute, along with men, in the development of the nation,” she said.