Editorial comment – An opportunity for our women

Commander of the RFMF Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto inspects newly-recruited officers during their passing-out parade at the RFNS Viti at Togalevu yesterday. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

The revelation that out of the 79 new recruits enlisted, six were the first females to be recruited by the Fiji Navy will attract attention.
Commander of the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto said this was a milestone for the RFMF.

He said it was the first time for the RFMF to recruit women into the navy.

In doing so, he said, it amplified the call for equal opportunity for all as advocated by government. Whether it is opportunity for government, he said, or opportunity for education — it was equally available to all regardless of whether they were a male or female.

Cdr Naupoto reminded the recruits of the work that was expected of them.

Hard work and commitment, he said, were expected from all the recruits.

The RFMF, he said, had a zero tolerance policy on violence against women and children.

Any member of the RFMF found guilty of an offence that violates this policy, he said, would be discharged dishonourably from RFMF.

It is a fact that many navies around the world have taken onboard women.

The Royal Navy for instance, first allowed women to go out to sea in 1990.

There, naturally, was an outcry when the British government first made the announcement.

Just two decades later, Commander Sarah West created Royal Navy history.

She became the first woman to command a major warship when she took charge of HMS Portland.

Prior to that, women had only taken charge of small, non-fighting vessels such as fishery protection craft.

Aged 40 at the time, the Middlesex woman, according to media reports, won her £65,000-a-year ($F182,000) role because of her “leadership, confidence, moral courage, sound judgment and exceptional people skills”.

The announcement here will no doubt be welcomed by every woman who has harboured a dream of joining our navy.

They finally have the opportunity to chart a career path in this line of work.

It also confirms the navy’s position on equal opportunity for all staff regardless of gender.

The challenge now is for us all to embrace this move, and accept that our women deserve the opportunity to test themselves in such an intense, and highly skilled field of work.

Perhaps we all need a change in attitude.