In the Realm of Military Service: A Conversation with Mrs. Sujanthi Namasinghe

In the Realm of Military Service: A Conversation with Mrs. Sujanthi Namasinghe

In the field of military service, women are constantly breaking down gender stereotypes and advocating for equality through their professions. Through Beyond the Labels, we had the opportunity to speak with a retired Air Force Aero Instrument and Electrical Technician and Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, Mrs. Sujanthi Namasinghe, about her journey, experiences, and reflections on gender equality in the military.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the military, and were there unique challenges you faced as a woman entering this field?

I thought of joining the Air Force after seeing the beauty of their uniform. And I’ve always liked the Air Force Band. After seeing those things, I became interested in them and wanted to join the Air Force.

How has your experience been in breaking gender stereotypes within the military, and what change have you observed throughout your career?

Before joining the Air Force, I was doing a normal civilian job. I left it to join this. Civilian jobs and military service are very different, there’s less freedom in the military. Initially, during the training period of about six months, I had to suffer a lot. It was a very difficult time. I had no contact with my family and I only got to know how they’re doing from a letter. As a woman, it was very difficult for me to handle this sadness. But to do anything, we need discipline and order. They’re very important for our lives. I learned everything related to them when I joined the army.

Have you ever encountered gender discrimination as a woman in the military?

There is no gender discrimination in the Air Force. Both men and women get everything equally. We’re not treated any differently because we are women. We also get all the privileges given to men. Even there, we were treated without any difference. I really respect that. While men have 22 years of service, we have only 15 years, and because of this, there is a small change between our pensions due to the service completion gap. Other than that, there was no other difference in how we were treated. We were both really given everything equally.

In what ways have you advocated for gender equality and diversity within the military structure, and what progress have you seen in these effects?

I don’t think they have a big advertisement program to recruit female officers for the air force. They only have a gazette. I think it would be good if they have some kind of advertising through the media. I joined the Air Force in aircraft engineering. I have worked in aircraft. Aircraft engineering is mostly male dominated. We worked in cooperation with men. And there are many other trades: accounting, supplies, and everything. I don’t think people outside have much awareness of what trades are in the Air Force. People know that there is a band. I think the gazette alone is not enough for the women out there to be aware. It would be better if a bigger program was implemented. Then, if there are people interested, they can contact the military and get informed. It would be better if they spread it more widely without the gazette.

How do you handle and overcome gender-related challenges within the military? What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue a path in the military for their career?

Even if you join the military, there are many external problems and pressures. It’s just like working for a company as a civilian. You have to face the issues there in the military as well. You have to face them not with your emotions but with intelligence. That’s what I think. If we are capable of doing that, we can face life wherever we go. No one came to pressure or force us while we were in the air force. The military is a place where there are people who work equally under a set of rules and discipline. However, various problems arise, including love affairs. People end up marrying each other. It is done willingly. Nothing is forced. We learnt something about life. If we took advice from everyone and listened to what everyone says, if we behaved well in the army, we could work cooperatively with men, according to what I think. We joined the air force as the first batch of air craft technicians, we only got to know that later. When we went, there were only men. We were the first batch to work as air craft technicians in the Air Force. They gave us a lot of support. We also listened to what they said and worked cooperatively as sisters. They treated us like their sisters. They did not come to influence us. A few of our members got married to them after falling in love within the Air Force. Such things happen everywhere.

I don’t think the military is a strange place. It’s not as bad as people outside the military think. It is a place where you can learn to do your job with really good discipline. Therefore, I can say to anyone that if they are capable, then joining the military and maintaining their status and living with confidence makes the Air Force a good job.

How has the military adapted to be more inclusive and supportive of female personnel, and what further improvements do you envision?

The Air Force has a separate women’s wing. All the things that women need happens through it. The Air Force Commander’s wife is in charge, and there are other officers under her. It is from there that the welfare of women in the Women’s Air Force is looked after. Women are involved in everything so we are represented from all sides. For example, even Air Force parades have a separate parade for women.

Ms. Namasinghe’s journey exemplifies resilience, determination, and dedication in breaking barriers. As we reflect on her insights, let us continue to strive for a more inclusive and supportive environment for women in the armed forces, recognizing their invaluable contributions to national security and defence.

Interviewed by: Vibhavee Sarathchandra

Written by: Jithmini Kalutharaarachchi

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