35 women have joined the military this year, but dropout rate high

Women have been able to join up for military service in Estonia since 2013,
Women have been able to join up for military service in Estonia since 2013, Source: Raul Mee/Eesti Kaitsevägi

This year, 35 young women have already enlisted in the military, but a quarter of them will drop out. Women who have served in the military, however, recommend the experience to those who are interested in national defense.

Anu Rannaveski, the acting head of the Defense Resources Agency (KRA), told ERR that young women have been able to join the military since 2013.

"In the first year, 15 women attended, but the number has steadily climbed over time. With 65 women joining the military, the previous year saw the highest number of women serving up to now."

Sofia Prokopenko, who started her military service last October, said she became interested in the military while attending a national defense camp. She enlisted as she wasn't sure what she wanted to do after high school.

Prokopenko, the only female serving at the time, stated she handled the situation well. "It reminded me of summer sports camps where the majority of the attendees were boys," she said.

Marta Aren, who completed her military service in 2017, had long desired a military career. She said that there was no differentiation between how girls and boys were treated.

The Defense Resources Agency reports nearly one in four women leave the military. Aren said that she, too, faced emotionally tough times during her military service.

"Perhaps the operational staff interacted with me in a somewhat different manner. They understood that I was experiencing difficulties. "They did not shout; they spoke to me calmly," Aren remarked.

Prokopenko recommended that those young men and women who are uncertain about their future plans undertake military service. "If only out of curiosity, you could try it out. Girls may opt out after 90 days from the start of their service,'' she said.

Women who are interested in national security are especially encouraged to join the military. Aren recommended them to check the Defense Resources Agency's website for information on the many opportunities for military duty, adding that volunteers have a great deal of leeway to tailor their service to be as engaging to them as possible.

"However it is also important to realize that everyone plays on an equal footing. You have less privacy because men are in the same room as you. You must also consider that you are performing the same tasks as males: that your bag is not lighter and that you walk the same distance," Aren said.

Both Prokopenko and Aren are glad to have finished their service. They said that military service is an engaging and fulfilling experience.

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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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