by Lydia Tan
National Service: The one thing that every young Singaporean man has to go through for two years of their life. But what about the ladies? Over the years, there have been polarising opinions on the topic of women having to serve NS and it’s still an ongoing topic of debate today. Some may say it’s the way forward for gender equality, while others say serving NS for two years will disadvantage those who want to start a family.
As a female whose male peers are at the age where they would be enlisting soon, I personally wouldn’t sign on for NS, but I salute the women who are voluntarily serving NS. According to a 2013 Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) survey, one in 10 women said they would volunteer to serve NS full-time, if given the option. In fact, I have a family friend my age who enlisted after finishing her ‘A’ levels.
So what are some considerations for girls serving NS?
Who says girls are weaker than guys?
One reason people think girls shouldn’t be made to serve NS is that girls are physically “weaker” than guys. Though there’s no denying that girls are built differently from guys biologically, that shouldn’t put us girls at a disadvantage.
However, some women are getting fitter these days – they join Crossfit classes or participate in Ironman competitions – so the training may not be an issue for them. In any case, I think the training for female soldiers can be modified and adapted accordingly to accommodate more women in this male-dominated field.
A lot of people also forget that serving NS doesn’t always mean going through tough military training in the rough outdoors – there are other non-military positions that can be taken up too. Much like how some guys are assigned to desk duties, these options are also possible for women if they want to serve NS.
“Ah Girl to Woman”
I once interviewed the father of a family friend about the early years of NS, who said that through enlisting, he matured a lot and picked up skills that proved useful even now as an adult. Most importantly, he learned the importance of protecting the country, and that we shouldn’t take our country’s safety and security for granted.
There’s a lot that can be gathered and learned from enlisting in NS, which can be just as beneficial for women – it can help one grow and improve as a person. These skills and lessons learned can put women way ahead of their peers and may even prove advantageous for them when they enter the workforce.
It’s YOUR choice!
In my view, serving NS is a very respectable duty – I mean, you’re putting down everything for two years to serve and protect the nation; that’s a pretty big deal!
Serving in NS requires not just physical strength, but also a lot of mental strength when it gets tough. It’s not something everyone can do, which is why I really admired my friend when I heard she was enlisting. Serving NS as a woman may not be the most conventional route to adulthood, but it’s definitely one that will be rewarding and useful in the future.
At the end of the day, whether women should be made to serve NS for the full two years really requires more consideration and tweaks to the system so it can work best for the economy and society. Some countries, like Israel, already have mandatory female conscription. Who knows, in a couple years, we might start to see more female soldiers and staff serving in the SAF!