Bulgaria has left behind many NATO countries as per the share of women in the military profession. In this country they are slightly above 14 percent while the NATO average is about 10 percent. No wonder then that Bulgaria is leading in the project The Role of Women in Security and Defense. The project is among the priorities of the Intelligent Defence Initiative of the North-Atlantic Alliance and is part of the run-up to the first summit on using the human potential in capabilities’ building. The forum is due from 9 to 11 July in Sofia and will be held under the auspices of President Rosen Plevneliev.
Women could play a major role in policy and decision-making and their implementation at the strategic, operational and tactical levels in the military sphere. “Unsurprisingly, as early as a year and a half ago, Defense Minister Anyu Angelov cleared all obstacles for the education and career development of women in the Bulgarian Army”, Deputy Defense Minister Avgustina Tsvetkova said as she recently presented the project.
“In this area, Bulgaria is innovative and has been very successful”, she said. “Even in the US Army restrictions for women are still in place, while they have been lifted in the Bulgarian Army. In this sense we can also talk about a change in thinking. On paper, there are no restrictions for women in the Army however there are military who believe that things should have stayed as before.”
However, Avgustina Tsvetkova is convinced that there is no common sense in demands raised by both the European Commission and the European Parliament for the introduction of women’s quotas in the army, and also in top positions in business and politics.
“While thinking of quotas, we won’t have either professionalism or equality. This is not a project aimed at gender equality but rather at the improvement of capabilities. Inclusion of women and of the female point of view at all levels spells out new capabilities and opportunities. Women think differently and when they are very well trained in their field they are able to come up with a different viewpoint and be very useful during military operations. In fact we have to open greater opportunities to women at the strategic levels. Women can judge quite well what is good for their children and for the rest of the community; they could provide for a better balance in the military sphere as well as for faster solutions for the enhancement of security. So, they should be actively involved in the process of defense and security – both during foreign missions and in decision-making at the ministry and other key structures at home. When decisions at the strategic level are made jointly by women and men they will be comprehensive, agreeing the two points of view. The current project seeks to change thinking precisely in this direction, because it is still a common fallacy that women are the weaker half of humanity. Therefore we have accentuated the position that when a woman has been trained well, she should get equal treatment with men.”
In the Bulgarian Army women mostly work for the Military Police, in the Military Medical Academy and in logistics. There are a few female doctors and nurses on foreign missions.
During the latest rotation of Bulgarian military contingents, the number of women-military was down from 5 down to 3 percent. The reason is the wide-spread view that foreign missions are too risky for women to get involved in them. This will be amended with the new rotation, contends Lieutenant-Colonel Neviana Miteva, Chairperson of the Society of Women in the Bulgarian Army. For Radio Bulgaria she explained why Bulgaria is leading in The Role of Women in Security & Defense Project:
“In the first place, this is so, because the approach is new to NATO, notably, giving more attention to issues related to the involvement of women in the Alliance’s operations. The project is important for Bulgaria but also for the region, and especially for the partners in NATO. Secondly, Bulgaria has solid traditions in this regard. More than 60 years ago the first female military officers enrolled in the newly established military schools, including the Air Force School. Thirdly, there has been extensive analysis of the weaknesses of various NATO missions and operations in multi-cultural environments, and it is there that the role of women has become increasingly important.”
What is the Bulgarian approach in creating exclusively female teams, including teams for Balkan missions?
“Exclusively female teams are a reality in the United States alone”, Lieutenant-Colonel Neviana Miteva specfied. “They have been created for the operation in Afghanistan. The other NATO partners maintain mixed teams, and this is also the Bulgarian approach. In this way women and men work together and perform tasks together accounting to the local specifics. Different missions have different specifics and this is an important part of the team’s training for a given mission”, concludes Lieutenant-Colonel Neviana Miteva, Chairperson of the Society of Women in the Bulgarian Army.
Translated by Daniela Konstantinova