In honor of International Women’s Week, two members of the South Dakota National Guard (SDNG) conducted a subject matter expert exchange with 22 of their Surinamese counterparts on the challenges facing women in the military and new opportunities available to female soldiers. Major Kathy Dirk and Master Sergeant Shelly Reeder of the SDNG held meetings March 11 and 12 with 22 members of the Surinamese Army, Navy, and Military Police.
For both sides, overcoming general prejudice that woman are not well-suited to the demands, pressures, and responsibilities associated with security issues was the biggest challenge they faced in their military careers.
“Woman want and are capable of roles that were previously off limits,” Msg. Reeder said. She and Maj. Dirk shared with their Surinamese colleagues the advances in gender-equality in the U.S. Armed Forces in recent years, including positions newly-opened to women in the U.S. military. Other topics of discussion included equipment requirement differences for women, education and training, career management and advancement, and work-life balance.
Colonel Adolf Jardim gave the opening and closing remarks and defined gender equality as “society rising to its full potential.” U.S. Embassy Chargé d’affairs Valerie Belon gave examples of women in high-ranking positions throughout Suriname and commended the people of Suriname for their progress towards equality.
The South Dakota National Guard and the Suriname Defense Force continue to enjoy a strong working relationship. This project is part of the State Partnership Program between South Dakota and Suriname.