Khatia Gogaladze, 20, Gori

„I am a third-year Junker of the National Defense Academy. I will specify that students of the academy are called Junkers and this is a traditional name given to academy students in honor of the first academy Junkers that fell in the Kojori-Tabakhmela battle. The new academy students have officially had this name since 2013.

After graduation of the academy I will become a lieutenant. I have to serve in the armed forces at least six years because I signed a 10-year contract upon enrollment at the academy. Of these 10 years I am supposed to study the Bachelor’s program for 4 years and serve in the armed forces for 6 years.

I was in the ninth form when they took us to the academy for the first time. It had just opened, and had often hosted tours. Of course we admired everything we had seen because it is a quite high level educational institution. The academy is and has always been special to me. I remember they asked us who wished to become an academy student. I raised my hand. They did not have any girl students in those times. When I came home and said that I wanted to enroll at the academy they thought it was a joke and that I would change my mind later. And indeed, I decided to enter the Department of Economics at Tbilisi State University. It was February, time to select universities…I saw some information about the academy again and made up my mind to enroll at the academy. I had been already aware of gender equality, rights, feminism and I thought I should not abandon my interests because of my gender. I had a quite serious argument with my family to persuade them that this was what I really wanted, that this was not a joke and I could do that. People also used to tell me, “Why are you going to the army?” “Do not you want to have kids?” “You want to get married, do not you? What if your husband does not let you go, will your hard work go down the drain?!” Moreover, there is a stereotype regarding the army that only uneducated people and loafers go to the army. This stereotype was broken in the first place for me when I came to the academy and met so many rather educated people.

There are 4 girls and more than 100 boys among third-year students of the academy, including me. You see the girl/boy ratio yourself. This year 7 girls enrolled at the academy, so the number of female students is increasing gradually. The academy has formally provided equal conditions for girls to enter the academy and achieve their full potential equally with boys. But naturally, students, including those in our group, have a different attitude. For examples, my fellow students have said that, “We will not adopt the ‘Attention’ position at the girl’s order“. For example, initially, when I gave orders, boys laughed. Because of this approach, you do not take yourself seriously whether you want or not. Once, I had to make a rather serious command – there were twenty people, I moved forward with the intention to make a rather serious command. As I was aware of the general attitude I smiled myself at my words and believed that I could not do that. Our commander turned to me and said that I was as smart and strong as any other student and that I had equal rights. I have looked at things differently since that day. Females have to make double efforts to gain trust and reputation. We have to prove all the time that we can do that. If you do something well, they will definitely tell you that you do it “like a boy”. Three girls, including me, had a summer mountain training. The girls had this training for the first time, and I got to the destination quite quickly; in short, I managed to fall under the boys’ category. At the finish I hear somebody telling me, “Go Gogaladze! I will help you to marry a girl”, i.e. if you do something well you are considered to be a male.

It is rather pleasant that somebody is proud of you. Currently I feel that from my family every day. The public attitude has also changed, they have called my mother and said, “We have seen your daughter in TV “, „Your daughter looks so good in the uniform“ etc. This has radically changed my parents’ attitude – they have become proud rather than ashamed of their child’s decision.

People think that if you decide to go to the military sphere, you should be rather strong physically right from the beginning. In fact, you have to exercise for the physical fitness test like you do for the skills test. Of course, initially, I found it difficult but you will not succeed unless you work and try hard neither in this nor in any other sphere. Everyone finds hard initially to pass that test, not only girls. Some boys have failed even now. For example, they admitted 145 students this year, of which seven girls. 25 boys left, because they failed. All those seven girls are still here. Therefore, I think that any person may become whatever s/he wants to become if s/he really wants that and works hard.“