Empowering female police trainees and officers of Sindh and Motorway Police
Building resilient and gender-responsive housing for women at police training colleges in Sindh and Punjab to encourage greater enrollment and participation
Madiha Anjum is working as a staff officer in the morning at National Highways and Motorway Police (NH&MP) and taking classes at the university in the evening. Growing up she never imagined that she would be able to join a profession like the Police while living in a social setup that didn’t give her the option to choose a career path on her own. “My brothers used to say that you are only allowed to be a teacher or do the kind of job that can be done from home. I always knew I was not meant for teaching,” she says.
Swimming against the tide, many female officers like Anjum are fighting battles, social and physical, to assimilate into a workforce that is as demanding as it is rewarding. Yet women are joining NH&MP at an increasing rate. “The presence of female staff in Motorways Police is very important, especially as the number of female drivers has increased.” says Mehboob Aslam, DIG NH&MP, and Commandant of Training College NH&MP Sheikhupura. As part of the force, female officers of the Motorways Police need proper training. Anjum who is originally from Faisalabad resides at the hostel premises of the college at Sheikhupura along with 50 other young trainees who come from all over Pakistan. They stay in hostels for months – hostels that are often housed in old buildings with leaking ceilings, badly maintained bathrooms with sewage problems, poor ventilation, cramped rooms without emergency exits which pose health and safety hazards. These young women have chosen this difficult profession, but the process becomes more difficult when they do not even get to have basic facilities in their hostels. “I didn’t know anyone when I came to this place, but I am used to living here now. I strongly believe a comfortable living environment would have helped us adjust better,” says Kiran Sawera from Sukkur.
Anam Tahir, a Patrol Officer from Islamabad who is staying in the hostel, says that they have limited space in extremely tiny rooms and sometimes the hostel has to accommodate up to 100 trainees in a place not even meant for 50 people. The hostel is devoid of even the basic facilities. They do not have any space to study, receive guests or prepare hygienic and healthy food for themselves.
According to DIG Aslam, the training college was established in 1992 and the female hostel has not been touched since that time which means the building is in a dilapidated condition. He indicated that the hostel building is dangerous and in the event of an earthquake or a natural disaster it could even be destroyed. “We are in dire need of a better hostel facility for the women,” he says.
Women’s participation in public sector jobs in Pakistan has been hindered due to several factors, including the lack of a women-friendly work environment, unequal access to professional opportunities, gender disparity in educational and professional development and socio-cultural issues. While the Government of Pakistan has set a 10% quota for women in the police force, the current percentage of women in the police force remains below 2%, despite the government’s efforts to increase female representation. In addition, most of these women are at constable level, with very few in superintendent positions.
Things are poised to get better for these female officers. Maria Batool, who has been a Patrol Officer at NH&MP for the last three years, says that she admires the struggles of women who became part of the forces decades ago despite the huge stigma associated with joining the police department. Those women paved the way for the younger generation like her and created a space for them to join this profession. She recalls how the presence of women used to bother male colleagues in Motorways Police.
“Now, they don’t stop their conversations when we go near them because they know that we are part of their department and we will remain with them whether they want us to or not,” she says. “Females are now a major part of society and they cannot be kept at home forcefully. People have to accept us and they are because they are acknowledging our presence and admiring our work,” she adds.
Keeping in view the problems faced by working women in the police department, UNOPS will construct hostels for female police trainees as part of the Infrastructure for Gender Equality in Police project. The aim of the project was to enhance gender equality in the police by expanding accommodation facilities and creating an enabling environment for female police personnel.
The project is being implemented by UNOPS in partnership with the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the U.S. Department of State (INL), Sindh Police and National Highways and Motorway Police. Four housing facilities will be built under this project: a hostel at the NH&MP Training College in Sheikhupura for 100 female recruits, two hostels at the Police Training College Saeedabad in Karachi for 220 female recruits, and a hostel at the Police Training College Shahdadpur in District Sanghar for 120 female recruits. The direct beneficiaries of this project will include new female recruits, female trainers, and in-service policewomen who come to these colleges to attend mandatory promotional courses. UNOPS Pakistan Project Manager, Nauman Amin, says he is proud to lead the project. “This project will not only provide a dignified and comfortable living space to women police officers and trainees, but also encourage women to join the department,” he says.
The design and construction of these multi-story buildings will be completed by UNOPS to provide sustainable and resilient infrastructure which caters to the needs of the female officers. Once the project is completed, an expected outcome would be gender responsive rule of law through an increased presence of women in law enforcement agencies. UNOPS believes in gender mainstreaming and through this strategy, addresses the need for making the experiences of women as well as men, an integral dimension of the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and projects. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.
There are high hopes attached to this project as it will encourage more women to join law enforcement agencies. “We have come a long way. We wear uniforms and walk without any fear. Our parents do not feel ashamed and we are proud of it,” says Batool.