It began with a young Emirati girl of 14 getting married and making her way to a new home in the United Arab Emirates. Years later and this young girl had grown to become a passionate, driven young woman who wanted to be outstanding and do the extraordinary.
“I wanted to do something that made sure women got the respect they deserved. That people would respect and look up to me when they saw me,” explained Nasra Mohamed Ali. A little bit of soul searching and it dawned on her that being a Police Officer for the country would definitely fulfil those requirements. Thus began her arduous journey in the deserts that were the landscape of 1978.
By that time, Nasra had finished high school; had begun learning how to speak Arabic and was busy raising her daughter. She had also begun training women to drive at the driving school she owned, which made her the first woman Emirati instructor. “By 1982 I began teaching other women how to drive and two months in I realised I was pregnant with my third child, Mansoor Al Obeidli, but I didn’t want to disappoint the 13 women I had started working with so I continued. I remember working from 6 am till 7 pm every day, till the day I gave birth and three days post delivery, I was back on the job. It was a lot of hard work but I gave it my all,” she says grinning at the memories.
But it wasn’t enough. She still wanted to become a Police Officer. “I remember reading in the local newspaper that they wanted to hire women as part of the force and when I went to apply, I got rejected. And this happened over and over again for six years! I just couldn’t understand it! I even spoke to the Officers that were in charge of recruitment about the fact that I was a woman who spoke five languages, had a driver’s license, was a local and had finished high school, and while he admitted that they didn’t need any more than that for me to qualify, they still wouldn’t hire me. It was a very disheartening time for me,” reminiscing that till date she has tears in her eyes when she goes past the Abu Dhabi Police Head Quarters. Despite job offers from various companies including Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and Etisalat, Nasra had her heart set on becoming a Police Officer and each rejection only made her will stronger.
The seventh time around seemed to be the turning point. It was almost as if they realised that she would just never give up. That being a Police Officer was so important to her that she was willing to spend years in pursuit. “Thing is, I believe I have the courage to do the job. You have to be flexible. Even with something as simple as attire. You have to be ready to dress up in any outfit and be prepared for all situations when you go to work. You have to have the tenacity to be put in any setting for hours that are never defined. It’s all part of the job. But back then and even now, very few women are ready to do this due to the cultural implications,” she explained. It is this courage and the willingness to adapt that was noticed by the Officers who granted her a position on the force.
22 years on and Nasra is still going strong describing her dedication to her job as a sort of love affair. One that has her jumping into action the moment she gets a call from work. “I’ve faced a lot of challenges in my life. I have seen bosses and colleagues come and go. Been away from my children for six months to undergo training, faced life or death situations and I still raised my children and made sure they were happy and healthy. Even sent them off to University by myself!” all while thanking them for their quiet and unwavering support. After all, it isn’t easy to say goodbye to your mother every few days with no guarantee that she will come back. But even this uncertainty has led Nasra to soak up as much life as she can. To enjoy the moments she spends with her children and loved ones. To forgive and forget because life is too short.
“I had two dreams. One, to become a police officer and two, to have my children become Doctors. And both have happened. All those that turned on me, discouraged me and used me for my abilities, including my colleagues, they have all gone their own way and I have moved forward and become stronger. When you’re in a situation where your life is dependent on one bullet, you learn to cherish those that matter and let go of those that don’t,” says the wise woman who will stop at nothing to make her dreams and those of her children come true.
It is this wisdom that has helped Nasra become a better person, mother, wife and police officer, all while growing and constantly striving to learn more. With a belief that while her journey may have taken a few extra trials for her to reach her goals, she wouldn’t have had it any other way.