Beauty, Brains and the Badge

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  • During a training session

  • First Corporal Afra Mohammed Bakkar

  • First Corporal Fatima Ali Bendari

  • The VIP Protection Unit ready for action

  • First Corporal Shaima Abdul Kareem Abdullah

  • First Corporal Gamila Rashed Al Hamadi

Resilience, determination and desire to be different is what sets the 16 women officers of the VIP Protection Unit of The Department of Protetive Security and Emergency of Dubai Police from their female peers. Yasmeen Maqbool meets these women whose core belief in themselves is their driving force

First Corporal Afra Mohammed Bakkar, 25, one of the 16 female officers of the VIP Protection Unit of the Department greets me at The Department of Protective Security and Emergency of Dubai Police in Jumeirah. The unit was first established in 2005, but the first batch of female officers was trained in 2008. Her firm handshake, tough build and uniform lends a sense of security to me as she leads me into a room of female officers.

Determination is All
Pretty, trim and poised, the officers’ selfbelief and determination has helped them break the glass ceiling and reach out to higher horizons and targets. Afra is one of the 16 women officers and 10 men officers who escort, protect and secure VIP visitors to Dubai, whether male of female.

Trained to a T
The women officers undergo an intense sixmonth training course involving daily early morning exercise sessions, working on their physical agility and strength while honing their sharp shooting skills and prowess in riding advanced motorbikes. And there are the married ones among the officers too. As mum of three, First Corporal Fatima Ali Bendari, is used to laying down the law at home too. While she manages an intense family routine, she is continuously training to protect and serve her country as an officer of the VIP Protection Unit. “I have three children of three months, five years and an eight-year-old, who look up to me and are proud of what their mother has taken up as her choice of professional career,” she smiles.

On Assignment
“During the training sessions we take classes: Including how to properly search vehicles or areas, scan for who and what is around, hone our shooting skills with the MP6 guns, and learn to maneuver the Suzuki GSX1000cc and Yamaha FJR1300cc motorbikes when on an assignment,” states Afra. “The training sessions are essentially our transition and transformation from civilians to women of the force,” seconds Fatima. Our missions include: Protecting high profile personalities, protecting celebrations and guarding VIPs. “This obviously reflects the high trust instilled by the country’s leadership in the members of this unit,” joins in First Corporal Shaima Abdul Kareem Abdullah, 23, the youngest of the unit.

Armoured Well
It is interesting to know that the Dubai Police takes that extra care to safe guard the security of these officers too. They have invested in a protective gear (protective modular armour kits) for the officers to be worn during assignments worth almost AED12,000 per set. It includes full safety trousers and jackets, full-face helmet, gloves and shoes (as seen in the images). Shaima adds on, “The background information on Dubai’s cultural milieu notes that women in Dubai are encouraged to pursue higher education and careers in various fields.

Along with working with the Dubai Police VIP Protection Unit, Shaima makes time to attend classes to study Law at the University of Sharjah. She intends to continue with her Masters at the end of this semester. Warrant Officer Huda Hassan Abdullah Mohammed, 26, the highest-ranking officer amongst these 16 believes that women can be as good as male officers in doing police work.

“I believe that any professional role confidence is significantly associated with positive self-appraisal,” she states. “In addition, policewomen who are confident about their work and those with longer tenure in the police force are more likely to favour the same assignment as policemen,” Huda asserts.

Pursuing Knowledge
Speaking from experience Huda notes that women officers with higher education attainment are less likely to endorse genderrestrictive assignments. Nonetheless she immediately adds that as in any other career choice, they also experience the professional hazards. “It becomes extremely difficult for us to dissociate and segregate ourselves from being just an individual – a daughter, a wife, a sister or a mother from the police women that we are,” she says. Fortunately these women take it in their stride and can look at the brighter side of it. “It has by default made us more attentive, alert, responsive and caring,” the women say. But all said, these women yearn for a man in their lives who can and will be there to take on the role they are willing to give him space for, but never giving up on the identity they have created for themselves. “Giving up on our identity is not an option,” they add. We agree!

Photographs by: Abdul Naser and SS Fashion Photography