Sharjah: It takes a great deal of self-confidence and determination to break social taboos regarding women’s roles in the community.
For 15 brave UAE national women who have joined the country’s first Women’s Firefighting Unit at Sharjah Civil Defence, the opportunity was too good to pass by.
Sharjah Civil Defence has welcomed their very first 15 female firefighters in 41 years who will take on roles usually reserved for men.
The group is believed to be a first in the UAE and the Middle East.
The new members told Gulf News that their passion to help others encouraged them to join the Civil Defence and they are hoping to inspire other young girls and women to break the stereotypes.
The department says they are excited to have them on the team.
The women firefighters will go through a six-month training course, comprising three months of military training and three months of training on job-related issues, before entering service.
The firefighters thanked Lt-General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, for giving them the opportunity.
Colonel Sami Khamis Al Naqbi, director-general of Sharjah Civil Defence, told Gulf News that the department is providing them with all vital information and skills needed to perform their jobs.
The staff will support them till they are ready to perform their jobs.
The women were recruited according to certain conditions set by the Ministry of Interior.
“These requirements were strictly adhered to when selecting the members for the women’s firefighting unit, although all are required to be of good health and physically fit,” he said.
“Around 200 females across the country applied for the job but we selected only 15 during the first stage and their ages ranged from 18 to 23. They are from Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah. They will work in shifts,” he said.
Fatima Salem, a member of the unit, told Gulf News that her family encouraged her to join the unit and then she applied with great eagerness.
“I learnt a lot of first-aid skills in the school when I attended a Civil Defence training. I hope others follow our example. The main thing which made me want to become a firefighter is that I had seen fires and could not offer my help,” she said.
Nouf Mohammad, another member of the team, is among the neophyte group of female firefighters after her family saw the ministry’s advisement and encouraged her to apply.
Her colleague Latifa Al Ansari said she achieved 90 per cent in secondary school and her average score allowed her to consider a medical degree but instead she preferred to be a firefighter and offer her help to people and save their lives. She found opposition from some of her family members but finally they accepted her wishes.
Maitha Al Katbi, the mother of a daughter, said she was very happy to join as a firefighter. Her husband also works as a firefighter in Abu Dhabi.
Maitha Al Hosani said she is looking forward to her new career and now has the opportunity to apply her skills in real life.
“I have loved adventure since my childhood and I also love to help others,” she said.
She noted that she is thankful for the extensive training “to use wireless equipment, how to deal with crowds, prevention and safety procedures, first aid as well as how to handle fire hoses and fire extinguishers”.
Wijdan Al Mazimi said that society may still find it difficult to accept women in the non-traditional role of firefighters.
“We want to break down the barrier that keeps women from working in this profession. In a fire, there are no women and no men, only firefighters working as one to salvage a situation. When I am saving a victim, I should think only of saving this life. I would like to be a distinguished firefighter like the UAE’s first female Pilot Mariam Al Mansouri,” she said.
In September 2017, the Ministry of Interior announced vacancies for Emirati women at the Sharjah Civil Defence department and laid down the criteria for interested candidates as follows:
Age: Not less than 18 years and not more than 25 years
Academic qualification: Secondary school
Height: Not less than 160cm
Must be a UAE citizen
Workplace: Sharjah city
Has to work in shifts
Applicant must clear the personal interview and required medical check-ups
Academic qualification from outside the UAE will be subject to check and verification by competent authorities