Promoting women in law enforcement: Memona's story

Islamabad, Pakistan -  8 June 2021 - We know that when women participate in law enforcement, at all levels and in all roles, law enforcement is more responsive to, and reflective of, the community it serves. Yet, underrepresentation of women in criminal justice institutions remains a reality and even where there is a balance between women and men in quantitative terms, gender-based barriers to promotion and career advancement often persist.

To achieve better outcomes in cases of human trafficking or smuggling, UNODC in the framework of the EU funded GLO.ACT project, makes a concerted effort to address the gender dimension by providing specialist training and coaching to female law enforcement officers in Pakistan.

Memona - one of the officers trained and coached by UNODC - shares her story:

“As a child, I think that almost everyone has some idea of what they’ll want to be when they grow up. Before choosing to work for the police, I was always the kind of person to step in if there was some sort of argument, quarrel or fight. I would always get involved and try to resolve it instead of staying at home. So, I guess wanting to join the police was not so strange.

I was so lucky. When I told my family I wanted to work in law enforcement, everyone encouraged me and told me: go out there and prove your worth in this field. One of the happiest moments was when I attended Sihala Police College in Islamabad for my basic training.

These days, I work as an Investigation Officer, Circle Incharge in Chichawatni Sahiwal. I am married and have a daughter. My husband also works in the police, and when I have a question regarding my work, I often go to him for advice and exchange ideas. Retired IG Tarig Masood inspired me to join the department, and I am grateful for his encouragement.

It’s not easy being a woman in the police. We are on duty 24/7. So, as a mother, at the back of my mind, I always have this tension when I leave my daughter at home. I wonder what she’ll be doing. Will she cry, sleep, eat. All this plays on my mind and worries me.

At work, there are also challenges. When you look at my department, we have a majority of men, and the number of women is only around 2%. Those figures speak for themselves. They show the scale of the problem women face. We need more women in law enforcement.

In our society, most people think that working for the police and other law enforcement agencies is only for men. That it only suits men. They believe women are not suitable for this job. That they shouldn’t come forward and work in these institutions.

But I want to encourage women to join. When I tell people that women do work in the police force, they are always surprised. We need more women in law enforcement.  Female victims feel much more comfortable talking to another woman.

The UNODC training and coaching that I joined help me a lot in my work. I have learned how to protect victims of trafficking. How to provide them with an environment in which they feel safe. Where they can tell their stories without feeling pressured. Provide a space where they explain how they were wronged.

The most important thing I learned in my UNODC training is how to improve my communication and include and use it in my investigation techniques.

In the past, whenever female victims came to us, their statements were recorded only by men. But I saw that we needed to provide women and children with a better environment. Of course, any victim interview should be thorough, but it shouldn’t happen in front of the entire police station or be conducted by men only. It should happen separately.

I recommended setting up a separate family desk. Now those women and children that come to us only tell their story to the investigating officer. I am proud of the changes we are making.  It’s an achievement for me that we have this now.

Sometimes people ask me what advice I have for women wanting to join the force. I would advise to all women to go for any opportunity that they get. Join these institutions and prove the skills you have. And prove everyone wrong who believes that these institutions are only meant for men.

I hope that other women reading my story are inspired and feel encouraged to join law enforcement agencies."

The Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants – Asia and the Middle East (GLO.ACT-Asia and the Middle East) is a four-year (2018-2022), €12 million joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in up to five countries: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (Afghanistan), Islamic Republic of Iran (I.R. of Iran), Republic of Iraq (Iraq), Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Pakistan). GLO.ACT-Bangladesh is a parallel initiative also financed by the EU and implemented with IOM.

The project builds on a global community of practice set in motion in GLO.ACT 2015-2019 and assists governmental authorities and civil society organizations in targeted, innovative, and demand-driven interventions: sustaining effective strategy and policy development, legislative review and harmonization, capability development, and regional and trans-regional cooperation. The project also provides direct assistance to victims of human trafficking and vulnerable migrants through the strengthening of identification, referral, and protection mechanisms. The project is fully committed to mainstreaming Human Rights and Gender Equality considerations across all of its activities.

The project is funded by the European Union

For more information, please contact:

Shahida Gillani, National Project Officer

Email: Shahida.gillani@un.org

For more information, please visit:

GLO.ACT - Asia and Middle East

Email: glo.act@un.org

Twitter:  @glo_act

Nation-wide awareness-raising campaign in Pakistan, please like and share:

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Twitter: @GLOACTPakistan