What it takes to serve as a female police officer

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They look immaculate in their uniform. On duty they are confident and carry themselves with an aura of confidence and professionalism even when handling the most complex situations. They command respect and diligently perform their roles in a field many regard a male domain. These are the women serving as police officers. For many of these female officers, serving under Police is a privilege and a noble calling that they proudly associate with.

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The Rwanda National Police force has over the years empowered women within the force. Net photo

Sergeant Mable Mugeni was in her early 20’s when she joined Police. It was in 2006 when she made the decision to join Police. When she looks back, today she proudly says it was ‘the best decision of her life.’

After completing high school, she felt the need to do the one thing she always admired, being a police officer, and that’s exactly what she did.

As a teen she admired Police officers who are always smart and literally ensuring that there is law and order in society. Mugeni also looked forward to putting on the uniform one day.

“I used to admire women in Police and so I developed a longing to become one too. As soon as I was done with S6, even before the results came back, I decided to apply and I managed to get in,” she recalls.

Her journey started off at the level of a police constable, but through hard work she later became a corporal and now, a sergeant.

With a steady career progression, Mugeni is determined to go even higher because she believes in the Police, hard work is rewarded. Many discouraged her when she told them she wanted to join Police because of her small size.

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Women face societal perceptions concerning male dominated fields such as the police force. Net photo

“You know at the time I joined Police; I was very small in size. Some wondered how I would manage to handle the duties but that was not an issue for me, I had the ability in me and that’s all that mattered,” she says.

Mugeni works in the traffic department. However, despite the passion and love for the job, her journey in the police department has been no walk in the park; she has encountered challenges.

“In our line of work you meet different people with different attitudes, sometimes it’s hard dealing with them but we are trained for this. You can meet a person who can be downright rude and provocative but you remain calm and handle everything professionally. You have to know how to handle yourself, when you love what you do regardless of the challenges you meet you find ways to overcome them,” she says.

Mugeni says the Police has transformed her life for the better.

“What this department teaches you first is to be disciplined, down to earth and this is who I am today, I am truly grateful,” she says.

She adds that Police gives women the necessary support and incentives.

For example, when a female police officer gives birth, they cannot be assigned on the road/traffic unless there is a special occasion that requires deployment of more officers on the road.

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Assistant Inspector of Police, Diane Mukundwa. Photo by Donah Mbabazi 

Also, women are always assigned to workstations near their homes such that they are able to take care of their families as they concentrate on their duties at work.

On wondering how women fare when it comes to peace-keeping missions, the sergeant says that with the training they get, they are always ready.

“Sometimes in those missions, it’s not as hard because in some of those countries, they know Rwanda as one of the countries that symbolises unity and reconciliation, so they see us as peacemakers and as people who can be an example to them. And as for losing life, you just go with the mind that this is a job you chose to do because you love it,” Mugeni says.

Her profession is a pride she likes to flaunt and her children share the fondness too.

“Being in this uniform has a way it impacts my children. They love it and feel proud to have a mommy who works for police. At school they always brag about it to their friends and this makes me even happier,” she says.

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Sergeant Mable Mugeni during the interview. Photo by Donah Mbabazi

Her work has not affected her other roles as a mother. “As per now, no woman works far from her home, we are deployed near our homes and this helps us have time with our children. We get time to share stories of how the day was and what they did at school. I also share how my day was and with this they get to feel my presence,” she says.

Like Mugeni, Superintendent Shafiga Murebwayire also defied stereotypes and joined Police.

Young as she was prior to joining, she was deployed in Darfur, Sudan, around 2005 on a peace-keeping mission, even then, nothing held her back but instead, wheeled her to greater heights.

The 38-year-old, who joined Police in 2001, believes that hard work and determination are attributes that have helped her perform diligently.

She is the coordinator for the Isange One Stop Centre, which supports victims of gender-based violence and child abuse at Rwanda National Police.

She says though she worked in different departments of Rwanda National Police, working at Isange One Stop Centre has had a great impact on her.

“Hearing the experiences of these women is very challenging, it’s very hard but I have to go through it because I know that having them talk to us lessens their sorrow. Knowing that I have contributed to their healing is a proud moment, I feel like I have fulfilled the very reason I woke up in the morning,” she says.

Choosing a career in Police, just like with most female officers, wasn’t easy for Murebwayire in the face of societal stereotypes.

“I have also been confronted by pre-conceived societal perceptions on women who choose ‘masculine careers’. Though this is no longer a constraint, it was a big challenge when I had first joined. People had all these opinions about me but I overcame all that because it all depends on how one handles it. I was determined to be who I wanted to be and nothing was going to hold me back,” she says.

Many doubted her choice of path, and with this, she decided to work twice as hard.

“I used a lot of effort both physically and intellectually, offered all I could to be able to be a professional police officer, and not only a female police officer, but an officer who can fit in any position because I believed I was able,” Murebwayire says.

The other challenge she points out is that Police as law enforcement, requires some traits that include physical strength. Citing an example of dealing with a robber who is strong, she says it sometimes is a challenge.

Murebwayire, however, says that police work goes beyond physical strength and that women’s physical ability can be a weakness in some way, but also strength in its own.This is because a woman can fail to handle such a case physically but can have the ability to deal with it amicably; women and men have a way of complimenting each other’s abilities.

She regards her highest moments on the job as being able to perform her duties, being able to assist the vulnerable groups that fall victim to GBV.

And her lowest moment, she says, is that point when police work is so demanding that balancing it with family may require working extra hard.

Murebwayire hopes to see more women joining the force and having total gender mainstreaming in all sector of the country.

At the age 28, Diane Mukundwa is an assistant inspector of Police. She joined immediately after graduating from university.

Her love for masculine activities made it easier when it came to making this decision.

“Back in secondary school and at the university I used to engage myself in sports. It wasn’t hard for me when I made this choice, I wasn’t scared in anyway and even though people didn’t get the concept, it was my road to travel and I was ready because if other women made it here, I knew I could too,” she says.

From her experience she says police as a job comes with challenges but these are faced by both women and men.

“The only challenge which is still holding women back is the perception from society, some assume we take on a ‘manly character’ and discard feminine nature, but this is all wrong. You remain the same sister or mother that you are,” Mukundwa says.

Before joining the media department in Police, she was an instructor at the Police Training School. She hails for police for being an equal opportunities employer.

“Men and women have equal opportunities in Police. What they focus on is your capability and not one’s gender. I am a woman but I was assigned to be a trainee and it is such an honour. I used it as an opportunity to encourage fellow women so that they could actually make it,” Mukundwa adds.

Being in Police has changed her, as she admits to changing status in society even back home as most people refer to her home as “kwaAffande.”

Her best experience on the job stems from the satisfaction that she is serving her country.

Theo Badege, the Police spokesperson, says that women constitute 21 per cent of the total number of police officers across the country.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw