Ajman: Wijdan Ali Abdullah Al Mazimi,23, an Emirati woman firefighter, who works for Ajman Civil Defence, feels that it takes a great deal of self-confidence and determination to break social taboos and be part of a profession that has traditionally been a male domain.
Al Mazimi had joined the force in 2018 as part of the first 15 woman firefighters in the UAE and since then, ‘Protection, Rescue, Sacrifice’ have been her motto.
Speaking exclusively to Gulf News, Al Mazimi said: “We want to break the barrier that keeps women from working in unorthodox professions. When there’s a fire, it doesn’t distinguish between a man or a woman. Firefighters are required to work as a team to salvage a situation. When I am rescuing a victim, saving a life is my priority and nothing else matters.”
For 15 brave Emirati women who have joined the country’s first Women’s Firefighting Unit at Ajman Civil Defence, the opportunity was too good to let go. Ajman Civil Defence welcomed their first batch of female firefighters in 47 years who took on a role that was usually reserved for men. This group of female firefighters is believed to be the first such group, not only in the UAE, but in the entire Middle East as well.
Ajman Civil Defence says it is excited to have these women firefighters on board and they are being provided with all necessary training and skill-development opportunities on the job.
Al Mazimi went through an intensive training course, along with her 14 colleagues. Their training regimen included military training and specific training on job-related issues, before they were commissioned into service.
Al Mazimi thanked Lt-General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, for giving them the opportunity to join the Civil Defence workforce. She also profusely thanked her male colleagues for helping her hone her skills as a firefighter.
Following are excerpts from a free-wheeling chat.
GULF NEWS: How was the experience as the only female member at the state level in a Civil Defence job — especially as a firefighter?
WIJDAN ALI ABDULLAH AL MAZIMI: Working in firefighting is a very unique and interesting experience for a woman. It is tiring and exhausting, but I managed to develop a lot of skills within a short span of time. The job is full of challenges, but we have been able to prove to the world that Emirati women are capable of working in unorthodox roles. The challenges we face on the job encourage and motivate us to do more for the community.
What challenges and difficulties do you face?
At the beginning, it was difficult to adapt to working in closed spaces, with oxygen in short supply and enduring high temperatures during training. Storming into confined and narrow spaces and staying there for long periods of time were really tough. Moreover, we are required to carry fire and rescue equipment and other survival kit — from life jackets to oxygen cylinders — that were very heavy. But we are proud that we succeeded in overcoming all those obstacles and today, thanks to our rigorous training, we have achieved great fitness levels, skills and self-confidence.
Over and above the occupational hazards, we also had to battle against the odds in terms of a section of the society’s reservations about women working as firefighters. It is one profession that has always been known to be a male domain. But thank God and thanks to our wise leadership and the care of our officials who accepted us in this unusual role and considered us as competent enough to make the seemingly impossible possible!
What kind of difficulties do you have to face during a firefighting operation?
Among the most crucial difficulties that we face during a fire-rescue operation is evacuation of people trapped in the fire. Again, time is of the essence in all such life-saving operations. Teamwork, cooperation and integration play a very important role in any firefighting or rescue operation.
How many firefighting operations have you been involved in so far?
During the past four years, I have been involved in hundreds of firefighting and rescue operations.
Will you, at any point in you career, consider leaving this occupation and opting for something less hazardous?
I never want to leave this profession. I have ambitions and I want to develop myself as a successful firefighter.
Have you succeeded in maintaining a balance between your career and your commitments as a homemaker?
Yes, I have managed to maintain that fine balance between work and home in the best way I can. Family members have a big role to play if women are to be successful in their careers. Family members ought to cooperate with a working woman and always help her maintain that fine work-life balance. A husband is one of the most important parties in this equation.
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Tell us about any emergency situation that you had to handle at work and how did you cope with it?
I dealt with a fire accident in an apartment, where a two-year-old boy was stranded alone in the apartment. He was playing on his iPad, when the fire broke out and all the family members rushed out of the apartment, leaving the child inside. I took the boy out and handed him over safely to his mother, who was still in a state of shock. It was a horrific moment.