Dubai: The toughest job for me is to interrogate women suspects, says Samina Noreen, the first and the only female police constable in the small village of Mouza Kot Khair Shah in Chiniot district of Punjab.
“Being human, I feel sorry for them, but I have do my job being a part of the police force,” the 19-year-old Noreen told Gulf News while sharing story of her empowerment from an unknown village girl to a police constable.
Noreen hails from a Mouza Kot Khair Shah located on the River Channab some 162km in the northwest of Lahore.
Breaking the shackles
Against all odds in a conservative village, Noreen broke the shackles and became the first girl along with her three sisters to go to a ‘city’ school in Chiniot, thanks to her father Dost Mohammad who is a daily-wage, illiterate labourer. He decided to educate his four daughters along with his four sons. “My father is my hero as he believes that education for girls is as important as for boys,” said Noreen.
Her father and family faced a lot of criticism from friends, relatives and other villagers, but he stood firm. She was given admission in grade 4 at The Citizen Foundation (TCF) School. The school was in Chiniot, 11 km away from her village and it would take her more than an hour to get to school by bus. Travelling in public vans, standing for over an hour throughout the bus journey, and then walking another 1 km or so to reach school. She did this for more than 12-year. “We were the first girls to pass our matriculation (grade 10) in our village,” said Noreen who was overjoyed while telling her story.
The biggest surprise of my life
“The biggest surprise of my life came when my elder brother advised me to apply for a police constable’s job after he read an advertisement in the newspaper. And here I am as I passed the test and completed the training successfully,” she said.
But this is the not the end of her target as she wants to become a police officer. “Being a constable is just my entry to the force. I am now preparing for the competition exam of the Punjab Public Service Commission as may target is to become an officer.”
Noreen joined the police force last year at the age of 18 after she passed her intermediate examination. She was so determined to improve her position that she completed her graduation while on duty and is now taking distant learning courses for a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy. She will complete one year on the job in February this year.
I believe I have changed the mindset in my village and showed that girls can excel in any field if provided with education
Noreen is so dedicated to her job that she refused to give me an interview during office hours. “Sir, I am on duty, you can call me after 7pm,” she politely replied.
“The TCF School helped me realised my dreams and guided me at every step. My teachers did not let me feel that I belong to a poor family from a small village. They gave me confidence to help me choose the police department. They provided me with a kind of environment that I never felt than I am village girl and cannot pursue my career in the man-dominated police department,”
She is also the first girl from her village to have under-graduate degree. She is currently posted at the Police Station Chanabnagar near Chiniot.
“My duties include handling women suspects, arresting them during police raids and interrogating them. I also sometimes do office duty in addition to security duty on police pickets on roads,” she said.
Noreen faced a lot challenges as her friends and relatives in the village opposed her choice of being a police constable. “They criticised me but I did not give up because my family stood behind me. Now, I am very pleased that even the village people take pride in me and will start sending their daughters to school. I believe I have changed the mindset in my village and showed that girls can excel in any field if provided with education,” she added.
“I believe that I have given confidence to girls and their parents in my village as their attitude towards education changed after they hey saw me succeed. I personally feel that there is no job that a girl can’t do’
Wearing the police uniform
One of the challenges for Noreen was to wear the police uniform – a trouser and a shirt – in a village environment. “Surprisingly, women in the area sometimes taunted me for wearing ‘man’s dress’. But now it is a routine affair for me and they are also fine with it.”
Noreen is a staunch advocate of equal rights for women and her message is for all the girls is “to stand up against all odds to take the challenge and be confident to achieve your dreams. All the best to all the girls in the world.”
The Citizen Foundation (TCF)
The Citizens Foundation in Pakistan offers quality education for underprivileged children at no or a very reasonable cost. It operates through donations from all over the world. The Citizens Foundation School gave Noreen the opportunity to gain education and pursue her dreams. TCF schools became the vehicle to transform her dream into a reality.
The Citizens Foundation (TCF) which also has an office in Dubai, is one of the largest network of independently run schools in the world. TCF has nearly 1,500 school units in 700 sites across Pakistan where children were previously out-of-school. Pakistani expatriates in the UAE provide generous financial support to the TCF.
The Foundation is the largest private employer of women in Pakistan with an all-female faculty of 12,000 teachers and principals. TCF has 220,000 students this year. Nearly half (48%) of TCF students are girls. Eighty-eight percent of TCF alumni have gone to college and 71% are employed. Education is free at the TCF School.
Mouza Kot Khair Shah:
It is small village in the district Chiniot in Punjab province of Pakistan. On the bank of the river Chenab, it is known for its intricate wooden furniture around the world. Chiniot is located at 162 kilometres northwest from Lahore.
Human Rights Watch
According to Human Rights Watch report, Pakistan was described as “among the world’s worst performing countries in education,” at the 2015 Oslo Summit on Education and Development. Imran Khan’s government, elected in July 2018, stated in their manifesto that nearly 22.5 million children are out of school. Girls are particularly affected. Thirty-two percent of primary school age girls are out of school in Pakistan, compared to 21 percent of boys. By grade six, 59 per cent of girls are out of school, versus 49 per cent of boys. Only 13 per cent of girls are still in school by ninth grade. Both boys and girls are missing out on education in unacceptable numbers, but girls are worst affected.