First Bangladeshi women blaze a trail to become firefighters

First Bangladeshi women blaze a trail to become firefighters
First Bangladeshi women blaze a trail to become firefighters

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - DHAKA: Women firefighters have joined the Bangladesh Fire Service for the first time in the organization’s history, breaking a taboo over female employment in traditionally male-dominated workplaces.

Out of nearly 3,000 applicants, 15 women were selected to train as firefighters, passing exams as well as physical screening. They are now undergoing the same seven-month exercise regime as their male counterparts at an FSCD center in Mirpur.

“There is no concession in terms of training. Starting from fire extinguishing, they will receive training in physical fitness, mental fitness and so on. They will be prepared to face every situation,” Mohammad Wahidul Islam, director of the FSCD Directorate, told Arab News.

While more women have been admitted to Bangladesh’s uniformed services over the past decade, until now they could not seek careers in the fire department.

“We started to include female personnel in our fire service department for the first time in history,” Islam said.

“This year, we recruited 15 female firefighters, and there are plans to recruit more in the coming years ... We believe this will strengthen the capabilities of our department.”

Maimuna Akter from Jhenaidah, southwestern Bangladesh, completed her higher secondary course in commerce this year, but social work has always appealed to her more as it was a path taken by her mother.

“My mother was a village health worker who dedicated herself to the people’s well-being. Seeing my mother, I decided to engage myself in some profession where I could serve people directly. The fire service department is such a platform where I can be relied on during emergency situations,” the 21-year-old said.

She faced discouragement from her local community for wanting to follow a traditionally male profession, but those closest to her have always had her back.

“My family was always very supportive. Today, I am here because of my mother’s support,” Akter said.

Bangladesh has a devastating record of industrial accidents, including factories catching fire with workers trapped inside. The victims are often women.

“Sometimes, women don’t feel comfortable being rescued by male firefighters. In such situations, I will do my best to rescue distressed women. My job is not only limited to fire extinguishing. Rescue is also an important part of my job,” said Priyanka Halder, a 22-year-old history student from Meherpur who also joined the fire service last month.

“I feel very proud that I joined as a female firefighter, and I consider it one of the best platforms to grow my career.”

She has been engaged in social work since childhood.

I worked as a campaigner against child marriage and for removing gender inequality. I always dreamt of dedicating myself to serving the nation in such a profession from where I can serve the people staying very close,” she said.

“During school, we used to recite the oath: ‘Almighty, please give me strength so that I can dedicate myself to serve the country.’ This line inspired me a lot.”

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