On International Women’s Day, the female municipal police of Zahle have a message to the world. Standing tall in their uniforms, they proudly convey a message UNDP has long been promoting: The time has come for women to be part of Lebanon’s Municipal Police.
Cosette- who had spent 15 years in the Philippines before coming back with her family to Lebanon- never thought that she would end up serving the people of Zahle. She never imagined one day she would become a Municipal Police agent.
Having four kids, Cosette thought her only mission was to serve and protect her children. Today, she does a lot more! Her mission, as a municipal police agent is to protect and serve a population of 40,000, the population of Zahle - Beqaa valley’s capital and largest city!
“My Name is Cosette. I am a Woman, A wife, and a mother of four.
This is how many see me. However, I am much more than that. While I am a woman, wife and mother of four, I am also a Municipal police agent and have served as such Zahle’s community for more than two years now!
I am also one of those women who have been told “you won’t make it”. Yet, against all odds, I did, and nothing would stop me.”
Cosette was unsure being a municipal police agent was the right thing for her. Until today, men dominate municipal police units all across Lebanon. While there are municipalities that hire female municipal police, those remain a few and the majority of municipalities still do not consider this as a priority. Besides, many women hesitate to apply to such positions as they believe this job is “for men.”
“When I got the opportunity to apply for the job, I was scared,” explains Cosette. “I thought I was not ready for this, and might not be able to handle the tasks required. Even some of my closest family members made me feel that this was not a “woman’s job”.”
UNDP, together with the ministry of Interior and Municipalities, work on promoting the recruitment of both men & women in the municipal police. This is part of a reform launched by the MoIM and aimed at transforming Lebanon’s municipal police into a service to communities. We work together with municipalities to make sure municipal police put communities at the core of their mission. To do that, we believe that the inclusion of women is key!
Women are half of a community, and shifting towards a community-oriented municipal police, means all community members are to be represented in them municipal police service. The municipal police we aim at promoting, is one that is for all people – women and men of all backgrounds and differences.
To Cosette, being a municipal police agent she is sending out a clear message to all women who still wonder whether they could serve in a security institution or not.
“Now is time for us, women, to remove the barriers we face every time we try to not to conform with stereotypes or preconceived ideas. We need to get rid of classifications set for us. A Woman can be anything she wants. Nothing can or should stop her.”
“Today I am proud to be a municipal police agent, and to wear this uniform,” She continues. “Being a municipal police agent changed me in so many ways. But I was able to change only because I decided to challenge gender sterotypes.”
Out of Zahle’s 82 municipal police agents, 14 are women. 40 year old Enaam Azar, is one of them.
“ I love my job. Even though it is tiring. I love it most because it allows me to interact with people. It aslo makes me feel that I am contributing to people’s everyday lives. However it wasn’t easy to become a municipal police agent” Explains Enaam.
One of Enaam’s tasks Is to organize the traffic in one of Zahle’s most crowded streets. The area where she serves is usually crowded with people as it connects different parts of the city. She tells us the challenges she faces with people who are not yet used to women working as municipal police agents.
“When I’m trying to organize the traffic, some people would not listen to me. I would see them directly reverting to my male colleague for confirmation.”
George - Enaam’s colleague - interrupts to explain: “In the past the streets where run by men. Some people are not used to see women organizing traffic and wearing a Municipal police uniform. When I look back to the past and how things were, I can say these women have achieved an important milestone!”
For International Women’s Day, UNDP together with Cosette and her colleagues are sending out a message of respect and appreciation to all women who have decided to challenge gender-stereotypes. To all women who kept trying until they created a space for themselves in fields traditionally perceived as “for men”.
To all women who have changed people’s perceptions and enhanced women’s opportunities through their very presence in the workplace, just like the female municipal police agents of Zahle.