Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Brit policewoman pushing equality in Helmand
The first British female police officer in Helmand has helped to boost the number of women who want to join the Afghan national police in the area, it was revealed today.
Sergeant Isabella McManus, 45, has served with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) police for 22 years but decided to give herself a new challenge and volunteered to serve in Helmand, southern Afghanistan, as a mentor and adviser to the local force.
A total of 13 women have joined the police force in Helmand and today four of them started a two-month police training course in Kabul - the first time that women from the province have attended the course.
Speaking from Afghanistan, Ms McManus, who is from Dalry, North Ayrshire, said: "It wasn't my job to start mentoring the women specifically but they struck a chord with me. They were ignored entirely at the police headquarters and it wasn't right.
"They needed a uniform giving them some status and they needed training and equipment. I've fought those battles for them every step of the way and we are getting somewhere. The women are empowered and it's great to see."
The gun-carrying women police officers have classroom lessons and training on firing ranges.
She said: "The women are real crack-shots but working in 50 degree heat was very testing. My skin has never been exposed to harsh sunshine."
Speaking about the women officers' role, Ms McManus added: "They face the same dangers as their male counterparts and have earned a justified reputation for their bravery. Many have had to arrest armed suspects and one lady has stopped two suicide bombers while policing public events.
"In addition to facing these dangers, the female officers must contend with the views of some in Helmand's conservative society, who criticise them for having jobs."
The Ministry of Defence police is a civilian police force which is employed by and run by the MoD.