Jumping off a red truck and darting into a blazing building while wielding only a water hose and some fire-retardant clothing as cover, is an image that is traditionally associated with men in the Subcontinent. But Shazia Perveen is about to change all that as Pakistan’s first female firefighter.
Shazia, 25, who hails from Vehari District in Punjab, joined the Rescue 1122 emergency services as a firefighter in 2010. Fighting fire with frightening conflagrations in a field feared even by most men, her co-workers acknowledge her determination.
Rescue 1122 claims that Perveen is the first female firefighter in Pakistan, and perhaps in all of Asia.
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For Perveen, however, the job has always been a dream despite its inherent dangers. So when the Rescue 1122 Women’s Department opened up, she jumped at the chance. The prospect of working along with men too did not phase her enthusiasm
“Some women avoid and hesitate to work with men. That is where I differ with them and think that we, women, can work shoulder-to-shoulder with men,” says Perveen.
But it has not been an easy road to her dream. After recruitment, she had to undergo extensive training at the Punjab Emergency Service in Lahore. “Amongst the 600 people there, I was the only woman who completed the training.”
Her training included learning to swim, jump, fight fire, and climbing up roofs with the help of ropes.
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She recounts how a large number of people left their training in middle because they couldn’t take it anymore. But she persevered, and even ended up inspiring some of her fellow male trainees to keep on going. But what kept her going?
“I was told during the training that I would become the first lady firefighter of Asia, which made me extremely jubilant and it was like my dream had come true,” narrates Perveen.
A full fledged firefighter, Perveen helps out firefighters where women are trapped.
“At the outset, people would laugh at me when they saw me working with male workers. But afterwards, when I saved their precious properties during fires, they started admiring me,” she recounts.
Having managed to wriggle into a world of men, Perveen thinks that that women can tackle any job and take up any profession of their choice.
Lauding Shazia’s passion, District Emergency Officer Doctor Farzand says Perveen is a trustworthy worker and we get to receive good feedback for her, which is because she never compromises on her work.
“Ours is a men’s society. But Perveen works adamantly against such matriarchal thinking,” he says.
“It is believed that women are only able to start fires, whereas I have disproved this old adage and now I extinguish fires,” says Perveen
The article originally appeared on Vehari Sujag