By Nourhan Magdi, The Cairo Post
Four female police officers were promoted to the rank of major general in a recent security reshuffle in the first week of August, in what many activists are calling a positive step towards a culture change in the Interior Ministry.
The recent appointments are only the second time a woman has been promoted to the rank, and the first time for a group of women. High-ranking female officers in the past were usually forced to retire at the rank of brigadier general.
“Before the January 25 Revolution, women officers were only assigned to specific sectors, but never promoted to the rank of major general,” retired Maj. Gen. Adel Mostafa told The Cairo Post Sunday.
Mostafa said that it is not easy for any officer to reach the rank of major general, but the ministry, however, has a culture of not overlooking women for higher ranks.
Active-duty female Maj. Gen. Azza el-Gamal was appointed to the rank, and placed in command of the Police Hospital last year, a position she still holds.
The other four officers were promoted to major general in different police sectors: police tourism, specialized police, transport and Cairo International Airport.
“Women officers’ rights were not fulfilled in the past, as many of them were highly qualified, but were assigned to simple tasks. They were excluded from hard work as a ‘man’s physical specifications’ were always a requirement,” Mostafa added.
He further added that women “cannot be sent to deal with thugs and criminals. The promotion could be a first step to other changes, where women officers can be trained to act in hard situations where they might face risks.”
‘I hope society will change its view of women’
Hanan Mahmoud Khalil was one of the promoted officers, and before the announcement, she packed up her office to “prepare myself to receive the decision of my retirement,” she told Youm7 Wednesday.
“It was such an amazing surprise for me and my colleagues and I could not describe my happiness at that moment,” she said. “We thanked the minister for honoring women, and promised to be responsible.”
Previously an attorney, Khalil said she was attracted to the police force for its spirit of discipline and for a challenge. She’s been on the force for 31 years in the tourism sector.
She added to Youm7 that she hopes her promotion is not just a change in the police force, but in society’s vision of women as well. She said she hoped this new attitude “enabled women to assume all leading positions that they were not appointed to before.”
Rokiya Hamza, another of the female police officers promoted to major general, works in the police transport sector. She was one of the first women admitted to the Police Academy in 1983.
“I work at the department of human rights and countering violence against women,” Hamza told Sada el-Balad news website Aug. 2.
She added, “We do our job to the fullest like men, and we also work both morning and evening shifts. Sometimes, we have to stay overnight.”
Women’s rights activists pleased, but say there is still more to accomplish
Mervet el-Talawy, the head of the National Council for Women, said on Aug. 1 “The Interior Ministry’s decision is a coronation for the Egyptian woman, who has proved over the past few years that she is able to protect and maintain the nation’s unity,” Al-Tahrir news website reported.
She also praised the role of the ministry in “entrenching the idea of equality between genders.”
Karima Kamal, a writer and a feminist, told The Cairo Post Sunday that she was also happy with the promotions, and said they were an important first step for the rights of women officers to achieve promotions.
However, Kamal added that now women in high-ranking positions must be assigned “important tasks to prove that the police culture has really changed.”
“There’s no doubt that this step is sending an effective message to society,” Kamal said, “but there should be justice in enabling women to work at important sectors in the ministry, like other major generals.”
However, the head of the New Woman organization, Mona Ezzat, told The Cairo Post Sunday, “[The promotions] are still incomplete as long as the decision is not part of a strategy or a vision by the ministry.”
“Unless there is an adopted program allowing both genders equal work, reversion to the decision is negotiable,” she added.
In the same context, Ezzat suggested the ministry should start increasing the number of women enrolling in the Police Academy and placing a greater emphasis on human rights and gender issues in the curriculum.
Additional Reporting by Ibrahim Ahmed