In 2018, UNDP & UNHCR together with Lebanon’s Ministry of Interior & Municipalities launched a reform program that would transform the municipal police’s work towards communities into a people-centered service based on safeguarding human rights. At the core of the reform programs agenda was the promotion of the recruitment of female agents. Since then, UNDP with support from Canada & the United Kingdom has worked with municipalities across Lebanon on ensuring the recruitment of female municipal police.
Among our main partners is the municipality of Anfeh, a town that has become a face of Lebanon’s touristic areas, not only because of its beautiful scenery, but also due to its welcoming municipal police agents headed by Lebanon’s one and only female head of Municipal police: Helene. We spoke to Helene about her journey with hopes to inspire more women to join her path and encourage other municipalities to follow Anfeh’ s lead. Here’s what she had to say:
“I joined Anfeh’s municipal police in 2015. It wasn’t an easy start for me though – I was the first woman to join Anfeh’s municipal police service, and one of far too small a number of women in the service in Lebanon. Initially, I wasn’t seen as an equal by my colleagues, nor by people on the street - women as well as men. Everyone doubted whether I was up to the task.
This made me even more determined to continue. If it wasn’t going to work out for me in the end, I wanted it to be because I decided I wasn’t right for this job, not because others wrote me off immediately. A new mayor was elected and he was the first person to listen to me and to try to understand my passion to continue in the municipal police despite the challenges that lay before me. He was told by many people that I was lazy and would never be able to do the job. His response was to arrange training for me, to support me, and to make sure I was given a role of responsibility. Perhaps this is what life is like as the first woman in every area of life. We have to work doubly hard just to prove ourselves.
I’ve proved myself enough to be appointed as head of the busy morning shift with six men reporting me.
"With them, and with most of the people in the city, we’ve moved far beyond judging my performance based only on gender and, after five years with the municipal police, my colleagues and the community of Anfeh judge me based solely on my performance in the role – and that’s exactly the way it should be!"