[WATCH] Women in disciplined forces look back on challenges and changes

530 women are part of the Disciplined forces in Malta, including 417 women in the police forces

Home affairs minister Carmelo Abela meets female representatives of the disciplined forces
Home affairs minister Carmelo Abela meets female representatives of the disciplined forces
Women in disciplined forces look back on challenges and changes

Choosing a career in the disciplined forces is about vocation, not a fallback career, Home affairs minister Carmelo Abela said during a meeting with female representatives from the disciplined forces.

During the meeting, held on occasion of Women’s Day, Abela expressed the hope that women would get the message that a career in the forces was very tangible and possible through the experiences shared by representatives today.

The representatives ranged from retired to close to retirement, to officials and young female members with only a few years of experience, from Police, Armed Forces, Civil protection and Corradino Correctional Facility.

Sergeant Major Josephine Gauci, who has just retired after 38 years of service, explained that she had seen changes in the way women in the forces were regarded.

Gauci explained that when she had just entered the force, women used to have to change into their uniform at the station, because they weren’t allowed to wear their uniforms in public.

“Throughout my career, I saw some women leave their jobs because they had children, and couldn’t afford childcare,” she said, adding that recent changes had made it easier for women to raise a family and keep their jobs. She added that she herself had had help from her mother in raising her son.

“I also remember discrimination in terms of career advancement prospects and pays for women, but now there are many more opportunities open to women,” she said.

Gauci explained however, that being a woman had also helped in her work at some points, with victims of abuse often finding it easier to open up to her because she’s a woman.

Similarly, senior correctional officer Annabelle Cauchi, who had served at Corradino Correctional Facility for 26 years, said that she often found that male inmates respected her and obeyed her more than expected.

Cauchi explained that throughout her career she had observed any changes in the way female officers are treated.

“You have to persist and make sure that you are heard, whether others are reluctant or not,” she said, adding that when she had just started working there, women were only allowed to work in the female section.

Staff Sergeant Dorothy Gauci, who enlisted in the AFM in 1991, explained that at the time it was still rather unusual for women to hold such jobs.

“I had applied and done my exams without telling anyone,” she said, adding that, over time, recruitment processes had become exactly the same for both men and women.

Gauci explained that a certain detachment between men and women remained, but that men and women had begun to enjoy the same responsibilities and duties as their male counterparts.

Abela said that there were currently 530 women were part of the disciplined forces, with 417 women in the police force, presenting a rise of around 80 women from the 388 women in the police forces in 2012.

According to statistics, women made up 34 of the 217 officials at Corradino correctional facility, but that 75 women were part of AFM, which had opened its doors to women in 1990.

“Your experience is better than anything we can say, and women like you are role models for other women,” he said.

Abela commended the women’s ambition and achievements and added that the government was committed to encouraging more women to choose such careers through initiatives such as free childcare centres.

He further encouraged women to participate and added that men also needed to play their part in order to encourage women to enter the workforce.

Abela further stressed the need to improve and increase educational and training opportunities locally, with the government looking forward to such changes. 

The two women who are part of the civil protection department, Christine Balzan and Roberta Tonna, explained that they chose to be part of the department in their free time and that the position presented them with the chance to help those in need at their most urgent moments.

The department doesn’t have any female employees on a full-time basis, but Abela added that interest in the department was on the rise.