The freshly formed Lady Squad, patrolling the roads of Lahore side by side with their male counterparts, is expected to provide women drivers with a sense of security, besides creating a culture of inclusivity in public spaces
The City Traffic Police (CTP) have recently formed a Lady Squad. The lady traffic wardens, riding motorbikes, shall now patrol the roads of Lahore side by side with their male counterparts. The idea is to afford a sense of security to women drivers/ riders, besides creating a culture of inclusivity in public spaces.
Initially, a motorcycle contingent of 25 lady traffic wardens has been tasked to patrol the city streets.
The Lady Squad is also to engage with public awareness campaigns in various educational institutions in Lahore. Traffic officials believe that the sight of a female lady warden patrolling the city roads should be a source of inspiration for women in general. Thus, it is expected that more and more women will be encouraged to pull their vehicles out and feel safe and secure.
Moreover, a driving school for women has been set up to inculcate self-confidence in women and to make them feel independent while being on the road.
It is pertinent to mention here that the idea of lady traffic wardens patrolling the city streets is not a new one. The first batch of female wardens, inducted in the city traffic police, began working as early as in 2008. But they were hurriedly taken away and deputed in offices, after several incidents of harassment were reported in the media. Police records show that some people were arrested for harassing the female wardens.
Ironically, resistance to female wardens manning the traffic on the roads also came from within the department. Some of the senior police officials didn’t quite approve of it.
Several other factors also contributed to female wardens’ early removal from the roads. Many of them were said to have got married and had children and now preferred office work. Besides, issues such as loo breaks for those on the road for long hours were a reason that kept them away.
Today the CTP boasts 140-odd female wardens but none of them have been assigned regular duties on the roads.
Talking to TNS, City Traffic Officer Muntazir Mehdi says that the traffic police’s latest initiative is aimed at placing women in a more commanding position as wardens. “I am certain that the project, which is part of the Women on Wheels [WoW], will go a long way in achieving its stated goal.
“Thousands of women have already learnt to ride the motorbike at the WoW School,” he says.
According to Mehdi, seeing women serving as traffic wardens is very important, as it sends out the message that women can work in places traditionally considered for men only. “It will also make Lahore look more modern,” he adds. “In near future, you will see more lady wardens working alongside their male colleagues on city roads.”
The CTO also says, “There is no doubt that the female wardens have always been an important and productive wing of the city traffic police. Whenever there was a need for them, they responded. They have always proved their ability, dutifulness and sense of responsibility.”
He speaks of the former lady traffic wardens as having “fulfilled their assigned responsibilities in the training, ticketing and licensing offices very efficiently. Some are now also in charge of important city traffic police posts in the city.”
So far, 25 lady traffic wardens have been deployed to educate road users about violation of traffic rules, lane restrictions, use of helmets and enforcement of other traffic regulations.
To quote the CTO Lahore, again, the Lady Squad aims “to acknowledge women drivers’ potential, highlight their importance, and strengthen them.”
Saba Naureen is among the freshly employed lady traffic wardens who have been tasked to patrol the city roads in order to monitor the traffic issues, encourage women to ride motorbikes and other means of personal transportation. She says she feels “quite confident on the roads as a traffic warden.” She attributes her confidence to “a thorough training” she and her other colleagues got.
In reply to a query, Naureen says she has “not encountered any unpleasant incident so far.” She explains that the traffic police “have a strong mechanism in place against any incident of harassment. We move in groups or there is a designated male warden accompanying a female warden. We’ve also been given wireless access that enables us to keep in contact with the Control Room.
“When we are in the uniform, there’s no distinction between men and women; we are all police officers,” she declares. “People are gradually becoming used to seeing us on the roads. Besides, they know that we belong to the police force, so no one can mess with us.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a female traffic police officer says that her family does not approve of her work. “The overall attitude of the society is kind of threatening,” she says. “The rich don’t bother to abide by the law. In fact, if you try to educate them they threaten to get you sacked.
“Our top bosses expect nothing but extraordinary performance. They turn a deaf ear to the problems we face on the streets. If we lodge a complaint, it is ignored.”
She also complains of a lack of basic facilities like seating, cabins, washrooms and drinking water.
The writer is a senior journalist and can be reached at email@example.com