She'll be watching you

Sep 16, 2012, 08:40 IST | Nivedita Dargalkar

In a bid to make women feel safer, colleges and even housing societies have taken to appointing female security guards. While principals feel this ensures the security of their female students, housing societies say it reduces instances of theft and is a much-needed move in the wake of Pallavi Purkayastha murder

On the eve of Women’s Day on March 8 this year, Navi-Mumbai based Top Marshall Women Security started a unique training programme to train female security guards. Three months later, 200 trained female guards, comprising college pass-outs and homemakers, among others, have successfully completed the course and are ready to don their uniforms for the role of a security guard that till now has been considered a male-dominated profession.

Anisa Shaikh, Director, Top Marshall Women Security. Here, she is seen training aspirants at Kharghar. Pic/ Sameer Markande

Anisa Shaikh, director, Top Marshall Women Security, says, “Nowadays women and senior citizens aren’t safe in their homes. The murder of 25 year-old lawyer Pallavi Purkayastha in Wadala by a male security guard and recent cases of crimes against senior citizens prove this. In such a scenario, a female security guard is required.”

Intensive training
The intensive training programme organised by the security agency trains female guards in the use of weapons like rifles and pistols and teaches them martial arts, karate, telecommunication, fire-fighting, crowd management, traffic management, team building and leadership, apart from how to tackle rescue operations and even a water crisis. The three month-long training programme is conducted by the company on a 25-acre plot at Kharghar hills.
“We have trained them extensively in interrogation observation, conflict resolution and given them tips on how to handle difficult clients.

They have also been trained in soft skills like body language, character building, creative thinking, fearlessness and vocal skills,” elaborates Shaikh. She adds, “We ensure that wherever we place them, they have proper sanitation facilities like restrooms.”  Shaikh, a descendant of Sultana Chand Bibi, the warrior queen of Ahmednagar, also feels that women by nature are homemakers and will immediately notice if even a small thing goes missing from their house. “Likewise, if put on a security job, women can prove to be much more vigilant and alert at patrolling the premises.”

More receptive, sensitive
Others seem to agree. Seventy-two of the 200-odd trained female security guards have already been placed at various corporate offices and hospitals in the city. But what Shaikh is really excited about is the fact that 35 of her female guards are all set to be posted at the NRI residential complex on Palm Beach Road. Sandeep Kumar, director, NRI Complex which has 1,500 flats says, “Initially we will be placing 35 female security guards at one of our gates. They will perform the same duties as a male security guard. If this works well, we plan to have an all women’s security even at the main entrance and all other gates of our residential complex.”

A security guard at the Imperial checks a house-help’s bags before she leaves the complex premises to keep a tab on thefts. Pic/Bipin Kokate

It’s heartening that Kumar thinks women security guards are on par with male guards. “Women guards have a number of advantages as compared to male guards. Besides being receptive and sensitive to their surroundings, residents are more likely to obey a female security guard,” he feels. When we prod him further, he explains, “In case of disagreements, people might overpower a male security guard but will not behave the same way with a female security guard. They are more likely to respect and obey her.”  When we ask if he is confident that women security guards will be able to handle physically demanding situations like chasing a robber, Kumar confidently responds, “I have observed a few demo sessions of the female guards who Shaikh has trained. These guards have been given extensive commando training and they can fearlessly handle such an emergency situation.”

Reducing theft
Like the NRI Complex, many other residential complexes have realised the benefits of hiring female security guards, one of them being The Imperial at Tardeo, which employed two female security guards at its premises six months ago. What’s more, the proposal to employ female security guards came from the residents of the building. Raj Gandhi, general manager, facility management, The Imperial, says, “We were getting complaints from residents that items like jewellery and dry fruits were being flicked from their apartments by female house-help. But since we only had male security guards who could not check the purses and bags of females while leaving the premises, we could do nothing.”

In spite of 135 male security guards who work round the clock, the facility management at The Imperial decided to rope in two female security guards at their premises. Each of the guards works in two shifts, from 7 am to 3 pm and from 3 pm to 8 pm, six days a week. “They check the bags and purses of the house help while leaving the complex premises. The maids also have to register any miscellaneous items they bring in with the female guards so that no suspicion is raised when they leave. If the guard finds a maid carrying an item that she suspects might have been flicked, she calls up the apartment she works at and checks with its resident.”

Female students of KJ Somaiya College feel safer with female security guards around. Pic/ Sayed Sameer Abedi

The result? Instances of theft and petty robberies have significantly gone down in the complex.  Rakhi Jadhav, a 30 year-old security guard at The Imperial, proudly says, “Because we check their bags, house-help are alert and incidents of theft have decreased.” “The residents feel more assured now with the presence of female security guards on the premises,” smiles Gandhi.

Women feel safer
Aamir Maniar, director, GK Security, who has in the last few months placed 10 female security guards in various residential complexes in South Mumbai, says, “Residential complexes with club houses and swimming pools are specially asking for female security guards as women feel much safer and more secure in their presence.” “The lady guards we have posted at the residential complexes have been trained to use metal detectors and screen unknown people at the premises they are posted at.

They have been trained in fire-fighting skills in case an emergency situation arises. They have also been given extensive training in soft skills to handle difficult situations and people,” he adds. The advantages of employing female security guards have also been felt by city campuses. Three months ago, SK Somaiya College at Vidya Vihar employed four security guards to help their female students tackle issues such as molestation on campus.

Comfortable in college
Dr Sangeeta Kohli, principal, SK Somaiya College of Arts, Science and Commerce, says, “Though our college has instituted a counselling cell and an anti-ragging cell, we wanted to reach out and help female students who may be facing sexual harassment.” After some contemplation, Dr Kohli and the college management thought of posting female security guards on the campus in July. “It will be easier for a female student to approach a female guard and share her problems. As a college where girl students outnumber boys, we felt this was a much-needed initiative,” says Dr Kohli.

Currently, the college has four female security guards who patrol the campus premises from 8 am to 8 pm to ensure that female students feel safe.
Twenty nine year-old security guard Deepa Gurav, who is posted at the main college gate says, “In the past three months, many girls have shared their problems with men on campus, and I have ensured that the miscreants mend their ways. There is a comfort level that has been established with the female students and they don’t hesitate to approach me in case of tricky situations.”

Students too confirm this sense of comfort and security that they are now experiencing with the presence of female guards on campus. Eighteen year-old Smita Lingam, an FYBcom student stays back in college for project work till 8 pm sometimes. “At such times. the presence of female security guards on the campus is very assuring, as they are easily approachable.”  “Miscreants are now alert and fully aware that their misbehaviour will not go unreported and unpunished,” says Lingam.

Dr Kohli, too, feels female security guards have many advantages over male guards. “Female guards are more useful, sincere and alert during a crisis situation. A few days ago, a student fainted and the female guard helped us carry her and give her first aid.” Dr Kohli also vividly remembers an incident shared by a parent with her during a counselling session. “A parent confided that he felt more confident about the security of his daughter after we appointed female security guards on campus,” adding that this comment came after their daughter had been harassed by the male security guard in their building. “I feel that college campuses and housing societies must seriously think about employing female security guards, as this will make women feel more secure, specially after the Wadala murder,”  she concludes.  

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