Hi, I am Dooshima Dennis
I am a FIREFIGHTER
I play in a Gender-Stereotyped Space
How safe do you feel in this male-dominated space?
I don’t feel that being a female in a very male-dominated profession has affected my job, but I do think being a female who demands to be treated with respect and as a woman, not a man, has affected the way some of the guys do things at the department. First, let me start by saying that I am a woman, and I am proud to be a woman. I am not a man, and I don’t want to be treated like a man. But I will train with the men, and I will keep up the best that I can. Sure, there are some things I can’t physically do, but that doesn’t decrease my value. The fire service is all about being a man, and they yell and scream because that’s what I went through when I was learning to be a firefighter. I am doing everything to the best of my ability, I am giving it my all too. I do my job because I am a woman. I react differently to situations than the men do, but I get the job done.
What was the ultimate drive towards this profession and what has been the motivation all along?
First, let me say that I did not have the fire service as one of the potential places I wanted to work. These days there are more juicy places where I’d wanted to pitch my ambitious tent place like United Nations, Ecowas parliament etc but not where I presently am (Federal Fire Service) but when I got enlisted I discovered the way people look down on us, little or no awareness and negative image the public had about the service, all these made me sit down and say no to the relegation of the fire service to the background. Although, when I got enlisted, I wasn’t so excited about getting the job, but over time I grew to love the job and started to pursue a career in it. I love humanitarian and being a firefighter is the best way to meet that goal.”
What were your loved ones stand on this chosen profession of yours?
They have always encouraged me and used to tell me to add wings to my dreams and become what I desire. When I cracked the exam, they were shocked because no one in my family has done this kind of job before. They gave me positive vibes. It has been an enriching experience and a matter of great pride to be a part of firefighting.
What are the main challenges you have faced as a woman in this profession?
I think the role of a firefighter has a stereotypical image here and that can put you off. If there are not enough role models, women might not even consider it as a job for them. I think we need to change the message, so they can consider it as a profession they can do. More explanation needs to be given about what it entails to be a modern-day firefighter.
I feel privileged to be a role model for other women and I want to say, ‘come and join me’. I can say from personal experience it is a good job and career – it offers great promotional opportunities. The diverse range of specialisms means women can take on any one of the different avenues from community safety, fire investigation to rope rescues, and water rescue. It is a skilled professional job and every day is different; and it is challenging. You never know what you are going to face, but one thing you can guarantee is that it is rewarding.
What are the benefits you gain as a woman in this profession?
For me it is the fact that I am able to become a small link in helping people who are in deplorable conditions and to be able to see the joy in their eyes when they receive aid – especially children, women and men. It brings tears to my eyes. I am happy to be a helping link. They were in a bad situation and because of an intervention they are now able to be in a different situation and that is most rewarding for me.
Was there any point you almost gave up?
Yes.Dealing with a little boy who was a fire victim and his family who was slowly losing him. It was very sad because I wanted to take their pain away, but I know I couldn’t.
If yes, what kept you going?
There will never be a better feeling than knowing am doing my part in saving someone’s life, possessions, or home.
I must say that being a firefighter is quite tough. why did you choose to be a firefighter despite it being labelled as a man’s job?
I’ve always wanted to do something out of the ordinary with myself, something challenging.
What are the top three things women aspiring to come into this space needs to know before starting?
Be yourself, stay out of trouble, and stay healthy.
Could give us some sneak peeps into your personal daily rules in your profession?
A typical day for me is quite challenging because no event of a fire is identical immediately we receive a distress call and turn out from our station headed towards the scene of incidence and while people are running out of the building, we are running in. It’s not an easy job to do, but once you put your mind to it, trust me you can.
Who is your role model?
Do you wish other women take up roles as yours? Why?
Yes. Because the public is yet to start accepting that there are women who are firefighters. I think public opinion also views female firefighters as not being able to do the job as it is a man’s job, but in firefighting, there’s nothing like fireman or firewoman, we are all firemen. The public is very shocked that we have women firefighters. I can’t tell you how many times I walk into facilities, and I will hear someone say; “Wow, a firewoman! You don’t see that very often.” People haven’t accepted that, yes, we are women, and we can do the job just as well as any man. I think stigmas like this will have to be broken with time. Once people start to see more all-women crew, it will just become a norm, the reason I will love to see women take my role.
What do you have to say to other women?
All I want to say to the aspiring women firefighters is that women symbolise (power), so there is nothing that we can’t do. The only necessary thing is to dream and focus on your goal. You just need to continue with your dedication and determination.
What are your social media handles?
instagram: dennisdooshima. Facebook: Dooshima Dennis. Twitter: cutedoosh.