A mum and her daughter, who are both Special Constables for Northamptonshire Police, say they are hoping to change perceptions of Muslim women.
Saima Saleem, who is in her early 40s, was a full time mother to three daughters, until she became a special constable in August 2014.
Currently undertaking a BA Policing degree at the University of Northampton, Saima carries out a minimum of four hours a week of voluntary policing work.
She said: “Before joining Northamptonshire Police, I had never worked. I had no work experience as I had always been a house wife. Facing an interview was a really big obstacle for me as I had no idea what to expect or what kind of example I could give to them.
“After failing my first interview, I wasn’t disheartened at all but instead I was even more enthusiastic after the support I received. I failed my fitness test because I am that person who always parks the car nearest to the lifts. But I tried again and with the help of gym instructors and coaching from officers I finally passed.”
Culture has played a huge part in Saima’s life: “As a Pakistani woman, being a special constable is a big thing. I always wanted to join the police force but never had the courage. But when my husband saw my passion towards the police, he told me to join. He has been such a huge support for me.
Speaking about what it means to her to be a Special, Saima said: “As a Muslim female officer, I want to become a role model for women. They should step forward so they can achieve what they want to do in their lives.”
Saima’s 22-year-old daughter Nayhaa Saleem is also a special constable. She says: “My encouragement to become a special constable came from my mum. Watching her get ready for her shifts, feeling so excited and coming back home so pleased with herself when she helped someone or when she stopped a crime taking place, it really inspired me. Her passion and love for the job made me want to be a part of the force as well.”
SAs a Muslim female officer, Nayhaa says it is more than just a job: “For me, being a Muslim officer means a lot. Firstly, because I want to change people’s views on Muslims, I want to show that we are a part of this community as much as they are and what we are doing is for this community. You can be a Muslim and a police officer at the same time!
“Being quite young and a female, I do sometimes struggle as people want to talk to someone a bit older or a male officer whom they think will have more knowledge or might help them more than I will. This is one thing that I will have to deal with.
“You can help people whether you’re big or small, male or a female, young or old. Getting asked how I will be able to do this, makes me want to do it even more. It makes me want to show people that being a small woman doesn’t stop you from doing anything. It doesn’t limit you.”
The younger member of the Saleem family is 17-year-old police cadet Narmeen.
She joined after being encouraged by her special constable mum: “As my mum was in the police, I was encouraged to apply for the cadets as it would help me with my future career. I first joined when I was 16. I’m now waiting for my 18th birthday so I can apply to become a special.”
Sophia Perveen, chair of the Northampton Muslim Police Association, helped support the family in the recruitment process, she said: “As a former police officer myself, I know how challenging it can be to undertake such an important role.
“Not only are you an ambassador for the force but as a Muslim woman, there are many hats that you have to wear. The Saleem family offer their time voluntarily to help make our communities safer.”