THOSE WHO CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF DOING GOOD DEEDS
Colonel Marina Astahkova, chairperson of the women's council in the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation in Moscow, shared with us the story of how women in police manage to maintain harmony and mutual understanding.
– Who was the initiator of creating the MIA women's council? What functions does this institution perform?
– The idea to create the Women’s Association in the Moscow Police belongs to Anatoly Yakunin, general lieutenant, former head of the MIA Main Directorate.
When he organized the women's council, he gave us the concrete aim, which was to create favourable staff morale to enhance the image of the Moscow police. Women by nature have a more fragile mental state and better resolve conflicts arising in the working community. Sometimes having a conversation is enough to resolve a conflict. In fact, this council was the first organization of that kind in the MIA.
20% (about 14,000 people) of our staff in police are women. Despite having so many men as colleagues we manage to maintain harmony and mutual understanding in the MIA.
In the beginning of the Association, we referred to history and experience it provides. Women’s councils used to be organized in military towns. The wives of military service men often did not work, and it was necessary to keep them busy with something. But now the situation is different. We are engaged in providing social assistance where our specialized units lack. We just can't get enough of doing good deeds. I may say this became our motto.
– What good deeds have you already done?
– We created the staff hotline on the official web site of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation in Moscow. All workers can consult it and speak about issues of concern, even anonymously. Over two years of operation of this service, we got more than 1600 appeals. We contribute to detecting emerging problems. Our council serves as a bridge in order to distribute tasks and control their implementation, as well as help solve problems. We are like loving mothers taking care of all those who need support.
Sometimes we have visits to different official bodies and have conversations there. Thus, we make its workers ready for their work and mutual support. We resolve difficult situations, for example, when the chief has to interfere.
Moreover, we petitioned for the MIA Main Directorate in Moscow to pay attention to the problem of infertility among female police officers. Unfortunately, the work of police officers is very stressful, and therefore it leads to such women's problems. I can say that we help families grow. One day, a traffic police officer asked us to help his pregnant colleague with money. Her first pregnancy ended sadly, it took 100,000 rubles to pay for the treatment. We found the money, and the woman gave birth to two beautiful and healthy children.
It should be noted that our activities have different directions. We also pay attention to women veterans of the Second World War. We had an employee aged 90 years, she was an interpreter, personally knew Gagarin, Kosygin, but at the end of life was left completely alone. And we helped her get a wonderful home for veterans in Peredelkino. Veterans are in every district. We distribute them between the police departments and provide them with all possible assistance.
Another direction of our activity is to help employees who have children with disabilities. As our public organization was formed without any legal entity, we seek help from state bodies or charitable organizations that directly deal with this.
– Does the Association pay attention only to women’s problems?
– It doesn’t. We pay attention to problems of all our staff irrespective of gender. There was a case when our employee was injured during the apprehension of criminals. He was hospitalized and was in a coma for a long time. When he left the hospital, he was awarded, but we found out that he does not have his own flat. After our application, he received housing. Soon after that, his family had a child.
Just yesterday, an employee came to me and asked whether he could address women’s council hotline on a personal matter.
In the very beginning, there were laughter and skepticism. Now everyone says only we can help him or her.
– You mentioned stress and diseases. Do you have some special events on promotion of women’s health?
– Yes, of course. We have our own departmental medical unit. We have annual medical examination. Recently, on the initiative of senator Valentina Petrenko, chairperson of the Mothers of Russia movement, we took part in the action called ‘Women's Health is the Nation's Health’ for the prevention of breast cancer among women in the Moscow police. After all, 47 women die from this terrible disease every day in Russia. The main goal that we set ourselves is to tell employees working in police, that their health should be monitored for their children, that such examinations are not so terrifying. After all, some people think that it's better not to know, as the examination can really detect some decease. This is absolutely the wrong position, as in the early stages of the disease doctors cure it in 99% of cases.
Health directly relates to beauty and professionalism. The Women’s Association in the Moscow Police decided to hold a contest called Pride of the Moscow Police. In this contest, we managed to show how professional and beautiful women in police are. They skillfully investigate crimes, shoot accurately, and fulfil sports standards. At the same time, they know how to look beautiful, they can sing, dance, and shoot films. During her visiting us, the senator Valentina Petrenko said: "What wonderful girls you have!". By the way, an employee whose husband died in the line of duty was the one who won the contest. She came to the police to stand in his place. Now she decided to study at the theatre institute in parallel with the service.
– Do you somehow provide patriotic education?
– Patriotic education is an important direction of our work. Our aim is to engage young people with a clear civil position in the service in the internal affairs bodies. And we try to approach this issue uniquely. On the 70th anniversary of the Victory, we organized an auto rally from Moscow to the Borodino field. Police retro cars drove through the villages and cities of the Moscow Oblast. In some places, we stopped, and people could sit on motorcycles, in the cabins of cars. Then on the field, members of special police units, OMON soldiers, prepared food. Many locals appreciated our field kitchen. After that, the staff visited the museum of the history of the battle of Borodino and got acquainted with the history of the region. It was the combination of patriotic education and self-development in close interaction with the population.
We have a good tradition on September 2 on the Day of Combating Terrorism, to visit school №709 in the village of Severny. We invite our special forces there, and they demonstrate the methods of fighting, the skills of apprehension of criminals. Cynologists and their dogs show the wonders of the training of four-legged friends to find explosives and drugs. I must say that the children impressed us with the level of their physical fitness. The headmaster of that school is engaged in tourism, so the school students know a lot about climbing. At the end of the event, schoolchildren descended from a three-story building, like real soldiers of special forces unit, and showed how they release hostages. We were just amazed. Such practices demonstrate a great interest of children in our profession.
– Children are one of the main parts in the life of a woman. Tell us please, how difficult is it to combine working in police with being a mother?
– The female police officers are like loving mothers taking care of all those who ask for our support. But mother shouldn’t only be kind. She should be able to educate and even show firmness somewhere. A distinctive feature of a woman is the constant concern that everything around her is safe.
Being a mother and a professional is, in my opinion, indivisible. And both of these states can be combined. Nevertheless, the periods of their being combined may be different. When I gave birth to a child, I retired from my career. I understood that in the next three years I would not be able to qualify for serious positions that automatically imply greater responsibility. One day my husband asked me why I should work while he was sustaining family. However, I could not become a housewife. I felt potential in myself. Therefore, I decided to go to work and continue my professional path. For the most part, any man wants his wife to develop and be realized professionally. Husbands are proud of such wives, and children are proud of such mothers.
It is necessary to understand that we, women, change with age and develop. Therefore, in some moments, you are a mother and wife, and in the other ones, you are a professional.
– So, how did you manage to combine career and family?
– First of all, my great life experience plays here a huge role. I am a mom and a wife for more than a dozen years. My son is already a grown-up, now he does not need as much attention as when he was a baby. Therefore, now I have much more time for social work. However, the main thing is family support. My family helped me in every possible way and always celebrated with me my success. Certainly, they were worried that I did not have much rest. After seeing that I get tremendous pleasure from my work, they take some of my household duties. Members of my family enjoy listening to what kind of events we hold, they sometimes even participate in them.
– Can ‘professional burnout’ occur in your profession? If yes, how to deal with it?
– I don’t think it occurs in my profession. As the head of the legal department, who has vast experience in this field, I always develop in the profession. In my job every day you get pleasure from what you have done. When I see the happy eyes of an employee or his child, I always feel joy. I am sure, every woman in police has the same emotions in this case. We are united by the same views and we feel being a coherent whole. This makes us stronger. And we can't get enough of doing good deeds.
– What do you think, what number of women in the police is optimal?
– Probably, all those who have the desire to come to the police and serve can join. It may be 30% or 50%. This is not that important. The main thing is that they do not lose their desire to make the world better. Now our service has become more popular among women. We can see it by the admission of a large number of young girls to higher educational institutions. Despite the fact that women, like men, need to pass physical standards, women cope with it. We have no special privileges. Even I, being a leader, should be able to perform certain physical exercises. Let's say I'm supposed to do 15 push-ups. I can do 40 push-ups easily.
– Well then, what strong women! It turns out that the Association unites women in all possible ways. That is why I would like to ask whether you are interested in the Eurasian Women’s Community.
– Yes, I am! The Eurasian Women’s Community provides information for a huge public. Thanks to it, we can get acquainted with activities of outstanding women contributing to solving the society’s problems. If we work as a team, this will bring us a huge use! I am grateful for the fact of being invited to the First Eurasian Women’s Forum. Special thanks to Galina Karelova and Tatyana Moskalkova. This forum was just starting, this was a new thing, and we were very familiar with this state, because we also started from scratch. This event gave us the opportunity to talk to great women. This meeting was beyond our dreams! We saw that different countries have many women engaged in doing good deeds and creating peace and justice. The Eurasian Women’s Community is the embodiment of all those beautiful things.
Peace is our mission on the Earth, in the profession and in family.
Agata Korovina, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov