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All female bouncers group changing stereotypes

It’s very rare to see women work as security personnel at events such as weddings, concerts, etc. However, times have changed as a group of…

It’s very rare to see women work as security personnel at events such as weddings, concerts, etc. However, times have changed as a group of women ‘The Dragon Squad’ in Akwa-Ibom State decides to break the stereotype and venture into being female bouncers. In this report, the members of Dragon Squad share their experiences as female bouncers.

 

Never before has it been seen that a woman stands to guard a celebrity, or mans the door at a wedding or any other kind of event. Security has always been a male dominated area that many women wouldn’t dare to foray until recently.

The CEO of Dragon Squad, Emem Thomas, told Daily Trust on Sunday that she had always had interest in the military and other security agencies and was inspired by the work they did.

“I have always loved anything military/para military or a uniformed organisation. I was always captivated by the tactical formations done by them. That is how I joined the Red Cross Society of Nigeria and later on became a Carnival Marshal with the prestigious Calabar Carnival, Nigeria.”

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However, Emem’s passion for the work wasn’t the only thing that pushed her into the security business. According to her; it was a turning point of her life.

“Everything changed after my marriage hit the rocks and I needed to get away from all the trauma of the experience and try to start a new life away from the body-shaming and emotional abuse.

“I later ended up working in a Private Security Company in Uyo, as their Admin officer where I proposed and introduced the idea of female officers to complement the males in the company.

“After a few events with the ladies, the company decided to shut down the female section. I was very disappointed and felt betrayed. But I wasn’t going to let those ladies go back home with the mentality that we were only good in the kitchen and the other room. So, in 2018, I resigned from the Private Security Company to start Dragon Squad with about 8 plus-sized ladies.”

From a proposed idea, Emem now heads over 100 female security personnel spread across the country. Asides a security and fitness check that is carried out on recruits, Emem states that being plus-sized is a major requirement to be a part of the Dragon Squad.

Being a group of women doing the unusual, many misconceptions have come about the work that Emem and her team do such as not being taken seriously and considered physically incapable because they are women.

Sharing some misconceptions people have of her team, Emem said; “Some may assume that plus-sized women are not physically capable of performing security duties, such as restraining individuals or responding to emergencies. However, physical size does not necessarily correlate with strength or agility, and besides, we have rigorous training and fitness requirements for our officers.

“Also, women in male-dominated industries are sometimes subject to harassment or other unprofessional behaviour. It is possible that some may assume that our team is not a professional outfit, based solely on the gender and size of their officers. However, professionalism is not determined by gender or size.”

Asides Emem’s mandate to show that plus size women have a place in a society, Dragon squad is also responsible for the protection of women and girls from violence. In fact, it is one of their core mandates.

“The protection of women and girls from violence is one of our core mandates. Most of my team members have stories of abuse – both physical and emotional abuses. And it’s been a painful experience while trying to restore those mental wounds and get them to believe in themselves again. So, we advocate not just punishment for violence against women and girls, but we are committed to teaching women basic security and self-defence skills,” she said.

Being a woman in a male dominated career space often comes with its fair share of challenge. Emem disclosed to Daily Trust on Sunday that as female bouncers, they were not taken seriously as their male counterparts and were even offered lower pay.

She said; “Our male security counterparts saw us as jokers and didn’t take us seriously. We were priced lower than the male folks because society believes a job like security is about physical strength and agility only. Even our fellow women carry on the crusade that if we continue in this kind of profession, we will never marry or be able to bear children.”

However, Emem states that maintaining a code of ethics with her team is what has helped maintain and grow her business in the city, she said; “Nevertheless, we steadily made progress by keeping to our principles of Decency and Business Mindedness, and today, it’s paying off.

It is often believed that co-ordinating a group of women can be a difficult task for anyone. However, Emem has found a way to manage her team and make sure that there’s room for everyone to excel.

“By setting clear expectations, fostering open communication, addressing conflicts proactively, promoting teamwork and collaboration, and providing opportunities for growth and development, l have effectively managed and led this diverse group of women on my team.”

Emem, who is also a strong advocate for body positivity, mentioned that young girls who may feel insecure about their plus-sized bodies, should remember that size or shape does not determine their worth, and they deserve to feel confident and comfortable in your own skin.

“It is essential to focus on taking care of your physical and mental health, rather than striving for a specific body type. This includes getting regular exercise, eating a balanced and nutritious diet, getting enough sleep, and practising self-care.

“Surround yourself with positive role models and supportive friends and family members who encourage and uplift you. It can also be helpful to seek out support groups or organizations that promote body positivity and self-love.

“Remember that your worth is not determined by your size or shape, and you have the power to create a positive self-image and a fulfilling life. Embrace your unique qualities and talents, and know that you are capable of achieving anything you set your mind to,” she said.

Speaking to a Dragon squad recruit, Kemi Rotimi, she said “Working as a bouncer is a story itself because every movement is eventful. I saw a friend of mine who was on the dragon squad team and I indicated interest and got the job later.”

When asked what other profession she could have opted for, Kemi mentioned that even if she was not on the Dragon Squad team, she would still be in the security field as it is an area she has interest in.

Another recruit, Margaret Gabriel Bassey, mentioned to Daily Trust on Sunday that “A lot of people often mock plus size ladies which makes them feel inferior and question their body size. When I joined Dragon Squad as a plus size lady, they made me understand that the plus size woman is the most beautiful, hardworking and smartest human on earth.”

She also mentioned that if she weren’t a female bouncer on the team, she would perfect her baking skills and open a business.

Imaobong Etim, another member of the team, said she believes a lot of stereotyping has held women working in male dominated fields back from excellence and so, it’s time to seek for inclusion of women in such fields.

She said; “The level of gender stereotyping in our society is quite alarming, and females specifically bear the highest brunt. It’s necessary to increase the inclusion of women, to help strengthen security and conflict prevention in a pragmatic way in today’s world, thus, my interest in security.”

Because of her love for the security field, Imaobong stated that if she was not on the Dragon squad, she would serve as a military personnel.

 

 

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