Forbidden job: of the Volunteer fire services on "unfeminine" work
FIRE IS ONE of the MANY PROFESSIONSprohibited for women by the Russian Ministry of labour. The list of such professions have been repeatedly criticized as discriminatory and in many cases counterintuitive. Talking about it as women, defending their right to work and the officials (from the authorised on human rights in the Russian Federation Tatiana Moskalkova to employees of Russian Railways), however, the law remains in effect.
This, of course, does not mean that in Russia there are women who put out fires — they often have to do this on a voluntary basis, dealing with the lack of social protection, overcoming bureaucratic obstacles and gender bias concerning the "unfeminine" craft. We asked the women firefighters-volunteers, know how that feels.
I never intended to put out fires, it happened by chance. In 2010, when around Moscow were burning peat, I wrote in the blog announcement that you pack a bag of things for the victims. Suddenly this record became popular, I began to bring not just food or clothes, but various fire-fighting equipment: hoses, portable extinguishers, and more. At some point I switched to the collecting equipment for the volunteer fire squads, and then went on his first fire in the suburbs.
When the rains began and the fires were extinguished, I thought that the situation could be repeated, and enrolled in the Greenpeace Russia for volunteer firefighters, and the following spring went to fire expedition in the Astrakhan biosphere reserve. For several years I was a volunteer, but in the end, the fire fighting has fascinated me so much that I left the work of art critic-expert in the Department of culture of the government of Moscow and served for four years in a press-service Avialesookhrana. I am now back to volunteering.
In Russia a woman by law cannot work as a fireman, and I believe that it is wrong. In fact, women working on the fires, and a lot of work. In reality, if peat, forest or grass fire are suitable to the locality, women naturally go to work with the men. Often work on fires and the women foresters, simply because they are worried about their forest and don't want it burned. But socially they are not protected — will not receive compensation in case of injury or illness, and to tolerate this state of Affairs is impossible. The ban on the work of a firefighter is just a hole in the law which appeared by mistake, and it needs to be corrected. Because if a woman wants to work on the fire if she's trained, physically healthy and comply with safety rules, she can do it the same way as a man.
It should be noted that the list of professions prohibited for women in Russia implies working at the edge of the fire. This law is not allowed to perform utility work (e.g., cook), and even to lead, even if you're not stewed. I took advantage of this loophole and learned at the head of the fire having the official right to be present in forest fires, even though he worked there only in the capacity of press officer.
Interestingly, in the Aviation protection of forests from fires is, perhaps, the most professional structure in Russia from those that are engaged in fighting forest fires — women twenty-five years as forbidden to work as a parachute. Meanwhile, eighty-five years ago, when Avialesookhrana has just appeared (by the way, Russia outpaced all here), in the first group there were two women and they were the best of the best. There was even a group of parachutists-firemen, who perfectly coped with the work. Foreign experience proves that the subsequent prohibition of error: in the U.S. and Europe today, many women are parachutists-firefighters. Of course, the standards for physical education and health checks for them are not less stringent than for men, but as it should be.
Now in Russia extinguishing fires is considered purely a man's job. When I first flew to Siberia, head of Avialesookhrana was very worried about me: "If you get scared, don't need to go into the forest by helicopter, just take a photo of our boys at the airport and come back." By the time I've been on hundreds of fires as a volunteer, but men are hardly able to imagine it, and the idea that I'll live in a tent and to go to work, they have caused surprise. Each new group with which I went into the forest, had to prove that the work on the fire — it's not a whim, that I'm a professional. However, the jokes quickly stopped when they realized that I was serious.
Now I devote to volunteering a lot of time. My colleagues, as a rule, people working, to put or go on the weekend or during vacations and leaves of absence. But in everyday life, and outside of the fire season still produced a lot of cases. We don't only go to fires, but also regularly learn: professionals almost every year training — and so are we. And then there are things like development of training manuals, preventive work with the population, especially children, planting trees. All this is time consuming and requires discipline. But without the discipline of the fires have nothing to do.
It began spontaneously: around cheats there was lots of big fires burning — I've decided that I will be able to help, and found a group of volunteers. I was engaged in sports tourism, went to the mountains, so that was physically prepared; in General there were no problems, although initially at me like I was the only girl in the group looked askance. Had to prove that I am not worse than others — to be better than them that I started to listen. Now I am the group leader.
This year I was invited to a meeting to prepare for the fire season: there were representatives of the MOE, Hollesley, the Ministry and me. Discussed how we will interact. First discussed the work with the population, and there were no problems. As soon as we crossed to extinguish the fires, they claim. Began to say that our activities are illegal and women are not allowed to extinguish fires. Referred to the instructions on labor protection, to which I replied that I, as a volunteer, these rules do not apply — I have no employment contract. But they have their own logic, no objections they did not listen and act on the volunteers simply ignored.
I recently called and asked to participate in the work with the population. At the same time to extinguish the fires threatening to ban — said if they see us in the area fighting fires, we will be prepared the protocols on violators. To me it's not very scary, because we have with the administration of Chita understanding, they give us the desired badge. Fire and MOE is always happy to see us: we work well, no problems did not exist before.
In Transbaikalia the majority of the area is forested, and this forest of pine — they are very well lit. The region is not very developed, settlements there are not many. People are constantly missing. Often we arrive and the place anyone or one or two people. Unable even to clean the area from previous fires, the wood will not take out, and a little snow. At the end of March it isn't, but the streams are still frozen — in such circumstances, to extinguish fires is very difficult and water has to carry with them.
Volunteers are very different people: there are young students, and those who are under fifty. To combine firefighting with the main work hard, but we got used to the fact that at the beginning of the year you have to be prepared: at this time we usually agree on leave. The management knows what we do. If we know about the fire, take the compensatory time off within the hour, going and going.