In 1993,16-year-old Shamsunnahar had a dream of wearing the uniform of a defence officer, when she visited the Jashore Air Force Base for an event.
Hailing from Faridpur district, she was then a cadet of the Bangladesh National Cadet Corps. But for Shamsunnahar, it was not so easy to see herself in a uniform, because at that time women could not become commissioned officers in the defence forces.
So, the young girl decided to join the Bangladesh Police and wear its uniform to serve the nation.
After graduating from the University of Dhaka, Shamsunnahar participated in the 20th Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) examination, mentioning "police cadre" as her first choice. She passed the BCS exam in her first attempt.
Fast forward to present times. Shamsunnahar –who as a teenager dreamt of becoming a law enforcement officer –is now the first female superintendent of police (SP) in Gazipur. In that position, she has led two annual police week parades for the first time in Bangladesh's history.
She did that for two consecutive years, from 2016 to 2017.
A recipient of the Bangladesh Police Medal (BPM) for her outstanding service, Shamsunnahar has also served as the first female superintendent of police of Chandpur.
"I believed that I fulfilled every requirement to be a police officer, I believed in myself, and this is why I am here," SP Shamsunnahar told The Business Standard at her office in Gazipur on March 3.
Around a hundred people were waiting at her office, waiting to file complaints, resolve land disputes and seeking help from the police.
One of those seeking help, Nargis Akter, was weeping as she sat on a chair before Shamsunnahar, claiming that her husband had been missing for the last two weeks.
SP Shamsunnaharassured Nargis that the police would take every possible step to find her missing husband. "If we find him, we will surely call you. Do not be upset," the SP assured the woman.
Shamsunnahar then saved Nargis' phone number on her mobile handset, and gave her own number to the woman. Nargis started crying again, overwhelmed by emotions as theSP – despite being a very busy person –had personally saved her phone number.
"I feel that I am a very lucky person to have met SP Shamsunnahar, who is such an angel-like person,"Nargis later said.
Responding to questions, SP Shamsunnahar said she did not face any obstacles for being a woman in her police career so far.
"Policing is a challenging job, both for men and women. I did not face any obstacles, not at all. But the competition was fierce, and I am still competing with my fellow officers every day and every moment," said the SP, adding, "A female police officer has to show at least 120 percent performance, only then she can hope to succeed in this career.
"To appoint a female officer as a district SP, the authority needs to think about the matter at least 20 times, but nobody has second thoughts about male officers. That is a major challenge."
Discussing her career, SP Shamsunnahar stated, "Being a woman is also a blessing for me in my police career, beyond any doubt. I can easily move around anywhere, any time. Recently I visited a crime scene in Sreepur area.
"I entered the building and talked with the women inside the residence with ease. That is not so easy for a male officer. Victims of rape can also talk to me easily.When they find that the SP is a woman, they become a bit more hopeful about getting justice."
In a firm voice, she said, "That is why I say that being a female officer is a blessing, and not a burden at all. A female officer can provide better services than a male officer."
SP Shamsunnahar has fulfilled her dream, and now her only daughter Shaira Amin Shoummo wants to be a police or army officer too. "You cannot imagine how she loves the uniform," said the Gazipur SP.
"Women may come across obstacles in their lives, but they should never give up. They should move forward with determination." That was her message to all women in Bangladesh.
The story of Shamsunnahar is not an isolated one. She is one of four female superintendents of police currently serving in four districts across the country. The other three SPs are Abida Sultana in Lamonirhat, Fatiha Yeasmin in Jhalakathi and Jerin Akhter in the hill tracts district of Bandarban.
Abida Sultana is the first female superintendent of police in the northern district of Lalmonirhat. She passed the 24th BCS exam and joined the police service. She also holds the honour of serving as the parade commander of the police week in 2019, becoming the second woman to do so in the country's history.
In previous police week parades, she served as contingent commander four times and second in command another four times.
Before taking charge as the SP of Lalmonirhat, Abida Sultana was posted at police headquarters as an assistant inspector general in the Internal Discipline and Professional Standard Department.
She also served as director of Bangladesh Police Liberation War Museum at the time. SP Abida Sultana is a proud recipient of the prestigious Bangladesh Police Medal and President Police Medal.
These days, she remains busy visiting nearly every crime scene and speaking to local people.
"Many local people used to have a hard time believing that a female superintendent of police had come to their doorstep. But now the scene is changing. I have the people's trust, and they do love me a lot," said the Lalmonirhat SP, adding that she considers her police career as a blessing.
She added, "After completing my studies at the University of Dhaka, it was my aim to do something for the nation. And nothing could be better than being a police officer. I have had a passion for the uniform since I was a little child.This is why I became a policewoman."
SP Abida Sultana pointed out that the police service was in need of more female officers and other personnel to provide better services.
"A female officer or personnel not only represents the police, but is also a symbol of motherhood, a sister and much more. This is the reason why society needs more female police personnel," said Abida.
Fatiha Yeasmin, superintendent of police of Jhalakathi district, cherished a challenging career since her childhood. Her first preferred cadre was also the police, which she joined after qualifying at the 24th BCS exam.
She dreams of facing challenges head on and also to set the example that women can succeed in tackling crime. With hard work and success at every step of her life, she has been working tirelessly to uphold law and order in the district.
Fatiha Yeasmin, the youngest of seven siblings, joined the profession with encouragement from her father.
Speaking to The Business Standard, the Jhalakathi SP said, "My father motivated me. I also chose the police cadre to play a direct role in combating crime, because of my love for the uniform and to combat violence against women.
"I believe I can play an important role regarding this issue. I have stopped many child marriages so far, and I can take more action to curb the torture of women. I consider this the only benefit of my police career."
She continued, "I am a woman, but I trained with male colleagues on the same level, which required rigorous discipline and practice. I was not lagging behind because I am a girl. I moved forward with tremendous mental strength."
Fatiha added that her experience as a police trainee has always inspired her in her professional life, saying, "I have always had a favorable environment for working. Everywhere I have worked, the administration and the people have supported me.
"As an SP, I do not put myself in the role of either a man or a woman. I just serve to uphold the district's law and order. The people have always supported me in my endeavours. Nothing can come in the way of my dedication to the people."
She added, though, that the role of two men had been very important in her life, one her father and the other her husband.
Jerin Akhter, the first female superintendent of police of the hill tracts district of Bandarban, joined the police service through the 24th BCS exam. Before becoming an SP, Jerin served as a superintendent of police at Special Branch headquarters.
Narrating her story, she said, "In my childhood, I was taught that I should do something for the country and its people. That is why I chose the police cadre. Serving the people of Bandarban is a challenging endeavour for me.
"Lots of people are here, with lots of crises and dreams, and everyone comes to me seeking solutions. It can be quite difficult sometimes, but I try to give all my effort to bring a smile to someone's face."
Speaking about her priorities, Jerin said, "To serve as a police officer, I sacrifice all of my family gatherings and cherished moments. But I feel that the people of Bandarban are also my family.
"So, nothing makes me happier than serving the people of this remote region."