UAE women can be excellent explosives experts, says Chilean crimefighter

Paula Rodrigues, who took part in the UAE Swat Challenge in Dubai, said females have natural edge in this field

Paula Rodrigues, second from Left, with other members of the Chilean women’s team at the UAE Swat Challenge in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
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Latin America's only female explosives expert has said she hopes to inspire other women to enter fields dominated by men.

Paula Rodrigues, 37, a member of the all-female Chilean police team that took part in the UAE Swat Challenge this week, defied the odds in following her career path.

The five-day challenge at the Dubai Police training centre in Al Ruwayyah concluded on Wednesday. It saw 87 teams – up from 55 last year – from 48 countries compete for prizes totalling Dh1 million ($272,000).

I've witnessed first-hand the strength, determination and skill of Emirati women in law enforcement during this year’s Swat Challenge
Paula Rodrigues, member of Chilean police Swat Challenge team

Entrants included five all-female teams – compared to one last year – representing Dubai Police, Abu Dhabi Police, the Chilean Police Investigations, the Militsiya from Belarus and the Royal Thai Police.

Dubai Police were crowned champions after two of their teams took first and second place, with 325 points and 303 points.

The Sadar team from Kazakhstan was third – scoring 302 points.

Speaking to The National about her career in a male-dominated field, Ms Rodrigues said she “embarked on this risky journey because I saw a void”.

She honed her skills in neutralising and dismantling explosives completing an 18-month course in Spain with the Spanish National Police in 2021.

“The absence of women in this critical field of police work was not just a gap, it was a call to action,” she said.

“I wanted to wave the way for women in this arena to show that we can stand on the front lines against this kind of threat, like we did in other areas of the policing work.”

Female SWAT team makes its debut at UAE competition

Female SWAT team makes its debut at UAE competition

Ms Rodrigues spoke of harrowing moments she experienced since joining a team of explosive experts, including an operation in the south of Chile.

“A team of three members, including myself, were tasked with defusing bombs planted on high-pressure electricity poles by unidentified assailants,” she said.

“Some of the bombs had already exploded. But we managed to neutralise the remaining devices, preventing further devastation.”

The identity of those behind the incident that took place in December 2022 still remain unknown with investigations continuing.

Another incident involved a bombed house.

“After our arrival, we discovered four deceased people. Investigations revealed that they had been killed prior to the explosion,” she said.

Ms Rodrigues said criminals used explosives to obliterate both opponents and evidence.

“It's this senseless loss of life that fuels my commitment to this field, despite the dangers and challenges.”

Ms Rodrigues said that she sees her role as part of a larger mission of inspiring and encouraging women to enter and excel in fields traditionally dominated by men.

“I've witnessed first-hand the strength, determination, and skill of Emirati women in law enforcement during this year’s Swat Challenge,” she said.

“I am confident that women in the UAE can be excellent explosives experts.

“Women's tendency to focus on minute details can give us an edge in this and many other specialisations.”

UAE Swat Challenge 2024 – in pictures

Updated: February 10, 2024, 3:00 AM