Lieutenant Ouma Laouali, 28, on the 21st of October became the first female pilot in Niger. She was one of the Nigerien Airforce members trained by the United States as part of a programme to help fight the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram.
Just as women in politics and business are celebrated, Lieutenant Ouma is celebrated for joining the league of amazing first female pilots in Africa. These female pilots challenge sexist views that men are better suited as pilots. The announcement of Ouma as the first female pilot in Niger is a welcome development.
These are the 8 African female pilots dominating the aviation industry in Africa.
1. Irene Koki Mutungi – Kenya
Captain Mutungi, 39 is the first female pilot in Kenya and the first woman to earn the title of captain in Africa. She is also the first pilot of the first Kenyan Dreamliner, Boeing 787. She has received several awards in a male dominated category. Her father was also a pilot with the Kenya Airways.
2. Aluel Bol Aluenge – South Sudan
A refugee in Kenya during the ethnic and political conflict of South Sudan, Aluenge defied all odds by becoming a pilot in the airline industry. “I felt a twinge at not being able to do that [fly] myself. Knowing one’s history that deeply is a powerful thing. “It strengthens your spirit and without a strong spirit you really can’t do anything. I learned to be who I am here,” Aluenge reveals.
She holds the distinction of being the first female South Sudanese pilot working for Ethiopian Airlines and Fly Dubai.
3. Patricia Mawuli – Ghana
Patricia Mawuli is Ghana’s first female civilian pilot and the first woman in West Africa certified to build and maintain rotax engines. As a young girl, she wistfully watched the planes pass overhead, wishing one day to fly one herself.
4. Esther Mbabazi – Rwanda
Esther was born in Burundi to Rwandese parents. She became the first female Rwandese pilot in 2012. Esther took the decision to become a pilot few years after her father was killed in a crash; the plane he was flying in overshot the runway landing in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She said that the death of her father has influenced the way she flies.
5. Rachel Bianchi-Quarshie – Ghana
After earning her ACCA Part 2 at just 22, Bianchi-Quarshie became the youngest female pilot in Ghana. Her first flight in Ghana was as a co-pilot, where she flew to Kumasi and Tamale for Africa World Airlines. On her experience joining the male-dominated aviation ranks, Bianchi-Quarshie says, “The guys bullied me, but it toughened me. As a lady in this profession, one needs a huge ounce of confidence and discovery of self.”
6. Chinyere Kalu – Nigeria
Captain Chinyere Kalu, is the first female pilot in Nigeria. Capt. Chinyere’s decision to start a career in Aviation was spurred by her adventurous aunt, who was also the first woman from her hometown to travel overseas. She was made a member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) in the 2006 National Honours. In 2011, she was appointed the Rector and Chief Executive of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), which is the largest aviation training institute in Africa.
7. Asnath Mahapa – South Africa
Asnath Mahapa became the first black female pilot trainee in South Africa in 2003. She is the founder of the African College of Aviation (Pty) Limited. She has also flown for Red Cross and World Food Programmes in Central and West Africa. She was appointed as the beneficiary of South African Airways level two cadet pilot training programme, and the recipient of the airline’s bursary scheme set aside for previously disadvantaged communities. She was influenced to become a pilot when she heard her aunty talk about her neighbour, who was a pilot.
8. Hassana & Huseina Edili Ogaji – Nigeria
These Nigerian twins are senior aviation officers with Aero Contractors, with about seven years experience to their credit. Narrating their challenges, the twins explained how the local media initially raised controversial rumors about them that attempted to dash their dreams.
“In Zaria, we never experienced gender-based discrimination but we also had a little crash and the media tagged us with different names and twisted our words,” the Ogajis said to jetlifenigeria. “We had a particular instructor who was not fair to us, but I am very grateful to God that we had another instructor who was really supportive. The relationship with our colleagues in flying school was awesome, but we had the usual misunderstandings and issues with mingling. We had to cope with a lot of things coming our way at that time, but I would say there was no gender discrimination.”
Despite living in a patriarchal society, the Ogajis hope that females will be recognized within and outside the industry, proving that the African woman is capable of venturing into any field she chooses.