AFB Ysterplaat and Girls Fly Africa inspire young girls to pursue aerospace careers

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The aerospace industry is a fascinating and challenging field that offers many opportunities for growth and innovation. However, it is also a field that has historically been dominated by men, creating barriers and biases for women.

To address this issue and promote diversity and inclusion in the industry, Air Force Base (AFB) Ysterplaat and Girls Fly Africa, a non-profit organization, have formed a partnership that aims to inspire and empower young girls from diverse backgrounds to pursue their dreams of flying high in the skies.

Lieutenant Nobuhle Mohami (AFB Ysterplaat Corporate Communications Officer) reports that the partnership was initiated by Refilwe Ledwaba, the first South African female black helicopter pilot and the ambassador of Girls Fly Africa. A passionate advocate for women in aviation and aerospace, she recognised the potential of collaborating with the South African Air Force’s (SAAF’s) Cape Town air force base to create a platform for young girls to learn about the industry and interact with female role models who have achieved success in the field.

On Wednesday 15 November, the first workshop was held at the SAAF Museum branch located at AFB Ysterplaat, where it welcomed a group of young girls who have shown interest and enthusiasm for aviation and aerospace. The workshop was designed to provide the participants with a comprehensive experience that exposed them to different aspects of the industry, such as air traffic control, helicopter piloting and airline transport. The workshop also aimed to develop the skills and attributes that are essential for success in the industry and in life, such as perseverance, resilience and teamwork.

The activities included inspiring presentations from females in the aviation industry who shared their personal stories, challenges and achievements. The speakers were Lt Col Jolanda Rossouw (AFB YPLT Air Traffic Controller), Captain Dakalo Mulomoni (22 Squadron helicopter pilot) and Joanne Jordan (airline pilot).

A base tour included visiting 80 Air Navigation School with its flight simulators, where the girls had the opportunity to experience what it is like to fly an aircraft and navigate the airspace. The tour also included a visit to 22 Squadron and the Museum’s hangar, where the girls saw different types of aircraft and learned about their history and functions.

Team-building exercises and collaborative projects involved the girls working together in groups to solve problems and complete tasks related to aviation and aerospace. The exercises and projects helped the girls to develop their communication, leadership and critical thinking skills, as well as their confidence and self-esteem.

These events, Mohami explained, offered a hands-on experience that surpassed the boundaries of a typical classroom setting.

A mentorship programme saw female professionals in the industry volunteer their time and expertise to serve as mentors and role models for the aspiring aviators. The mentors provided ongoing support and guidance to the girls, helping them to explore their interests and goals and to plan their educational and career paths.

Ledwaba shared her inspiring journey and insights with the girls.

The workshop also had the support and involvement of the sponsors of Girls Fly Africa, who provided resources and opportunities for the girls, such as scholarships, internships and exchange programmes, to help them pursue their education and careers in the industry.

The collaboration between AFB Ysterplaat and Girls Fly Africa was more than just a one-time event. By breaking stereotypes and empowering young girls, the partnership was laying the foundation for a more diverse, innovative, and inclusive future in the skies. The workshop inspired the girls to believe in themselves and their dreams and to spread their wings and fly.