Daily Trust - - HOME FRONT - From Ab­dul­la­teef Aliyu, Lagos

What does Women in Avi­a­tion In­ter­na­tional (WAI) set out to achieve?

Women in Avi­a­tion in Nige­ria, par­tic­u­larly the Glow­ing Wings chap­ter which I am Pres­i­dent, is an off­shoot of Women in Avi­a­tion In­ter­na­tional, we are just a chap­ter of the in­ter­na­tional body. Women in Avi­a­tion In­ter­na­tional (WAI) pro­vides a plat­form to en­cour­age women ex­cel in avi­a­tion. Like we know avi­a­tion is a sec­tor that is pre­dom­i­nantly male and WAI tries to get as many women in­ter­ested in tak­ing avi­a­tion as a ca­reer. So that is what WAI is about. Talk­ing about Nige­ria, you know that a typ­i­cal Nige­rian fe­male child grows up with lit­tle dreams of ex­celling in male dom­i­nated jobs like be­ing doc­tors, sci­en­tists. No­body cares about a woman go­ing into the world of sci­ence, they see it as a man’s field but here we are try­ing to get the fe­male child in­ter­ested in avi­a­tion and in do­ing so we want to tell you that gone are those days when you have women only as fash­ion de­sign­ers, nurses, teach­ers and all that.

But now women are in every­thing. For in­stance, we have a lot of fe­male pi­lots now; we have an all-fe­male crew flight but in the past we had women only as cabin at­ten­dants, not tech­ni­cal peo­ple like pi­lots and en­gi­neers.

Pre­vi­ously they were there to serve food in the air­craft; that is no longer the case. We have now taken the man­tle of lead­er­ship even in avi­a­tion. In avi­a­tion now, we have fe­male chief ex­ec­u­tives, fe­male di­rec­tors, a fe­male CEO in Bi-Court­ney which is a pri­vately op­er­ated air­port and that is quite phe­nom­e­nal. We have women in very top po­si­tions in avi­a­tion now and at Nige­ria Glow­ing Wing, we are try­ing to make young girls pick up in­ter­est in avi­a­tion as early as sec­ondary school and that is what made us launch the Girls in Avi­a­tion Day re­cently.

Are there fac­tors re­spon­si­ble for the low par­tic­i­pa­tion of women in avi­a­tion?

In Nige­rian avi­a­tion, the first fac­tor that mil­i­tates against women par­tic­i­pa­tion is cul­ture. The cul­tural bar­rier is a no-go area for women. Re­mem­ber avi­a­tion is a high­fly­ing sec­tor. In avi­a­tion, you get to see the world; you can’t be in avi­a­tion and be re­stricted to your kitchen or your home. Once in avi­a­tion, you be­come global, but in those days, women were seen as do­mes­ti­cated peo­ple who must be at home to take care of the home front; cook would meet many peo­ple, go abroad and so on.

Be­cause women want to be good wives, they would say, ‘I don’t want to work in avi­a­tion be­cause my hus­band would not al­low me to’. All this is tied to cul­ture.

Fi­nances are an­other is­sue, it costs so much to be in avi­a­tion in terms of train­ing and if you are not able to get financial sup­port to be trained, no mat­ter the as­pect of the avi­a­tion, you would jet­ti­son the idea. But those fac­tors were in the past. I can tell you that now, some of us are get­ting spon­sor­ship even from WAI In­ter­na­tional.

Tell us about your ex­pe­ri­ence in the avi­a­tion sec­tor?

I have not worked any­where in my life but in avi­a­tion. I eat avi­a­tion, dream avi­a­tion, sleep avi­a­tion and that’s be­cause when I left the univer­sity, the first place I got a job was in avi­a­tion, that’s Nige­ria Air­ports Author­ity of those days which meta­mor­phosed into the Fed­eral Air­ports Author­ity of Nige­ria (FAAN) and here I am now in the Nige­ria Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity (NCAA). So my ex­pe­ri­ence has been beau­ti­ful, I can’t have it any other way. If I didn’t en­joy my job in avi­a­tion, I would have prob­a­bly left ear­lier than now. Yes, it might not be the best pay­ing job, it comes with a lot of fun; fly­ing is fun. Like I keep say­ing, I am hop­ing that one day I would be a pi­lot. It is never too late be­cause I see older peo­ple when we go for con­fer­ences who come to tell sto­ries of how they started fly­ing at age 70 or 55.

How do you com­bine the home front with your pro­fes­sion?

I will like to say that first of all, it is by the grace of God be­cause in any­thing you do, if you don’t have his grace, you would not pull through. God’s grace sus­tained me. I am hap­pily mar­ried with beau­ti­ful chil­dren and even with the chal­lenges be­cause I have to come to work at odd hours; I have a hus­band who has been able to un­der­stand. First and fore­most he is an avi­a­tor, I met him in the industry. So he un­der­stands the chal­lenges of the job. Over time, our chil­dren have come to un­der­stand that, ‘oh, mummy has to be at a cer­tain place at a cer­tain time’. An­other thing is about plan­ning. In any sit­u­a­tion, you need to plan, don’t let any front suf­fer.

The time I spend with my chil­dren out­side work, I make the most of it; the time I have with my spouse out­side work, I make the most of it. When I am at home, home is home; even if it is just two hours at home, we make the best use of it. We do all the danc­ing, we do all the TV

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