About 30 girls from selected secondary schools in Kaduna State, on Wednesday, flew on a trainer aircraft as part of efforts towards encouraging them to venture into piloting careers.
The initiative, which was to mark the International Day of the Girl, and put together by the Niger Aviatrix Group in collaboration Experienced Aviation, is aimed at mentoring girls to go into the profession.
Speaking with newsmen on the sidelines of the event at the Kaduna International Airport, the Coordinator, Experienced Aviation, 1st Officer Ryakeng Gidado said the piloting career is both challenging and rewarding.
According to her, “We are marking the International Day of the Girl by Experienced Aviation in collaboration with the Niger Aviatrix Group, a group of female pilots all Nigerians who came together to do the greater good and in this case to celebrate the girls and give them an experience and an insight into our lives to basically make them see that this career is not far-fetched.”
While thanking the Brinkle Aero Flying Club, Kaduna for sponsoring the flight, she said the aviation sector is one of those sectors that are seen as male dominated saying, “Globally, only 5 per cent of aviators are women.”
She added, “We want the girls to interact with us, listen to our stories and challenges and to realise that since we have been able to do it, they can also do the same. We had a similar session in Lagos and we are hoping to reach as many girls as possible and from different backgrounds.”
She noted that a lot of girls are interested in various professions but because there are no mentors, they do not know how to go about, “that is why we are presenting ourselves as mentors and the Niger Aviatix Group is available and willing to stand up and to speak up for girls who are willing.”
First Officer Ryakeng who has been a pilot for three years said her career has been challenging in terms of finance because aviation can be expensive, adding that there are opportunities for scholarship.
She said some other factors that may discourage girls from going into aviation is from the family because there are homes that give the impression that certain professions are for men and they see no need to spend so much on the girl’s education when she is going to get married.
She urged aspiring female pilots to take up the challenge whilst they have made up their minds and appealed to parents to support their female in whatever career they have chosen saying, “A lot of us (female pilots) are married and have children while being pilots, so it is not a barrier.”
On her part, Deborah Chonoko said the programme has come to stay and the group will make it an annual event to continue to mentor girls to reach their full potential.
She, however, pleaded with the government to make scholarships available for female students who want to fly.
On her part, Nzehnri Njehntengazoka, a JSS1 student of Riverfront School and a first time flyer said, “I enjoyed the flying experience and it has encouraged me more to want to be a pilot.”