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Besa, Thokozile: Aircraft knows no gender

MS MUMBA was employed by Proflight Zambia as a First Officer this month and she has already flown more than 15 hours.

AT AGE 20, first officer Besa Mumba is the youngest commercial pilot in Zambia, and, deservedly so, has been crowned Rising Star among women.
Besa, who started flying planes at the age of 19 last year, has set pace for young and ambitious girls in Zambia.
For her distinguished service in a male-dominated field, with only six months into her job with Proflight Zambia, she was voted Rising Star in the Zambian Women of the Year Awards, graced by First Lady Esther Lungu on the eve of International Women’s Day.
In an interview, Besa, who has so far earned 300 flying hours, looks forward to flying to many places around Africa and beyond, as her career progresses.
“It’s not about gender, about being male or female. Everything is for everyone. We have equal opportunities. I would like to reach a thousand hours by the end of 2017. It will be a great achievement for me, indicating my hard work. As you know, a pilot’s experience is measured by the number of hours flown,” she said.
As first officer, Besa is the second pilot, otherwise known as co-pilot of an aircraft.
Besa says she decided to become a pilot four years ago, and since then she has not looked back. She is proud to have notched up over 300 flight hours as a first officer on the Cessna Caravan aircraft where she spends most of her day.
“I enjoy being in the sky all the time and my colleagues at work look at me as any other pilot or member of staff. It has been a really worthwhile career for me. Of course, the career itself has its own challenges but overall, I am happy that this is the path I chose because this is my passion and where my passion lies, my heart lies,” she said.
Besa says she has no regrets about her career path and has found fulfilment in living her dream of being a pilot.
“I am very happy to have the opportunity to fly for my home country. It’s satisfying and motivating to do something for the people around you, and knowing that you help build a better Zambia through your work, is very fulfilling,” she said in an interview.
Besa describes the experience of flying planes as spectacular: “I really love my work. It has taken me far away and shown me many places around Zambia. I have been flying as first officer pilot to Lower Zambezi, Kasama, Livingstone, Mfuwe and Ndola, with most of my frequent flights being along the Lusaka-to-Lower Zambezi route,” she narrates.
She looks forward to traversing the whole world as her career progresses.
After she started flying planes, Besa has visited her former school, St Mary’s Secondary School in Lusaka to extol the virtues of being a female pilot in a former man’s world.
She is looking forward to visiting more schools to tell eager young people just what flying a plane as a career really involves.
She said returning to her old school has been one of the highlights of her career and that she is happy to have been able to give hope for a better life to young girls.
“It felt so thrilling to look back where I came from and [to] know I could make such a big difference by going back to inspire others to do better as well. I am always humbled to know that I could make a difference in the lives of so many young people,” she said.
Besa feels that as a female pilot in a traditionally male industry, her journey has only just begun.
She continues to look forward to climbing her way up to the dizzy heights of captain and one day flying larger aircraft.
Another pilot,Lieutenant Thokozile Muwamba of the Zambia Air Force, convinced voters in the competition and grabbed the Woman of the Year Award.
Thokozile Muwamba, 25, is Zambia’s first female fighter pilot who has gone against all odds, triumphing in a field where the average woman would not.
Lt Muwamba was born in 1992 in a family of six. She did her junior secondary at Kasisi Girls Secondary School and later proceeded to David Kaunda Technical Secondary School where she completed grade 12. Her choice of career was greatly inspired by her auntie, Major Tiza Mumbi, who encouraged her to aim higher, work hard at each goal and achieve it.
Lt Muwamba holds that men and women are not in  a competition, but are counterparts who should work together. She says women should therefore not be discouraged to pursue male-dominated careers because with determination and hard work, one could achieve anything.
Officiating at the awards gala dinner, the First Lady paid tribute to Zambian women for impacting the country through contributions to their families and communities.
Mrs Lungu said Besa caught her attention the first time she met  her at Lusaka City Airport.
“Besa Mumba attracted my attention when I met her at City Airport and I thought that such women should be supported and recognised for their contributions to the nation. Since then I stopped saying the sky is the limit because these women and young ladies are already reaching the sky,” Mrs Lungu said.
She appealed to organisers of the Zambian Women of the Year Awards to spread their search to other sectors and include women in rural areas who are contributing to national development at different levels.
Mrs Lungu said next year’s awards should have a bias towards women who might not have gone far in education but have made a mark in communities.
And chairperson of the organising committee Chilufya Mwamba said women need to be recognised because they privately engage in a lot of activities which are contributing to the economic and social development of Zambia.
Other women that were awarded for excellent service were Buumba Malambo for (community service award), Natasha Kaoma (health care) and Caroline Phiri, who won the mentorship award.
Others were Elizabeth Chunda (educator), Jacqueline Chishimba (media), Racheal Nachula (sports) and Elizabeth Mwanza in the songbird category.

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