Meet Una Gertrude Khamasi, AIRKENYA’s Operations Manager a woman who breaks through the glass ceiling because for Una the sky is not the limit. I had a chat with Una to understand what drove Una to setting up Women in Aviation International (WAI) in Kenya…
It all started in 2011 when I had just finished my degree in Aviation Management at Moi University. I was so excited and passionate about the Aviation industry. I searched the internet and found there existed an organization called Women in Aviation International (WAI) in the USA. I was able to join and became a member. But I wanted more than just to be a member.
I was interested in learning more about “Women in Aviation” and I quickly realized there could be an opportunity to set up a Kenyan Chapter. I went ahead and shared the dream with Ms. Fiona Andiki who was a member and together we founded WAI-Kenya Chapter with other ladies who came on board: Loise Njoroge of KCAA, Capt Mary Mukulu and Eng Maureen Atieno.
We held our first membership drive at the East Africa School of Aviation (EASA) where we recruited more ladies and men to join the professional club. I became the President – a life long position and Fiona Andiki as the co Founder. In short that was how WAI-Kenya Chapter was born.
WAI is not just a ladies club, but a forum where we provide mentorship, career guidance, scholarships. Indeed, we have had members win scholarships to the USA, Loise Mwangi the current Chair Lady of Women in Aviation, Kenya Chapter earned a scholarship to study at Embry Riddle where she studied for her Masters in Aerospace Science. Primerose Njeri an Aeronautical Engineer student at EASA earned a scholarship to intern at Pratt and Whitney in the USA.
There are a number of events organized by Women in Aviation from visits to both primary and secondary schools “we believe this empowers and even motivates the girls to take up careers from the various disciplines in Aviation and Aerospace” says Una.
We have a very dedicated Board and annually, we celebrate Girls in Aviation Day (GIAD), this takes place in October, we expose the girls to the “real world experience in aviation” we talk about flying, meet pilots, arrange visits to the Airports; have a walk around to the Airport Lounges, Control Tower JKIA, KQ in-flight services and their Simulator at Pride Centre, KQ Engineering, Ground Safety Office who manage; the parking of aircraft, landing, parking bays, check-in and boarding gates, the girls are therefore exposed to 360 degree view of aviation careers.
Membership is open to any girl interested in Aviation and they can join from as early as primary school. Once you become a member you are an “international member” belonging to the Mother organization in the USA www. wai.org . Members include Engineers, Amelia Amollo who has a link with UNESCO for STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) pupils from primary to University are encouraged to create inventions under the STEM themes. This is a UNESCO sponsored initiative and talented pupils are encouraged through avenues that expose and mentored at an early age. Many of the students are less privileged but are passionate about STEM fields. This is a wonderful launch pad for these students who are given opportunities to pursue their passions.
Women in Aviation, Kenya Chapter is an opportunity for students and professionals to network. Students are given the opportunity to get mentored and thereafter transition to the workplace.
Annually, WAI www.wai.org lists scholarship opportunities in various aviation disciplines, from Dispatch, to Flying, Engineering, Aerospace and the latest is Drones. The application window opens from July to November and it is open to all members.
Una looks back on the 8 years “we’re still young but we are making big strides, I am especially proud of making a difference to young women who are so passionate and now have better opportunities presented to them through Women in Aviation”. Una is delighted with the Kenyan Chapter achievements with students who have gone through scholarship programs and who have successfully finished college of note, is Maureen Alien who is now working in KQ Engineering.
This year AIRKENYA took the mantle and hosted WAI-Kenya Chapter on 8th March 2019 for International Womens’ Day.