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On the wing: Botswana’s flying women

Soaring across the world at the controls of some of the most sophisticated airliners is, for many, a dream job. The road to an aviation career is undoubtedly not an easy one― more so for aspiring female pilots. Today, some Batswana women have come to the party, and are shattering the glass ceiling of aviation. DAVE BAAITSE peeps into the careers of five high-flying women from various backgrounds in Botswana.

Aviation is still regarded by many Batswana as a male industry while women are associated with some office jobs regarded as less demanding. However, some women have chosen to disregard the stereotypes and pursue their passion for flying. One such is Tshepiso Tsayang who is of the view that the journey, discouraging as it is, requires perseverance.

Tsayang knew she wanted to a career in aviation from an early age, but after completing her BGCSE she was told she was too short to be a pilot. To compound matters, she had missed the deadline for government sponsorship. With the support from her parents, trust and faith in God, she managed to pull trough. Her parents taught her that this industry demands one to have strong faith. After waiting another year, Tsayang applied for government sponsorship and the rest is history.

“I always say if you know someone who has done it so can you. You believe most what you think and say about yourself more than what anyone has to say about you, so never doubt yourself,” she said. For many a young women pilots, Sakhile Nyoni-Reiling remains a role model. Nyoni-Reiling started her career as a pilot in the 80’s and was the first female pilot at Air Botswana. Tsayang considers her, along with her father to be her role models.

“I believe my inspiration came from childhood. I would visit my dad’s workplace and see planes all the time, this somewhat had a huge influence in my career choice. I am also a very hyper active and energetic individual and when choosing subjects in high school I planned for careers that would see me becoming hands- on and not office based,” she said.

She late found herself drawn into aviation and she vividly remember as a child her dad telling a story about the first and only female pilot working for the national airline at the time (Nyoni-Reiling). “I thought I too wanted to be different and unique just like her,” she recalls.
She says during training she had to work twice as hard to prove that she could do it and that she could even fly better than the guys.

“Because of the general perception that males are better than females there's also passenger fret. Being a young female pilot I get passengers at the airport stopping me every now and then to ask if I'm the one flying the plane, and the question is usually followed by “as small as you are will you manage. The biggest challenge I’d say is family. We have to compromise a lot in terms of family because we don't always get weekends or public holidays off to spend time with our loved ones like everyone else,” she said.

Her hope and dream is to see more women in the industry bridging the gap between across gender. Another gladiator, Kaone Kamanakao is a young girl from Motopi in the Northern- Western part of Botswana. She is a certified commercial pilot and a Grade II flight and ground instructor. She holds both South African and Botswana pilot’s licences. Her desire and inspiration is to share her success aviation story with those around her.    

“I have had the privilege of training local pilots like Gabedi Mo as well as mentoring young women and men that seek to have an established career in the aviation arena. I have work experience as a flight instructor, line pilot, flight operations manager and I currently serve as a flight operations inspector for the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana.” Kamanakao currently serves as President of Women in Aviation In Botswana as well as the Executive Director of the Girl Fly Program Africa in Botswana.   

In line with the nation's 2036 goals (2nd pillar) Women in Aviation Botswana was set up for the promotion and advancement of women in the aviation sector. “We encourage skills development in a field that we seek to mentor and facilitate the growth of women and men through our various programs including scholarships for aviation training and community outreaches. This year as we launch the Girl Fly Program Africa in Botswana, we will send 50 girls to an annual space camp in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The 5 day camp will be made up of different activities including robotics (drones), aviation technology, personal growth and possible career paths in aviation,” she said. They have also availed the opportunity to (10) out of school youth as volunteers. Another gemstone, Genevieve Micaela Chisale is a young lady from Maun that currently lives in Gaborone, Botswana.

She is currently getting her Instrument Rating and Multi Engine Rating at IAS Aviation Academy completing this year July. She holds a Commercial Pilot licence with C172 rating. Apart from being the VP of Dare to Dream, Chisale is also among the founders of Women in Aviation Botswana Chapter and a Member of Women in Aviation Botswana Chapter.

She loves aeronautical engineering and intends on being an engineer after soaring the skies for a few years. She aspires to start an air crash investigation centre in Botswana in the next 10 years. She also intends on establishing an Aircraft garage together with a spare part warehouse for fly machines.  

You cannot talk woman in aviation in Botswana and leave out the name Kgomotso Phatsima. She is the epitome of beauty with brains and plays a celebrity role as far as woman aviators are concerned. Phatsima is the Ambassador of Youth in Aviation and Aerospace in Botswana, The Goodwill Ambassador of Aviation and Aerospace for the African Region.

“We are also dedicated to empowering youth to actively consider business opportunities in the aviation and space industry. I believe in the unlimited potential of the youth. The youth of our country represent hope, optimism, positive energy, innovation, and openness. This is why we do this,” says Phatsima.

Growing up she never had the chance to attend a space program, nor learn robotics let alone coding, nor see the inside of a flying machine until she had the opportunity to fly it but this is the chance she is giving young people through her Youth in Aviation and Aerospace ambassadorship.

Captain Phatsima has a Master of Science degree in Strategic Management from the University of Derby with a focus on Aviation Safety, a Bachelor of Education (Science ) majoring in mathematics from University of Botswana, A post graduate certificate in Enterprise Risk Management from Botswana Accountancy College and a certificate in Finance for Non Finance managers from Botswana Accountancy College. She is a qualified accredited trainer by Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA).

Due to her immense contribution in the transformation of youth, women and girls in aviation and aerospace Phatsima has been donated two BAe RJ85 Aircraft Airframes to turn them into an Aviation Restaurant and Aviation Clinic for young people. Phatsima envisions setting up the first Aviation Park in Botswana. The seasoned Maipelo Kelotlegile joined Air Botswana at only 21 years old and was among the only two female pilots at the time of her joining it. As a woman, she defied the odds at the time when she chose a career in aviation over a nursing job.

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WeekendLife

200,000 Members of International Church Hold Virtual Prayer Service for Covid-19

22nd September 2020
200,000

After its initial outbreak with a cluster of pneumonia cases at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Wuhan City, China, Covid-19 has spread rapidly across the globe. The virus has hammered economies worldwide and brought devastation to many.

On 16 September Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a church with thousands of members in various countries, held a global online prayer service to pray for the victims of the coronavirus and their families, healthcare workers, government officials and for the complete eradication of and cure for Covid-19.

The virtual prayer service was live-streamed to the entire congregation with more than 200,000 members in countries all over the world participating, including the USA, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

In keeping with social distancing, health protocols and protecting its members from possible exposure to the coronavirus, Shincheonji arranged the virtual gathering for members to pray together in safety and set an example for others.

Prayers were mainly for the healing of those infected with the virus, for overworked healthcare workers who are struggling to fight Covid-19, and for people in economic distress in the wake of the pandemic. The overwhelming online participation from its members worldwide showed the desire and urgency to end this virus and for healing and restoration in communities.

The Chairman of Shincheonji Church Mr Manhee Lee suggested this online virtual gathering and said that all believers will continue to pray at the church’s worship services until the complete eradication of the coronavirus.

At least 1,700 of the church’s South Korean-based congregation have donated their blood plasma for research around an effective treatment. Convalescent plasma has also showed promise as therapy for Covid-19 and is believed to have reduced the severity of symptoms in critical patients.

“In order to defeat Covid-19, we need to embrace, love, and unite,” as global citizens, the church said. “We wanted to do all we can as believers by praying for the people working to prevent the spread of the virus and healthcare workers who are working at the frontlines of this battle against Covid-19 and we believe that God will answer our earnest prayers.”

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WeekendLife

AFRIMMA nominates Vee Mampeezy

22nd September 2020
Vee-Mampeezy

The annual prestigious music awards, African Muzik Magazine Awards and Music Festival (AFRIMMA), has resumed this year. But this time around with a virtual version of it.

The awards that celebrate the originality of African music has unveiled their seventh edition. The awards seek to promote the African talent by bringing together on the same stage African legendary artists to celebrate African culture.

The event was established by the International Committee of AFRIMMA, in collaboration with African Union to reward and celebrate musical works, talents and creativity around the African continent while promoting the African cultural heritage amongst African countries.

However after the Covid-19 global pandemic, the event will not be hosted on a live global stage, but it will be hosted virtually and nominees are expected to deliver their performances virtually. The AFRIMMA Virtual Awards 2020 is set to be the first of its kind in the African music world with performances coming from different artists around the world and audience catching the performances, speeches and award presentations on multiple streaming devices.

Amongst the many who are nominated by the AFRIMMAs is local sensation Vee Mampeezy who has been nominated in the category for Best Male Southern African alongside music giants, Black Coffee- South Africa, Slap Dee – Zambia, Cassper Nyovest- South Africa, Master KG- South Africa, Jah Prayzah – Zimbabwe, Vee Mampeezy – Botswana, Shyn – Madagascar, Tshego- South Africa, Tha Dogg – Namibia and Yanga Chief – South Africa.

Mampeezy has established with WeekendLife that prior to that, he had received an email from AFRIMMA confirming his nomination. They wished for him to perform which he said he will confirm the performance first with his manager, but as for now he is not sure if he will be performing.

“We have accepted the nomination. It is such an honour to be nominated alongside music giants like Black Coffee. I am very excited, others I am not as excited to be nominated alongside them because I have been nominated before with them. I do not mean to say they are not great, they are great in their respective right,” he said.

“We should be excited as a country that Botswana has been nominated as well. Before anything else, the fact that we are there as nominees makes us winners. It is such an honour to be recognised more so that Botswana is a small country with a very small population.”

Famous and most decorated artists the likes of Diamond Platnumz, Mr Flavour, Harmonize, Davido and Jah Prayzah are also amongst the nominees. However, South African based artist affectionately known as Master KG has been nominated six times for Video of the year, Best Male Southern Africa, Artist of the year, Best Collaboration as well as song of the year.

Master KG’s song ‘Jerusalem’ has been making waves internationally, and it was used mostly during the pandemic to shake off the Covid-19 anxiety. The song was nominated after South African Music Awards (SAMA) failed to nominate the young talented artist.

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WeekendLife

Miss Earth Botswana catwalks to save the environment

22nd September 2020
MISS EARTH

Miss Earth Botswana is an annual local environmental-themed beauty pageant competition promoting environmental awarenessconservation and social responsibility. The reigning Queen dedicated her year to promoting specific projects and often addressing issues concerning the environment.

The Queen does this through school tours, tree planting activities, street campaigns, coastal clean ups, speaking engagements, shopping mall tours, media guesting, environmental fairs, storytelling programs to children, eco-fashion shows, and other environmental activities.

Even though this auspicious year has been faulted by the COVID-19 crisis, Miss Earth Botswana 2020 Seneo Perry has seen this as a chance to fix her crown, and get dirty in conserving the environment. This is highly impressive as it expresses how dedicated she is not only in wearing the crown, but putting in some work to create a better greener world.

Perry is a Botswana based environmentalist, equipped with a degree in Entrepreneurial Business Leadership from Sheffield Hallam University (BAC) and a top 5 finalist in Miss Earth Botswana 2019. As an eco-warrior at heart, she has dedicated her time and energy towards educating and empowering the next generation on the importance of preservation and careful management of the environment and natural resources (a clean and safe environment.)

Miss Earth Botswana will be hosting SOS Children for a film documentary dubbed “Into the Okavango” on Saturday 19th September, in Tlokweng. This initiative is influenced by National Vision 2036 Pillar of National Values which is our identity, our unique natural and cultural resources, tolerance of diversity as well as national values constitute a value preposition that makes Botswana a place to live, work and do business.

In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife, Perry’s Manager, Shimah Keakopa, said the purpose of this event is to encourage the children to open up their minds a bit more to think outside the box as they are about to choose their career paths and what more they can offer to their country as upcoming young leaders.

“This event is held under the theme ‘‘Botswana will have healthy ecosystems that support the economy, livelihoods and our cultural heritage as well as enhance resilience to climate change’’. We strive to help young children grow up knowing their purpose in life and what they actually do in achieving their ambitions.”

For her part, the queen said since 2013, conservation topics have always attracted her interests towards achieving a clean and safe environment for the benefit of humanity. She said “Botswana relies heavily on the tourism industry as it contributes 7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Our tourism industry has been characterized as more of a fauna and flora type, which is the great attraction to local and international tourists.”

“Therefore it is imperative that we conserve and continuously engage in environmental issues, to preserve our untouchable pristine wilderness. Furthermore people who live closest to natural resources generally absorb the greatest cost associated with conservation,” she said.

Perry told WeekendLife that a lot still needs to be done to ensure everybody is of one mind in an effort dedicated towards environmental conservation, which not only benefits the flora and fauna but the economy as well through activities such as agriculture and tourism.

“In Botswana, there still not enough policies (some outdated) and public awareness towards environmental conservation, especially the collective effort that should exist between government, private sector and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Whereas members of the general public do not have adequate access to the information on the importance of environmental conservation and this results in them being unaware of the best practices and standards in environmental conservation,” she said.

When she is not impressing at beauty pageants, Perry is a Managing Director of “Restoring the Prime Colour of the Earth” a charitable organization established in 2019 with the objective to educate both young and old people the importance of keeping a clean and safe environment and to restore the breath-taking landmarks in Botswana.

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