The Stuff Dreams are Made of:
First Women Aviators in Africa Conference
The First Women Aviators in Africa Conference was the brainchild of Women in Aviation, International mem- ber Kajuju Laiboni (WAI #40386). A Kenya native, Laiboni was a student studying aviation near Stockholm, Sweden, when she was sponsored by WAI members Liz Clark (WAI
#64) and Trish Beckman (WAI #17) to go to the 2008 Aviation
and Women in Europe Conference, held near Oslo, Norway.
Laiboni says she came away from that conference convinced that she needed to bring together women involved in
aviation in Africa, so that they could meet each other and be
re-energized. She teamed up with South African Police helicopter pilot Refilwe Ledwaba (WAI #41890). By December
2008 a core group was formed and called itself WAFRIC, and
some 28 people began to organize the one-day conference.
Held at the PanAfric Hotel in downtown Nairobi, Kenya,
the WAFRIC Conference drew 50 people from Kenya, Uganda,
South Africa, Nigeria, Mexico, China, Sweden and the United
States. Speakers included the first female Air Traffic Controller
in East Africa, Mrs. Chocho; head of the Kenya Air Traffic Controllers Association, James Seda; Amy
Laboda, Editor of Aviation for Women
magazine; Maggie Mutahi, first female
Kenyan helicopter pilot in Kenya; Puleng
Cadribo, first officer for South African
Express Airways; and Sospeter and Mary
Muriuki, meteorologists in Kenya.
Outside of the one day of speaker seminars, the attendees visited The
Academy for Hidden Talents, an orphanage and school located in a downtrodden area of Nairobi where as many
as 600 children are being rehabilitated
from experiences in refugee camps, or
from losing their families. The group
later participated in a fly-out event at the Kenya School of
Flying at Wilson Airport, cosponsored by conference attend-ee Sandra Clifford (WAI #1631). Twelve children from various
high schools and orphanages within
Kenya earned the flights by writing
essays about aviation and their dreams. The teens attended
the conference and spoke eloquently about the experience.
The day after the conference several attendees traveled together on the optional tour to Aboseli National Park for a safari across the plains in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Photos prove they had the privilege of getting up close with
elephants, lions, baboons, zebras and water buffalo, to name
just a few of the animals they encountered. The predawn out-ting was declared a success!
The next WAFRIC conference is now in the planning stages
for 2010. Watch for more information during the upcoming
21st Annual International Women in Aviation Conference, to
be held February 25-27, 2010, at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort near Orlando, Florida. ✈
by Amy Laboda