First woman to command airplane in Mozambique wants to be an inspiration


The Mozambique Airlines (LAM) are going to celebrate for the first time on March 8th with a woman commander, a rare feat in the world and all the more in a country among the worst in gender equality indices.

With the helm delivered to the pilot Admira António, 29, there were also flights from Mozambique Express (Mex, a LAM subsidiary where LAM operates) where the crew is entirely female – as there were already women in the position of co-pilot and assistant on board.

This has always been what I wanted to be since I was eight years old,” Admira António tells, at an altitude of 11,000 meters, a dream that has been born since he heard his older brother talk about piloting.

It was because she never gave up the dream that Admira believes she has managed to win in a world of men and to have become commander in 2018.

In the clouds, there are two realities: almost 80% of the on-board assistants are female, but only five per cent of the pilots are women and the proportion of female positions in technical or leadership positions in aviation is even lower.

This was the scenario described by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) when they promoted the first global gender aviation summit in the last year to equality.

Admira Antonio witnesses this reality: when he ascended to the level of commercial aviation at LAM in 2012, he only drove alongside men, which he even looked at naturally after growing up “between brothers and cousins.”

But she still recalls episodes of prejudice, such as when a trainer apologized “for being a girl” when she tried to correct response in a theoretical class – and she remembers how it only gave her “more strength.

The attention is always upon you, as a woman. They want to see if you really know what you are doing, why you came here and if someone facilitated you“, the task, describes, in a more closed way than the men to prove “the fitness and professionalism.

Admira António closes the cockpit door and connects the seat belt warning to start the descent to Chimoio, central Mozambique, a regular 70-minute flight from Maputo ahead of an Embraer 145 from Mex with a capacity of 50 passengers.

Already at the airport, when leaving the plane, there are those who realize that they have travelled with a totally female crew and health in English: “They are a powerful team.”

But Nárcia Mateus, 29, a flight attendant for eight, says there have also been passengers questioning the fact that there are only women in the crew.

The answer is given with the demonstrated professionalism, she emphasizes, in a plane as in other aspects of the life of Mozambique: “We have women to occupy positions that were only masculine,” he says, contradicting indices that put the country among the worst.

It ranks 136 out of 160 in the United Nations Gender Inequality Index, which combines health, labour market participation and access to opportunities.

Mozambique is the country with the eighth highest rate of childbirth in the world, with 135 births per thousand women between the ages of 15 and 19, according to the UN Human Development Index.

A total of 48 per cent of women, ages 20-24, married when they were under 18 – is the ninth-worst rate in the world.

The indexes show that there might have been another Admira António, who, by this stage in life, would never have been an airline commander.

It was one of the things that made me pay close attention to the school and my dream: I saw that a woman was expected to marry very early and to form a family and a home” and “if the home was not well, it was her fault“, describe.

He studied and completed pilot training as far as the financial availability of the family allowed, in South Africa, where he grew up, and then applied for a scholarship from LAM and Mex-bag that he was awarded, allowing him to reach the place where today occupies.

Admira was thus baptized before the astonishment of the father, who for the second time had twins when she was born, but today the name suits more to the fact to add admirers.

It is common for anyone who wants a photograph with “the commander” and there are young people who ask for advice in social networks, a new role that Admira caresses.

If I had a person who inspired me at the time, it would make my walk a lot easier“, following dreams that today advise others to follow, because “women often accept things as they are and do not try to fight for it that they want.

The LAM has 38 pilots and three are women, while in the table of the Mex subsidiary there are 18 names listed, six of the female gender, notes Tatiana Conceição, a co-pilot who returns to Maputo alongside Admira.

He says he is certain that with the example given, there will be more commanders in the company and that other women will try to be an aviation pilot as long as opportunities are shared the same way as other professions.

The scholarship that gave access to commercial aviation to Admira and Tatiana “is not divulged like others” next to the schools, letting go the idea that being a pilot “is an elite profession“, when it must rather be a dream since teaching basic, he adds.

With the plane parked back to Maputo, Sónia Motumbene, a 26-year-old flight attendant, summarizes the operations: “It’s an honour to fly with a female commander. The profession has nothing to do with gender.

The crew of four women leave the aircraft to enter the men of the cleaning team, who commented among them: “You saw, it was just women.

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