“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
In a new twist on this old adage, a team of Ethiopian women did just that, but instead of landing among the stars, they made history in the skies.
In one of the inspiring stories we came across in 2015, Ethiopian Airlines operated its first all-female flight in November.
Travelling from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to Bangkok, Thailand, passengers were greeted to female staff at every step of the way.
Female check-in desk operators took bags and handed out tickets. Technicians – all women – carried out safety inspections. An all-female crew served up food, as women piloted the plane, guided by female air-traffic controllers. On landing, female customs and immigrations officers took care of travellers as women unloaded their luggage.
It was a bold and welcome statement by the airline on how women can do anything, in a country where women lag behind men in equality measures.
“Women are the continent’s greatest untapped resources,” said Ethiopian Airline CEO Tewolde GebreMariam. “This is an ample opportunity to inspire young African female students to believe in their dreams and embark to fill the skill gap for Aviation professionals.”
Ethiopia does not rank highly on the United Nation’s Gender Development Index[i] – which compares health, education and living standards achievements between women and men – at 173 out of 187 countries ranked. The 2010 Gender Inequality Index[i], meanwhile, ranked Ethiopia 129 out of 155 countries, and pointedly highlighted that 7.8 percent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 18.2 percent of their male counterparts.
Cutting the education gaps between girls and boys is pivotal to reducing inequality between genders, and allowing both sexes to grow their country together. By some accounts, if every Ethiopian girl finished school, it would add almost US$4 billion to the economy[iii].
Building gender-segregated latrines. Starting Girls’ Clubs. Providing scholarships to young women. Constructing water sources, so girls can go to school instead of spending hours fetching clean water. These are just a few of our initiatives to give more and more girls an education, and a future.
But it’s not just about resources, it’s about achieving a cultural shift in rural Ethiopia. One that values a girl’s education, at primary school and beyond. That’s why our team on the ground is run by Ethiopians for Ethiopians. They know the local languages, culture and norms, and can work with local leaders to enact change.
Having inspiring stories, like that of Ethiopian Airlines’ first all-female flight, will help drive this revolution.