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About Us | Who We Are
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In 2009 Refilwe Ledwaba founded Southern African Women in Aviation and Aerospace industry (SAWIA). Though formally established in 2009 and registered as an NPO in 2011, SAWIA was conceived in 2007 when we recognised the need for an organisation to represent Southern African women and girls in the aviation and aerospace industry in the SADC region.

The organisation established GFPA. We wanted to create a platform that educates girls about aviation and aerospace at a grassroots level. We also wanted to empower them with information and access to other women in the field addressing one of the enablers of gender equality in the STEAM field. With the success of GFPA, our focus shifted from SAWIA and we registered GFPA independently as an NPC and PBO. The Foundation is currently operating in Botswana, Cameroon, Kenya and South Africa. In 2020 we established a global fund, an independent trust to support our operations and programmes in Africa.


To create an Africa where every girl is educated, included and empowered.


Our annual programmes are varied, exciting, stimulating, engaging and challenging educational initiatives that:

  1. Develop and support programmes that encourage innovation and shaping of mindsets.
  2. Make aviation and space a viable career choice for girls.
  3. Cultivate a culture of community building through volunteerism.
  4. Create equal opportunity through skills development and scholarships in the aviation and space industry. 
Milestones / Timeline
2010 - 2014
  • Founding of GFPA foundation under Southern African Women in Aviation and Aerospace Industry (SAWIA).
  • Hosted the first-ever aviation days in both Soweto (Gauteng) and Adams College (Kwazulu-Natal).
  • Hosted the first aviation and space camp in Africa.
  • Participated in various outreach programmes throughout Southern Africa.
2014 - 2018
2018 to now
What We Do


“Education for girls is about more than access to school. It is also about being supported in the subjects and careers they choose to pursue – including those in which they are often under-represented” (UNICEF), such as careers in the STEAM field. 75% of future jobs are going to require STEAM. It is necessary to make STEAM subjects look desirable to girls earlier in life if we hope to retain women in the STEAM fields later. It is also important to have interventions that help increase girls and women’s interest in, and engagement with STEAM education. 


With our phased approach, we ensure that no girl is left behind by creating a pipeline system through focussed programs that grow in intensity and become tailored to our developing learner aspirations in the STEAM field.


We shape the mindsets of the next generation using maker spaces through our STEAM clubs. These are multifunction spaces were learners could gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover all sort of things using different materials (“Learning through doing). We are creating an environment where they can learn how to think as the first step to innovating solutions for their communities. 


Empowering the next generation has been a key component of GFPA’s mission. Our programme starts by creating awareness in the STEAM industry with a focus on aviation and space. Through our STEAM Programmes and workshops, we help tomorrow’s leaders meet new challenges.


We enable the next generation by offering scholarships and other skills development programmes. GFPA’s scholarships directly support the professional development of women who intend to follow a career in the STEAM field with a focus on aviation and space. We will be partnering with local universities and aviation organisation to provide excellent candidates who have a passion for aviation and space, with scholarships and learnership opportunities.


We support the next generation through our mentorship and Internship programme. Our mentorship matches up student with mentors in the aviation and space industry to advise and assist in career development. Our internship matches applicants with member companies to provide excellent opportunities for professional growth and practical experience.
How We Do It
GFPA is made up of GFPA Foundation and GFPA Global fund and together we work to make a lasting change in our communities and around the world. We support SDG4, SDG5, SDG8, SDG9, SDG10 and SDG17

A link to the UN sustainable goals
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We positively impact and change lives through our strong values of 
influences and informs all we do: 
We Empower our youth, ourselves and our communities through education and information, in support of SDG 4. Each one, teach one. 
We enable young minds to think creatively and solve their community problems using designing thinking and technology, in support of SDG 9 and SDG 8. 
We believe in service before self for an impactful existence entrenching Ubuntu amongst ourselves with our strategic partners, in support of SDG 17. Pay it forward. 
We Advocate for STEAM education and inclusive society in support of SDG 5 and SDG 10. 
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