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International day of a girl child: - From rural KZN to qualifying as an Aeronautical engineer and Drone Pilot

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International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC) acknowledges the importance, power, and potential of adolescent girls by encouraging the opening of more opportunities for them.

At the same time, this  “ Day is designated to eliminate gender-based challenges that little girls face around the world, including child marriages, poor learning opportunities, violence, and discrimination (UNESCO). When young girls are given equal opportunities and supported during their adolescent years, they have the potential to change the world. Take Nomathemba Khumalo. She is a qualified Aeronautical engineer and Drone Pilot. In her final year design project, she designed an agricultural UAV for crop health and soil analysis. She chose this project because she wanted to do research and get a deeper understanding of how the deployment of drones in agriculture can help farmers increase crop yield, farm productivity and profitability in agricultural systems and thereby promote agricultural management through this cost-effective and time-saving endeavour.


Nomathemba grew up in Stanger, KwaZulu – Natal and aspired to become a Pilot. When Noma was in Grade 11, the Girls fly programme in Africa (GFPA) foundation under Southern African women in aviation and aerospace industry (SAWIA) hosted an aviation day at her school. “ During this expo, I was exposed to different careers in the aviation sector and interacted with a black female aeronautical engineer. On a fundamental level, I knew how these wonderful machines(aircraft) fly but my ambition was to have a greater knowledge of the science behind them and as a result, Aeronautical engineering was a very interesting subject for a career, amongst other role models I got a chance to meet,“ said  Noma.


Post–high school  Norma enrolled for an Aeronautical Engineering degree at Wits University. As a foundation, we helped Noma apply for scholarships and supported her throughout her studies.” I was helped by the GFPA team to apply for the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) bursary which paid for my fees throughout my university years (I am grateful to them). “ Say, Noma. She further says that her aviation journey has been an interesting one yet challenging because of the intense and fast-paced level of learning at university.” I am grateful for every twist, turn and gradual climb”. She says it was also through the foundation that Noma also  discovered opportunities in the Drone industry


And now Noma is currently working as a junior drone pilot. “The rapid development and achievements in aircraft and aerospace technologies have interested and motivated me to add drone piloting to my skillsets. I am passionate about the unmanned field as I read literature on a variety of drones, their design, and the new possibilities that this new major technological revolution promises to provide in various applications. I want to be part of this constantly evolving field and I also hope to be involved in the design of the next generation of unmanned air vehicles say”, Noma. Noma ‘s story highlights the importance of not only supporting young girls through their adolescent years but also creating a pipeline that supports girls throughout their career progression.


According to the UN,”  achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is integral to the 17 goals. Only by ensuring the rights of women and girls across all goals will we get to justice and inclusion, economies that work for all and sustaining our shared environment now and for the future generation “

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