Shaesta Waiz is Afghanistan’s first female civilian pilot. This courageous 29 year old is undertaking a solo round the world journey, entitled “Dreams Soar” to raise awareness of the importance of enhancing women’s participation in the aviation sector through education in science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM). Having departed from Florida, her first destination was ICAO’s hometown Montréal, where she conducted a week of outreach activities with our support.
Later this summer, when she completes her adventurous journey through 30 stops and 18 different countries, Shaesta will have become the youngest woman in history to embark on and complete a solo round-the-world flight.
“It’s really incredible to have Montreal, the Headquarters of ICAO and the World Capital of Civil Aviation, as one of my very first Dreams Soar stops,” Shaesta commented. “ICAO especially has been a huge help since Dreams Soar was first conceived, introducing me to aviation officials in so many of the countries I’ll be visiting, providing flight safety and route advice, and mainly just by helping to organize the global support and cooperation that projects like this really depend on.”
ICAO’s support for Dreams Soar is part of its Next Generation of Aviation Professionals (NGAP) programme, which is focused on attracting the best and brightest to fill the hundreds of thousands of careers which will soon be available for new pilots and other skilled air transport personnel. Greater STEM educational capacity and access globally is a critical prerequisite to developing this 21st century aviation workforce, making Dreams Soar a very natural mission to support for the UN specialized agency for civil aviation.
“ICAO is honoured to be a main Dreams Soar supporter, and we are very pleased that Shaesta’s objectives align so well not only with our established NGAP programme, but also the new Gender Equality Programme we have recently launched,” commented ICAO’s current and first female Secretary General, Dr. Fang Liu. “Only 3-5% of commercial pilots globally are women today, and that percentage must rise significantly if aviation is to effectively address its long-term human resources challenges. Dreams Soar is an amazing opportunity for us to bring this important message to young women all over the world.”
“I’d only add that while my mission is all about inspiring a new generation of girls to become pilots, I also want them to better understand how important a decent STEM education is to making their career dreams a reality,” Shaesta added. “Access for girls to STEM learning is not only about resources, but attitudes as well in many parts of the world, and Dreams Soar hopes to be a positive force for change at every stop along our route.”
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