Since childhood, Honorine Moyenga dreamed of becoming an airplane pilot. After he graduated from school, the air force made an offer to sponsor the flight training school, and Moyenga did so. The fact that there were no other female pilots in the Burkina Faso Air Force at that time did not stop her in her tracks.
“I saved this dream, then nurtured it and as soon as the air force gave me the opportunity to make it happen, I didn’t hesitate anymore. I took the opportunity and here I am now, being a female pilot,” she said.
That was seven years ago, and now he is a full-fledged pilot for an air force transport plane. It has also played an active role in the country’s battle against terror groups linked to ISIS and al-Qaida.
Moyenga says as Burkina Faso’s first female military pilot, she doesn’t feel she faces more obstacles than men, except perhaps, more pressure to perform.
“So when I was the only girl in the male circle, all eyes were on me. The work is very carefully researched, so I have to work harder than others to prove that I can fly a plane, like the men,” he said.
Commander Moyenga said he did not treat him as special or different from other pilots.
Captain Sana Saidou is the commander of the Burkina Faso Air Transport Transport Squadron.
“At the squadron level when we carry out operational activities, he is treated the same as a man. So it’s easy to integrate it,” he said.
Statistics on the number of women in the military internationally are sparse, but the United Nations says introducing more women into the military is important for gender diversity and equality.
Women can be very effective on the front lines as peacekeepers by being able to connect and build trust with other women in potentially hostile communities.
Tensions between security forces in Burkina Faso and civilians often run high, with many civilians saying they fear the security forces, who often come from different regions and ethnic groups of the African country.
Llani Kennealy is a female peace and security force commander (Women Peace and Security) PBB.
“Having women on the front lines interacting around and within the community is an important factor for sustainable peace when we are dealing with a number of insurgencies, we are dealing with different tribal groups on the ground. That’s very important.”
Odette Some, a student at a university in Ouagadougou, said role models like Moyenga encouraged them to do jobs traditionally done by men while contributing to the country’s development.
“She is an inspiration to all women. We can also hope to do what he did and imitate him. Even if you don’t become a pilot, (we can do it) in other professions too.”
Moyenga says he now feels the responsibility to stand out and encourage women to take on roles traditionally played by men, whatever their profession. [mg/lt]