Afghan pilot among women of courage
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): Captain Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing Afghan Air Force pilot in the history of Afghanistan, has been selected for the prestigious International Women of Courage Award for the year 2015.
Rahmani along with nine others from various parts of the world, including Tabassum Adnan, founder, Khwendo Jirga from Swat, Pakistan would receive the award at the State Department later this week in presence of the US First Lady, Michelle Obama.
The Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award annually recognizes women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk.
This year’s other awardees are Journalist and women’s rights activist Nadia Sharmeen from Bangladesh, Rosa Julieta Montaño Salvatierra, Founder and Director, Oficina Jurídica para la Mujer (Bolivia); May Sabe Phyu, Director, Gender Equality Network (Burma), Béatrice Epaye, President, Fondation Voix du Coeur (Central African Republic), Marie Claire Tchecola, nurse, Ebola survivor and activist (Guinea), Sayaka Osakabe, Founder and Representative, Matahara Net (Japan), Arbana Xharra, Editor-in-Chief, Zeri (Kosovo), and Majd Chourbaji, External Relations Director, Women Now for Development Centers (Syria).
Since the inception of this award in 2007, the Department of State has honored 86 women from more than 50 different countries.
Following the award ceremony and meetings with US government officials and non-governmental organization counterparts in Washington, D.C., the honorees will travel individually to cities across the United States to participate in professional meetings and events, and engage with the American people through an International Visitor Leadership Program.
Captain Rahmani was only 18 years old when she heard an announcement in the media about the recruitment of young women into the Afghan Air Force, including the opportunity for pilot training.
Soon after, she enlisted in officer training and graduated as a Second Lieutenant. In July 2012 – just two years after hearing the recruitment announcement – Captain Rahmani graduated from flight school and completed her first solo flight in September in a Cessna 182, an American four-seat, single-engine light airplane.
She continued to expand her skills and challenge all odds when she graduated from advanced flight training and became qualified to fly a C-208 military cargo aircraft. Unfortunately, after her story was publicized, Captain Rahmani and her family began to receive threats from the Taliban and from members of her extended family, who disapproved of her career and ambition.
As a result, her family has had to take tremendous caution and relocate several times in Afghanistan. In spite of these threats, Captain Rahmani remains determined to continue her career in the Afghan Air Force and work as frequently as her security situation permits.
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