Female Pilot Encourages Afghan Girls to Let Their Dreams Take Flight


Shaesta Waiz, the first Afghan female pilot, arrived in Kabul last week, the latest stop in a round-the-world trip which sees her visiting 34 destinations over five continents in her Beechcraft Bonanza A36 aircraft. 

“The purpose of this trip is to inspire young girls to believe in themselves,” said Shaesta, “to believe in what they are capable of doing, regardless of where they are from, or the challenges they have faced in their lives."

On her stopover in Kabul, she appeared at a gathering of over 200 schoolgirls from the Kabul area, an event organized jointly by UNDP and the Kabul Department of Education. She shared her inspiring story with the children of how she had achieved her ambitions as the daughter of an Afghan immigrant.

Highlights

  • Shaesta Waiz, the first Afghan female pilot will be flying to 34 destinations over five continents.
  • While in Kabul, she shared her inspiring story with 200 schoolgirls at a UNDP event in Bayat Media Centre.
  • Shaesta has been inspiring young women and encouraging them to pursue education and careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.
  • When Shaesta completes her journey, she will become just the eighth woman ever to fly solo around the world.

Shaesta’s family emigrated to the US in 1987, when she was just three months old. She grew up in Richmond, California, in an underprivileged school district where she had to share textbooks with classmates, and saw many friends drop out of high school. Many people told her that she was not smart enough or rich enough to pursue her dream of a career in aviation. “If I had listened to them,” says Shaesta, “I wouldn’t be flying around the world and be here as a pilot today.”

UNDP_Af-Shaesta-072017-3Shaesta Waiz offers her concluding remarks at her event with schoolgirls in Kabul. © UNDP Afghanistan / Omer Sadaat / 2017

On her epic journey, the 29-year-old Shaesta has been inspiring young women and encouraging them to pursue education and careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. She told the students in Kabul that she was in Afghanistan to encourage young women like them to trust in their abilities. “I am here today living my dream because I never gave up,” she told the students.

Zainab Ahmadi, one of the girls who attended the event, said, “Shaesta inspires Afghan girls like me to have big dreams for the future and to do something about those dreams. I want to be a pilot like her.”

Students listen to Shaesta's inspiring story with 200 schoolgirls at a UNDP event in Bayat Media Centre. © UNDP Afghanistan / Omer Sadaat / 2017

Shaesta sees herself as an Afghan, and coming to her mother country was eye-opening for her. “Before I got here, my perception of Afghanistan was that it was going to be really depressing,” says Shaesta. “But to my surprise, the women and children here are very strong. You can feel this energy in the streets, of people who understand the conditions they’re living in, but want to make the best of it.”

Shaesta wants more women, especially from Afghanistan, to be brave and confident and go after STEM careers. “It is my dream to see Afghanistan leading the STEM fields,” she said. “With science, we can rebuild this country as pioneers, and inventors.”

Shaesta kicked off her journey from Daytona Beach in Florida on May 13. When she completes her journey, she will become just the eighth woman ever to fly solo around the world.

 

 
UNDP_Af-Shaesta-072017-10Students wait to meet and greet Shaesta Waiz in front of Bayat Media Centre in Kabul. © UNDP Afghanistan / Omer Sadaat / 2017