Ms Flora Kumama Wakolo
Air Traffic Controller
Kenya Civil Aviation Authority
“When I was younger, I thought the career for me would be either medicine or nothing!”, Ms Flora Kumama Wakolo recalled. It must be a blessing in disguise, for herself and many women in this male-dominated industry, that she turned to the aviation industry after the grim realisation that her grades fell below the mark for medical school.
Chancing upon a recruitment advertisement and thinking it might be interesting, Ms Wakolo went on to pass the aptitude test and became the second female air traffic controller in the history of Kenya then. Since then, Ms Wakolo has been at the forefront of fighting for equality in the Kenyan aviation industry.
She opined, “Women who became pregnant will have their licences suspended, which meant they lose their seniority during their pregnancy. This was obviously gender discrimination; men who break their arms and legs simply take sick leave, why should it be different for women?”
That regulation which was still in place during her two pregnancies had since been changed, due in part to her tireless and selfless efforts in championing the rights of women in the industry supported by the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers (IFATCA) policies and Aviation Medical Experts.
Reminiscing fondly, Ms Wakolo recalled meeting her husband of 19 years on the job. She credited her achievements to her husband who understands the profession and industry, “He is very understanding, I have had to leave him at home with two teenagers for almost two weeks to attend the Search and Rescue Administrators course on 22 November – 3 December 2010 at the Academy.”
A proud mother, she glowed when speaking about her daughter Lucy, 17 and son Joseph, 13. Totally supportive of her son’s aspiration to become a pilot, Ms Wakolo said with a big smile, ” We are saving money so that we can support him financially for his training.”
Sharing her experience at SAA, Ms Wakolo reflected, “There is such an interesting mix of people from different countries but we are not defined by our age, religion, country or even rank in the organisation; we look at each other as classmates. If anybody wants to see how the United Nation works, they should come here!”
This is not just what impressed Ms Wakolo, “Singapore is a place I’d love to send my children to if they were to study abroad, they could learn from the discipline that is here!” She continued, “Another thing that is remarkable about Singapore is that it achieved its independence at the same time as Kenya. Many people talk about this back home and we wonder, what did Singapore do that we missed? We have so much to learn from Singapore.”