Thursday, March 17, 2016

All-woman crew lands plane in country where they can't drive a car

Royal Brunei's first ever female trio at the flight deck; (from L-R) Captain Sharifah Czarena, Senior First Officer Dk Nadiah and Senior First Officer Sariana in the flight deck prior to operating flight BI081 from Brunei to Jeddah.
(Royal Brunei)

An all-woman crew landed a Royal Brunei flight in Saudi Arabia in February.

The flight, which coincided with Brunei's National Day on Feb. 23, gained attention as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia — where the female pilots cannot legally drive a car.

The International Society of Women Airline Pilots estimates that there are about 4,000 female pilots worldwide out of 130,000 pilots total; only about 450 women are captains.

In Saudi Arabia, only men can obtain drivers' licenses: Women risk being fined and arrested if caught driving in public. Ironically, there aren't any regulations against women obtaining a pilots' license, and the first woman to receive Saudi certification to fly a plane did so in 2014.

Royal Brunei has programs to get more women in the air. Currently two programs, an engineering apprenticeship and cadet pilot program are recruiting both men and women.

In November, an 18-year-old woman became the seventh female trainee of Royal Brunei's cadet pilot program. One of the other inductees said he was inspired by his older sister, who was the sixth woman in the program.

The captain of the Royal Brunei plane, Sharifah Czarena Surainy, was the first female pilot not only for the airline, but for any flag carrier in Southeast Asia.

“As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement," Surainy told The Brunei Times in 2012 when she received her captains' epaulettes. "It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it."

The role of women in Brunei is complex: The country is ranked 23rd in the world for economic participation and opportunity, yet they fall in last place for women's political empowerment, even behind Saudi Arabia.

The country is listed 88th on the Global Gender Gap list. 

And many activists, including Human Rights Watch, have come out against the country after the sultan pledged to operationalize a form of Sharia (Islamic law).

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that the instatement of Sharia law in Brunei "may encourage further violence and discrimination against women."

(Caily Rizzo - Mashable)

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