Zona Damai: Stephany Tarileo is only the second woman to ever become an airline pilot in Vanuatu. Women are a minority in aviation, but especially so in Vanuatu, where women are destined to become housewives.
Not Stephany. She set out to make a point that even her family didn’t think she could achieve.
But she did.
Becoming a pilot is not a career historically chosen by women. It is and has been dominated and controlled by men for centuries, but this is now beginning to change.
And Stephany is leading that change
Stephany always knew she was destined to become a pilot
When she was younger, she would spend hours watching planes come and go out of the airport. She loved the smell of aviation fuel. She wanted to feel weightless above the clouds.
Although the odds were against her growing up in Vanuatu, Stephany was adamant she would someday get her wings.
To further fuel her passion her father is also an airline pilot for Air Vanuatu.
The 22-year-old was awarded a NZAid Scholarship to attend Massey University’s School of Aviation three years ago.
The NZAID scholarships are available for people living in selected developing countries to undertake vocational training and tertiary level study in their home country, in New Zealand, or in the Pacific region. These scholarships help to enhance the skills, training and knowledge of individuals, and build their capacity to contribute to the sustainable development of key areas in their home country.
Leaving her life behind
To follow her dream she had to leave behind her family and the country’s under-21 netball team.
Now fully qualified, she is planning to return home where she hopes to fly alongside her father.
But being the second only female in Vanuatu to become a qualified commercial pilot won’t come without its challenges.
The first woman to become a pilot in Vanuatu still works in the industry, but she has encountered many difficulties in the male-dominated workforce. But Stephany is up for the challenge. She wants to prove to women in Vanuatu, and throughout the world, that if you want something enough – no matter what gender you are or what country you live in – there is nothing stopping you.
She also has her dad to support her if the going gets tough!
Choosing to study 2600 km away from home and her family was always going to be difficult, but her passion and determination to become a pilot has seen her through.
She can now take off in one country and land in another. No one-day will ever be the same for Stephany – except for the rush of adrenaline and sense of freedom she gets when she takes to the skies.
Her dream is to fly for Emirates but with only a handful of female pilots employed by the company, Stephany knows she will need to work hard and clock up a many flying hours before that will happen.
But for now, just becoming a pilot is already a dream fulfilled.
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