Somalia’s first female pilot returns home and pledges support to the country’s women and youth
Mogadishu - Asli Hassan Abade holds a special place among Somalia’s trailblazing pioneers. She is the country’s first and only female pilot.
Ms. Abade visited Somalia in July 2017 for the second time in six years. In 2011 she flew into Mogadishu to deliver medical supplies to the Forlanini (Lazaretto) Children’s Hospital as the country was grappling with its worst famine in many years.
The presence of Al-Shabaab militants in the Somali capital limited her stay to 24 hours on that occasion, and it was a bittersweet homecoming for the airline captain.
“I did not have the liberty to move around Mogadishu like I am doing now, or talk to the media,” recalls the 59-year-old mother of four.
“There were several former colleagues, officers and pilots, waiting to receive me at the airport. I cried, and they all got emotional and cried with me. When I stepped out of the plane, I first kissed the ground.”
“I could not believe that I was actually in Mogadishu. I looked at the ocean, raised my hands up and inhaled the fresh, natural and unpolluted air. It was a magical moment.”
Ms. Abade’s childhood home was located close to Mogadishu airport where she grew up with her parents and nine siblings. Watching planes take off and land on a daily basis planted the seeds of her ambition to become an airplane pilot.
She left Somalia in the 1970s to train as a pilot in Italy and later moved to the United States. She returned to her native land to join the Somali Air Force and started flying planes in 1976.
She attributes her successful career in the country’s Air Force to the support women received from the government in that era.
“Women could do whatever they wanted. They were part of the government ruling elite, they were part of the defence forces including the navy, the infantry. They were university lecturers, members of the ruling party and they were in every part of the government,” she says proudly.
After ten years of service with the Somali Air Force, Ms. Abade left the country again after she fell in love with an American aircraft engineer. “We settled in Dallas Fort Worth in Texas, to start a family. My husband and I are blessed with a girl and three boys.”
A licensed pilot with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Captain Abade flies at least twice a year as required by FAA regulations.
“I am also a flight instructor and can offer pilot training courses free of charge as a volunteer. As a captain, I fly an Airbus. I last flew four months ago,” she says.
Ms. Abade is eager to impart her skills and experience to young Somalis, which she sees as part of her contribution to the country’s stabilization. “We had our time, our generation enjoyed its youth. Now we need to train and mentor today’s youth because the future lies with them,” she notes.
She calls on the Somali government to build peace and provide more opportunities to women and youth. “I would like to urge the Somali public and the government to strive for peace. When you have peace, you have life. But without peace there is no life,” she says.
UNSOM is mandated to assist the Federal Government of Somalia to advance gender and women, peace and security agenda issues and promote women’s empowerment.
Somalia is in the process of rebuilding its institutions, and empowering women to participate in the economic, political and social life is essential to building a stronger society, achieving international standards for development and sustainability, and improving the quality of life for Somali women, men, families and communities.