Refilwe Ledwaba has come a long way following her determination, commitment, and hard work. She has made it as the first black woman to fly an aircraft. The lass is a contract flyer for various Charter companies in South Africa. She expresses how she loves being in the air and praises explicitly King Air 200 by saying it’s a good performer and enjoys every time she flies it. She is on a mission to change the face of aviation in Africa.
Ledwaba was born in Lenyenye, Limpopo province in South Africa. Since birth, she has been raised by a single mum. Her mum worked as a principle to provide for her and her siblings. Refilwe attributes her achievements to society, which educated and natured her, mainly as doctors and teachers surrounded her.
Change of passion served her great deal
After graduating with a bachelor’s in microbiology and biochemistry at the University of Cape Town, her journey to pursue medicine was short-lived. She entered the workforce to pay for her undergraduate student loans. She didn’t join the school of medicine. Hence started by working as an air hostess. However, deep down, she felt she could achieve more than that. Especially since she had never seen any air seen none complexion. Due to the urge and determination, she joined Comair Limited cabin crew team.
As time went by, her passion for aviation became strong. She then decided to enroll in the Comair Training Centre, where she trained to be a pilot. Regardless of the challenges, she endured and made it. Following her change of passion, she also stumbled an opportunity where the South African Police service accepted her into their cadet program. This was her greatest achievement because it marked her being the first African woman to fly police aircraft in history.
Best fruits are reaped by overcoming challenges. Refilwe attributes her significant accomplishments to the strong women who empowered her. When she started working, she could do seven hours a week. She got exhausted occasionally, but her strength was rejuvenated due to the support system from her community.
Moreover, being in a male-dominated field was demanding, but despite that, she never despaired. When she joined the South African police, she had trouble getting a uniform that could best fit her. To top it, there were no female role models in the industry. Furthermore, at some point in life, she felt discouraged i.e., when she had finally graduated but couldn’t pursue medicine because she needed to pay off her student loans.
Women and girls empowerment
Because of great achievements, Refilwe felt motivated and come up with many activities to empower women in the aviation industry. She has established girls fly program where she hopes to teach them about technical skills and emotional fortitudes necessary in the aviation industry. Besides, she also created an organization solely to address the challenges she faced on her way to the top. This is to encourage girls and women that they can also make it. She believes that early exposure of the girls to the industry can contribute to a lot of achievements .ie by training courses and life skills in aviation.