Born to Fly: Captain Kgomotso Phatsima

Source: Facebook

Kgomotso Phatsima was born and raised in a small village of Ledumadumane and grew up looking after cattle and going to school barefoot. Her village which was later destroyed to accommodate airport expansion.

After Kgomotso completed high school, she set her sights on 43 Air School in South Africa with her heart set on becoming a pilot. Her family disapproved of her aspirations, with her mother insisting that it was too dangerous and far too strange for a girl child from such humble beginnings.

“We are too poor my child,” Kgomotso recounted her mother’s words to She Leads Africa, “during our time a girl child would not even dream of flying planes.”

Instead, she encouraged her daughter to become a teacher. That was more socially acceptable for a woman.

Kgomotso gave into her mother’s wishes and abandoned her dream of becoming a pilot. Instead, she enrolled at the University of Botswana and pursued a Bachelor of Education Science degree and specialized in mathematics.

Upon completion, Kgomotso was hired to teach mathematics at Goodhope Senior Secondary School. Eight months into teaching, Kgomotso realized that teaching wasn’t fulfilling to her and it wasn’t challenging enough for her.

In April of 2009, Kgomotso learned that the Botswana Defence Force had chosen to enlist its first female military pilots. This was a sign.

She said in an interview with She Leads Africa:

“This time around I knew nobody was going to stand on my way, now I was going to follow my dreams. My mother cried. I told her “No mother, this is my dream, this what I want; this is what resonates in my heart.”

Though her parents disapproved, Kgomotso left home for a year-long basic military training program. The program was intense and Kgomotso found herself challenged mentally and physically. She was trained on everything including leadership, martial arts, how to fire a shot gun and teamwork. But she got through it.

Today, Captain Kgomotso Phatsima is one of the first female military pilots in Botswana Defence Force. As the Ambassador of Youth in Aviation and Aerospace, Kgomotso works to empower youth in aviation and aerospace, STEM education awareness and giving young people the tools to be successful business leaders in the future.  

She said in another quote to She Leads Africa:

“When I was growing up as a dusty little village girl, I never had the chance to sit down with a pilot nor see the inside of a flying machine until I had the opportunity to fly it.

Therefore, seven years ago I started Dare to Dream, to give the upcoming generation a chance I never had!”

Dare to Dream aims to empower youth, women and girls in STEM Aviation and Aerospace and help them develop business leadership skills.

In 2017, Kgomotso won the Botswana Youth Awards Best Female of the Year, and was part of the Obama Foundation Africa Leadership Program 2018 as one of the outstanding young emerging leaders in Africa.

The award was presented to Kgomotso in December of 2017 at the British High Commission in Gaborone by Katharine Ransome, UK High Commissioner in Botswana, who said of Kgomotso:

“Captain Kgomotso Phatsima is a trail blazer and phenomenal young woman. Her amazing work is empowering the next generation of aviation professionals and her passion for STEM education awareness is encouraging more girls to take up these important subjects. Her non-profit organisation ‘Dare to Dream’ continues to inspire women and girls to have the confidence to pursue non-traditional career choices. We are delighted that she is being recognised as one of the Commonwealth Points of Light.”

Kgomotso was also selected for the 100 Most Influential Young Africans by Africa Youth Awards 2018 and completed the International Visitors Leadership Program for Women leaders promoting peace and security in Washington DC

“My dream is to set a STEM Aviation Business Leadership Centre in Gaborone at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. The Aviation Academy will be the home of Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.”

Referring to flying. Kgomotso said:

“I think it means freedom. It means completeness; that there is a world out there. There are so many possibilities in becoming anything in the world.”

Kgomotso is the author of “Born To Fly: The Story of a Female Military Pilot Rising in Africa.”

Kgomotso is also a motivational speaker who gives addresses at corporate events, schools and universities. She also provides professional coaching and team building workshops.

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