In January 2002, 29-year old Christine Bonbankal Njeuma made history by becoming the first ever Bakweri and Cameroonian female pilot, when she got recruited by Cameroon's national carrier, Cameroon Airlines (CAMAIR). This was a groundbreaking achievement that challenged deeply ingrained beliefs about gender roles for Cameroonian and African women.
By venturing into a career totally dominated by males, Christine was sending a message that the Cameroonian woman of the 21st century refused to be held back by outdated sexist standards.
Christine obtained her aviation license in April 2001 from the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida (USA), where she also received a Master's degree in Airline Operations and Safety. She returned home shortly thereafter for a successful selection test with CAMAIR that involved 11 other candidates. She is also the holder of a BA in French and Spanish from the University of Florida at Gainesville.
A great athlete like her mother Dr. Dorothy Njeuma who was African female Lawn Tennis Vice Champion in 1975, Christine is one of Cameroon's greatest Lawn Tennis stars, having been the triple national champion from 1995 to 1997. She has also represented Cameroon in numerous international competitions. Tennis is not her only sports interest; she is also among a select group of women who have successfully ascended to the summit of the formidable Mount Fako.
After she was hired by CAMAIR, Christine went through another rigorous training period after which she was finally given her flying. Her first assignment was flying small Beachcraft commercial planes between the two largest cities in Cameroon, Douala and Yaounde, and also making regular trips from Douala to Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, which is just south of Cameroon. Her ultimate dream though is to fly the Boeing 747-A.With Christie's relentless drive and determination, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that she will achieve that goal sooner rather than later.
Christine is definitely a trailblazer and role model not only for young Bakweri women but also for all African women with dreams begging to be fulfilled. By achieving her childhood dream she is clearly telling women that gender should never be an obstacle. As she rightly told her detractors soon after she joined CAMAIR, "Brains, not Breasts, fly planes".
You go girl!
Picture courtesy of Janice & Tom