Sudipta Dev – Manama
When the first group of women air traffic controllers started working in the Kingdom of Bahrain in 2004, they stormed what has always been the male bastion. “We were the first group of women air traffic controllers in the GCC region. It was initially a project, no one knew whether women could do the job of controlling the airspace,” said Hanan Falamarzi, who happens to be the second Bahraini woman to become an air traffic controller. Initially their numbers were four, today there are nine Bahraini women air traffic controllers in country, along with two expatriates. Falamarzi mentioned with pride that one of her former colleagues went on to join Gulf Air and became the first female pilot in the country.
It has been a tough fight for them through the years, to prove their skills and ability to do the job. “After three years when we proved that we are good air traffic controllers like men they shifted us to civil aviation. The high management would like to see more women as air traffic controllers, but the problem was dealing with male air traffic controllers even after we got our license. I was the first female air traffic controller to get pregnant and had to face a lot of difficulty at the workplace. I was suspended and forced to stay at home. There was no rule or procedure for such a case. After delivery I had to get revalidation and get my license again,” stated Falamarzi.
She conceded that after 10 years things have changed to some extent. “They know that pilots prefer to deal with women air traffic controllers as we are more patient and can do multi-tasking, besides being less complaining,” she said.
But are the new generation of Bahraini women taking inspiration from them to chalk out divergent career paths? “In our society no one knows or understands what we are doing. Our next step is to establish an organisation to talk about what women can do in aviation to attract more women into our career,” she mentioned. Falamarzi does not forget to add that she used to think that the western world had different way of dealing with these situations, but when she interacted with women air traffic controllers from those countries she realised that worldwide women face the same difficulties and challenges.