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Ex refugee pilot on solo flight around the world visits Batam

Shaesta Waiz, 29, a refugee-turned pilot takes pictures together with the audience during an event in Batam, Riau Islands, on Monday. Waiz, an Afghan-American who was born in a refugee camp, is on a three-month solo flight across the globe. She visited Batam to inspire and encourage more Indonesian women to become pilots. (The Jakarta Post/Fadli)

Shaesta Waiz, 29, a refugee-turned pilot who is on a three-month solo flight across the globe, visited Batam, Riau Islands, on Monday where she encouraged more Indonesian women to become pilots.

Waiz, an Afghan-American, who was born in a refugee camp, told more than 50 female high school students the story of her life where she managed to overcome all the limitations and challenges as a refugee to become a pilot who has inspired people around the world.

“The equality issue for me is no longer challenge. To become the first female civilian pilot in Afghanistan was a struggle,” she said, adding that being a pilot was not a matter of gender.

Waiz started her epic flight in a small, single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza A36 plane in Florida in May and is currently in Singapore.

Indonesia will be the 15th country she will have visited when she is scheduled to make a stopover in Bali on August 4. She was invited by the Indonesian Transportation Ministry to be a speaker in Batam while she was in transit in Singapore.

From Bali, Waiza��s plane is scheduled to leave for Australia.

The 18-country world tour is expected to be complete in August.

a�?We need to push for more females to become pilots,a�? the ministrya��s domestic cooperation bureau head, Susanti Pertiwi, told The Jakarta Post.

According to her there are some 7,000 licensed pilots in Indonesia but only around 150 of them are female. (bbs)