By Trevor Wahune
Catherine Bowa, 30, struck a first for women when she graduated this week as Papua New Guinea’s first female military aircraft maintenance engineer.
Bowa, of a mixed Manus and Eastern Highlands parentage, is the last of five siblings.
The daughter of a retired mine driller started her education at Pogera Community School and then continued to Pogera High School in Enga.
In 2006, she completed secondary education at Kopen Secondary School outside Wabag town and studied at the Regional Aviation Academy from 2007-2008 as a self-sponsored student.
In 2009, Bowa was recruited by the PNG Defence Force.
“It was the beginning of something which seemed to have been a life-long challenge back then because I was the only female among a male-dominated work field, unlike now, where there are quite a number of females selected,” said Bowa.
After six years in the army, she was part of the second batch of trainees sent to the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology in New Zealand in 2015, where she studied until she completed her engineering qualification this year.
She said the only challenge was coping with male students who were in the majority at the military institution. It was more challenging when she served as leader in a grroup of mainly male students.
However, the challenges there was no different to those she faced in PNG.
“Life at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology was also in military base settings, so that made everything look similar to what it was like here in PNG, hence, it did not bother me that much,” said Bowa.
Bowa still has future ambitions to be a licensed aircraft engineer.
“I still dream of becoming a licensed aircraft engineer, which means I need to work hard to achieve that. I guess the sky’s the limit.”
Bowa thanked God for her achievement so far. She also thanked the PNG Defence Force, the training command of PNGDF, the directorate of Technical Air Services and Air Transport Wing, especially the admin hierarchy that planned the training programme.
She further thanked her two heroes – Major Will Nancy and Warrant Officer Patrick Alex – for their time and effort during their training.
“Lastly, I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to my family and friends for the love and support they gave, one way or another.”
By Trevor Wahune