• 03.08.16

Western Union Honors Women’s Day By Making South African Girl’s Pilot Dream Come True

The company’s “Chain of Betters” campaign is helping get one of South Africa’s first female pilots off the ground.

Western Union Honors Women’s Day By Making South African Girl’s Pilot Dream Come True

Western Union has launched a new phase of its “Chain of Betters” campaign for International Women’s Day by supporting a young South African woman in her quest to become a pilot. The company has also pledged a further $1 million to benefit women and girls.


A touching film follows Siba Gqirana as she outlines the challenges she faces in becoming one of the country’s first female commercial pilots. And it’s not even as if South Africa is particularly behind other countries in this respect, as 95% of the world’s pilots are male.

The film, “This is Beating the Odds,” shows the township where Siba was born and she discusses the difficulties inherent in growing up in a family held back by economic hardship. For a young woman like this, becoming an airline pilot might seem like just a pipe dream. Despite having very little to give, Siba’s parents have supported her dream to the extent that they are able, but it would take years to pay for the necessary training and education to reach her goal.

The film’s narrative then moves to Chicago where Kara Hatzai works as a commercial pilot. She had heard about Siba and nominated her to be the next person in the Chain of Betters. It’s not hard to guess what happens next as the whole point of Chain of Betters campaign is “to help fund projects that aim to make lasting favorable change for individuals and communities.” And, even though we know something good is coming, when she gets the news, Siba’s face is an absolute picture and her gratitude is entirely humbling.

If proof were needed of Western Union’s belief that ”when money moves, better things happen”, it is well provided for in seeing Siba, clad in her pilot’s uniform, confidently slipping on flight headphones and taking to the skies, while her family watches from below.

For International Women’s Day, Western Union has pledged $1 million “to change the lives of more girls and women through education and training”. The initial stage of the campaign launched in November last year, when the company highlighted how it sees the good that is done by the movement of money, especially in developing countries. The Chain of Better competition was created to “celebrate this movement of money that helps stimulate the economics within a household, a business and the broader global community”, according to Western Union.

The initiative, created by agency Mcgarrybowen London, works via a website where people can apply or nominate others to receive funding. Previous grants have gone to a group of farmers in Mexico to help them grind corn, to pay for a boat to get children to school safely in India, and funded a generator for a hospital in Ghana, among others.

About the author

Louise Jack is a London-based journalist, writer and editor with a background in advertising and marketing. She has written for several titles including Marketing Week, Campaign and The Independent.