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RAF International Women's Day event inspires young girls

'GIRLS CAN DO ANYTHING': Arianna, left, Belva, centre, and Klaudia, right, dressing up in old RAF uniforms

AROUND 150 girls attended a special event at the Royal Air Force Museum to explore the range of opportunities available to women in the Air Force and beyond.

The event, which was held on International Women’s Day (Friday, March 8), saw the students participate in a number of activities including debating using the museum's interactive technology, learning about working conditions for women working in the RAF during World War One, and team-building exercises.

During the day, there were opportunities for the girls to try on uniforms that resembled those worn by women when they first entered the Air Force. It was an activity they all appeared to enjoy, although they were shocked that the women were required to wear corsets underneath their uniforms, even while doing manual work.

EXPLORING THE PAST: Student Mary had fun trying on the RAF uniforms of yesteryear

One student from Greig City Academy, Belva, said she was inspired by learning about Mae Carol Jemison, the first black to travel into space.

She said she enjoyed trying on the uniforms and was “surprised that some women got spat at by other women because they were wearing trousers”.

Ra’eesah, another student, was also captivated by Jemison’s story and her ability to overcome many challenges, said she had learned that “women can be capable of anything”.

The students also watched Pilots of the Caribbean, an interactive, multimedia performance piece that told the story of black achievement in the RAF, from the first black personnel to present day.

PERFORMANCE: Pilots of the Caribbean taught the girls about black achievement within the RAF

Sgt Shevonne Bramley, one of the organisers of the day’s activities, told The Voice: “We thought that the 8th March, International Women’s Day, would be a great day to get lots of girls together to see about the different things that they can do in the RAF, about the different opportunities that are available to them but also to see how far we’ve come, especially over the last 100 years that the Royal Air Force has been around, how women’s roles have really changed in that time.

PICTURED: Sgt Shevonne Bramley

“For me, it’s really important that they understand that with over 50 opportunities in the RAF, there really is something for everybody. And if you find something that you really enjoy doing, that’s fun to do, you can actually do that and make a living and a career out of it. And that way you’ll always enjoy what work you do, but still have the opportunity to travel and benefit by educational opportunities and different things that are available to you.”

Air Vice Marshall Tamara Jennings, one of the highest-ranking women in the RAF, told The Voice that she wanted the girls go away knowing that today there are opportunities for everybody regardless of their sex, their race.

She added that the event went beyond the Air Force and what it can offer.

PICTURED: Air Vice Marshall Tamara Jennings

Jennings said: “This is about demonstrating to women, today in particular because it’s international women’s day, opportunities in engineering and science are open to you but actually it goes beyond that. I’m here and I’m a lawyer. It shows you that, actually, the world is out there for you take in terms of what you want to achieve and what you want to do. And if the only thing they take away from today is that, 'I have opportunity that I can do anything I want to do and I won’t shut down my options, I won’t say I can’t do something. I won’t say well, science isn’t for girls', for example, then to me that’s the best thing they could take away from today.”

Jennings, who joined the RAF 19 years ago as a fully qualified lawyer, said: “I’ve had what I think to be a really great career in the Royal Air Force...I have been allowed to do any of the jobs that my male counterparts have been allowed to do and I’ve had some incredible opportunities. I would be lying if I said that everything I’ve done on every single day was the best thing ever but what I would say is that the good, and indeed sometimes the fabulous and the amazing, have outweighed the bad.

EDUCATIONAL: Students were left inspired by the challenges women overcame to be successful in the RAF

“I have been able to fulfil my potential and I actually credit the Air Force with that. They’ve allowed me to be myself, they’ve celebrated what I can bring to the organisation, they’ve celebrated my personality, they’ve celebrated all the things that make me me, a part of which is my gender, and they’ve allowed me to succeed and for me, that’s been brilliant.”

Jennings, whose mother and grandmother were also in the RAF, has personally witnessed how it has dramatically changed and improved as a workplace for women over the decades. “My mother had a very different experience. She enjoyed the Air Force and loved what she did but when she had me, she had to leave because back in those days you did, but that changed a long time ago and women now are coming through the ranks, they’re in senior leadership positions,” she said.

She added: “I think the Air Force is genuine when it says that opportunity is open to all and that’s the Air Force that I’m in now. And quite honestly, if that wasn’t the Air Force, I wouldn’t be in it because I couldn’t be part of an organisation that didn’t actually believe in what it said.”

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