New Air Force boss Fatuma shines light on gender equality

Kenya Air Force Commander Fatuma Gaiti Ahmed. [David Njaaga, Standard]

One day, while passing near a stadium where a military recruitment exercise was underway, Fatuma Ahmed’s curiosity led her to inquire about joining the Armed Forces.

This chance encounter marked the beginning of Fatuma Gaiti Ahmed’s journey, as she was accepted into the military ranks the following year, becoming an officer cadet.

The 51-year-old joined the Women Service Corps, a separate unit exclusively for women, where her career took a significant turn when the unit was disbanded in 1999, allowing its members to integrate into the main military services, Navy, Air Force, and Army, for the first time.

This change not only expanded opportunities for women in military roles but also facilitated the career advancement of individuals like the now Lieutenant Major General Fatuma Ahmed within the ranks.

Fatuma’s rise through the military ranks has been celebrated as a milestone in advancing gender equality within the armed forces.

Her promotion to major general in 2018 was particularly significant, breaking barriers and inspiring more women to pursue leadership roles.

During her promotion ceremony, then President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed confidence in Fatuma, emphasising her role as a positive role model for women across the country.

“Prove to them that there are no limits for women,” President Kenyatta remarked. 

Motivated by her admiration for an uncle serving in the military, as reported by an international media house, Fatuma pursued a career in the Armed Forces despite facing discouragement from some family members who believed military service was not good for women.

Fatuma, the name that means baby nurse, an expert in newborn care who helps new parents during the first few weeks of life at home, was determined to nurse the KDF. This, she says, has been a driving force throughout her career.

Over the years, Major General Fatuma Ahmed has held several important positions within the military hierarchy, leaving an indelible mark on the organisation.

She served as Battalion Second in Command (BN 2IC), Staff Officer II Audit Personnel and Records, and later assumed significant roles in Personnel and Administration.

Fatuma’s commitment to continuous learning and professional development was evident through her graduation from the National Defence College and the Defence Staff College. She also obtained a diploma in management from Strathmore University College, enhancing her strategic leadership capabilities.

In August 2015, Fatuma made history by becoming the first woman in Kenya to attain the rank of brigadier within the male-dominated military landscape.

Her promotion to Major General in July 2018 further solidified her position as a trailblazer and role model for women across the nation, earning praise from President Uhuru as a symbol of progress towards gender equality within the Armed Forces.

Fatuma was appointed the Commander of the Kenya Air Force on Thursday, marking her the first-ever woman to hold this position.