Lieutenant Gillian Mallouw is the first female on the continent to navigate a submarine. 
Photo: Facebook/Gillian Mallouw
Lieutenant Gillian Mallouw is the first female on the continent to navigate a submarine. Photo: Facebook/Gillian Mallouw

Africa celebrates its first female submarine navigator

By Robin-Lee Francke Time of article published Jul 3, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - Gillian Mallouw, 29, from Port Elizabeth, a naval officer in Cape Town is the first woman in Africa to navigate a submarine. 

The South African Navy is the naval warfare branch of the South African National Defence Force and its role is to conduct and prepare for naval operations in defence of the nation, its citizens and its interest. The navy also carries out peacetime operations in support of other national objectives. 

Gillian Mallouw, 29, from Port Elizabeth, is a lieutenant in the South African Navy and is based at the Simon’s Town naval base.

She enlisted in the navy a decade ago and has never looked back. 

“I was in Grade 9 when I decided I was going to join the navy once I completed school. I was already exposed to the navy as I joined the Sea Cadets in Grade 7 and this taught me so much about the maritime industry,” Mallouw says. 

She was also encouraged when her cousin left for Cape Town to sign up for the navy. 

“It seemed like an easy transition from school to the navy,” she says. 

Asked if she had to work extra hard in a seemingly male-dominated field, she says it never bothered her. 

Lieutenant Gillian Mallouw is the first female in Africa to navigate a submarine. Photo: Facebook/Gillian Mallouw
Lieutenant Gillian Mallouw is the first female on the continent to navigate a submarine. Photo: Facebook/Gillian Mallouw

“I just didn’t worry about anything like that. In our line of work you have to go through so many things to get where you want to be. 

“It doesn’t matter whether you are a male or female, all that matters is hard work and determination,” she says. 

It took Mallouw three years of intensive theory and practical training to get to where she is, but she is determined to go even further. 

“I feel I am still very young in what I do. I need to learn more. I don’t feel as if I’ve made it, I feel there’s still much more to do. 

“At times, it is quite scary as the safety of everyone on board (the submarine) is in my hands, but there is always a need from me to learn more,” she says.

Mallouw, who is humbled by the title of being the first African woman to navigate a submarine, says: “I don’t look at it that way. Basically, I’m just focused on doing what I have to do. There are so many facets to what we do, but I do feel proud as we are definitely moving in the right direction as a country. 

“There are lots of women out there who are not allowed to read or drive, and it does feel great that I am in a position without limitations – except for myself – to move forward,” Mallouw explains.  

Her advice to the youth is to never give up.

“If you’re passionate enough, don’t let anything get in your way. At times circumstances are bad, but push forward. It may be difficult at times, but block out the noise. We live in an age of technology and information – use the information out there.”

African News Agency


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