Bikes for the World

Monday, April 1, 2013

You Go Girl!

The League of American Bicyclists has been focused on women in the cycling community for the past few years now, holding conferences and workshops geared specifically toward women in the cycling community. During the Bike Summit in March in DC Giant USA's general manager, Elysa Walk pointed out, "It's half the population. It's not a niche."

Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood. ~ Susan B. Anthony 1896

Door Secondary School Bicycle Library loans bike to students

The importance of a bike in a girls' hands stretches across the globe. Teaching girls to ride a bike in Africa has been listed as a priority for at least two of our supported projects in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Namibia. Whether it's the Village Bicycle Project's Learn to Ride program in Sierra Leone or the BEN Namibia backed BEC (bicycle empowerment centre) King's Daughters bicycle shop it's hard to ignore the importance of empowering young women by teaching them to ride.

Cristian Hassan Acosta Villafane teaches a woman to ride
From VBP's blog: For starters, many females in Africa don’t know how to ride, while most males do. They tend to be culturally excluded from riding, for many reasons. Learning to ride is a special gift, one that will stay with them. The gift includes the exuberance of bicycling, balance and speed, girl and machine, confidence, accomplishment.

We found that when we give bikes to girls, they’re too often taken and damaged by the boys. So if we want females to have bikes, we must first supply the males. And early in our involvement, we realized we must teach the females how to ride. It is much easier to teach a young girl than a grown woman. Children don’t have as far to fall, they’re more resilient, and more willing to try new things.
Ramatu Sesay

These young girls will always know how to ride, and no one will take that away. When bikes come around in her life; to her brothers, neighbors, her husband, she’ll ask to use it too, unstuck from the stereotype that bikes are not for girls.

Ramatu Sesay is in the 8th grade at Guadalupe School in Lunsar. Every morning, Ramatu leaves her house at 6 AM to make it to school in time for her first class. She sometimes feels scared walking on the road because the village she lives in is near a mine and there are many large mining trucks speeding along the road as she goes to school. Her new bike gets her to and from school faster leaving more time for chores and studies. The skills she learned in the Learn to Ride program give her the confidence to share the road with pedestrians and traffic and help her travel dangerous roads faster leaving less time on the perilous roads.

We hope to bring you more stories from the girls learning to ride in Africa over the next few weeks so check back for more on their progress. We will also bring you incredible stories of how the bicycle is helping young girls lead better lives aside from just riding.

For now check out the Learn to Ride program in Sierra Leone:

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