Hundreds of Ugandan Women Tackle Bicycling

The village classroom in Buhoma, Uganda overflowed with vibrant fabric colors as latecomers peered through the windows. Organizers of the women’s bicycle workshop were stunned as registration topped 200. The workshop was part of three weeks of activities planned around a visit by One Street’s executive director, Sue Knaup, in January. The leaders of Ride 4 a Woman (R4W) had expected only a few dozen from their 300 women members. Over the next week, these eager women returned to practice their new skills in bicycle riding and repair.

Ugandan culture discourages women from riding bicycles or doing mechanical work. But during the workshops, R4W’s goal of breaking down these barriers was well underway. As each woman grabbed the handlebars to shoot across the sloping schoolyard and crash in the grass, the laughter of hundreds of women spectators was joined by the men and boys also in the crowd. Women not busy cheering on the riders, wielded wrenches and other tools, helping to prepare R4W’s fleet of mountain bikes to rent to tourists. Bike rental fees will soon support their job training programs for their women members.

“I have never seen such a passionate turnout from the members of a local organization,” Ms. Knaup said. “And the leaders of Ride 4 a Woman are tapping the enthusiasm of their members, helping the most eager take on roles as bike guides and trainers for even more women interested in learning about bicycles. We at One Street look forward to inspiring other local organizations around the world through Ride 4 a Woman’s successes.”

Ms. Knaup’s visit was the culmination of more than a year’s work as R4W took bold steps through One Street’s Social Bike Business program. She and Denis Rubalema, R4W’s executive director, worked on organization and program development through email and Skype until the need for her visit became clear. The generosity of funders such as Cyclists for Cultural Exchange, The Robin Lee Whittlesey Foundation and individual donors covered the costs of the trip as well as specialty bicycle tools for R4W.

Ms. Knaup and Mr. Rubalema are looking ahead to their next accomplishments together. Next up is the construction of three professional bicycle workbenches in R4W’s Women’s Community Centre, currently under construction. These workbenches will allow the launch of their women’s bicycle career training program. And, following One Street’s Social Bike Business program model, the leaders of R4W look ahead to local manufacture of bicycles including welding frames that will better suit their local terrain. One Street is seeking donations to support this continued partnership.

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