An Arizona based organization, ‘Ride 4 a Woman,” has successfully begun a program in Uganda which will train more than two hundred women in bicycle maintenance and repair. The two week training course is part of a larger initiative with the goal of “help[ing] disadvantaged women gain new, marketable skills and at the same time promote an environmentally-friendly form of travel, namely, cycling.” After completing the bicycle repair course the women will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and increase their viability to successfully run a bike based business through job training which emphasizes professional skills. As bicycle mechanics is not a traditional job for women in this region, the program allows women to create their own opportunities in an untapped sector of the economy.
Although the direct impact of training women to contribute to the local economy will certainly be felt, Ride 4 a Woman has a larger vision for the community. They have broke ground on a women’s center which will “house a venue for training courses, a bike repair station, a bike shop, and eventually a bike manufacturing section” and hopes to be a “hub of local activity.” The organization hopes to drive development and growth indirectly through bicycles. In addition to repair services, the women hope to use bicycles as taxis, a way to transport goods and even to attract more tourism. The area is adjacent to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which is home to an indigenous gorilla population. The organization has partnered with the Ugandan Wildlife Authority who is “supporting the project, as they actively promote the bike tours…[and] create an exciting trail for cyclists to use in the forest.”
Initiatives such as these are in high demand in Uganda, a country that has both the “world’s youngest population” and an 83 percent unemployment rate among those between 15 and 24 years of age. Uganda’s government has recognized the untapped resource and has been supportive in the Ride 4 a Woman programs. Two weeks of skills training can enhance the ability of an individual to contribute to a developing economy and the trajectory of their community. Many of the women participating in this program felt hopeful and excited about their future. By this measure Ride 4 a Woman may have already accomplished their overarching goal to “see the women in the area become empowered women.”
Resource: Hyatt, Justin. “Bicycles At the Heart of Empowerment Scheme for Rural Women.” Inter Press Service. AllAfrica.com, 24 Mar. 2011. <http://allafrica.com/stories/201103240372.html>.
UNDP’s website on ‘Gender and Woman’s Empowerment’ in Uganda: http://www.undp.or.ug/whatwedo/22
An article from the Denver Post on American based programs aimed at empowering women in Uganda: http://www.denverpost.com/recommended/ci_17684739
The website of ‘Farm Africa,’ an organization which works to ‘empower women in rural areas’: http://www.farmafrica.org.uk/smartweb/ethiopia/rural-womens-empowerment-project
A video from the ‘Women’s Global Empowerment Fund’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pc1qAQrh2YI
1. Can you think of another training program that would benefit rural, low-income women in Uganda? How would it help the individual women? What about the larger community?
2. What do you think about programs which target women specifically? Why do you think organizations single out one gender over another?
3. What challenges will these women face after their training is over? How can success be further insured?