Pan Africa Bicycle Information Network (PABIN)

Rwanda: Bugesera District: Where Women Also Ride Bicycles 

The New Times (Kigali)
March 26, 2006
by Raymond Imena

"In Bugesera district, every family has to own a bicycle for life to be easier," says Theresa Musabyimana while riding a bicycle, her baby strapped onto her back.

Cycling in Bugesera is no shame for women, as most women claim, because women can take their children for treatment at any time, says a female bicyclist. A family man, John Habiyaremye, confirms this, saying his wife normally rides to the hospital to take their child for treatment.

Some women have gone as far as taking their harvest to the market and fetching water using bicycles, since the scarcity of water in Bugesera necessitates travelling long distances to fetch the golden liquid. It is even alleged that young girls and women carry heavier loads than some men do.

Most couples in Bugesera, when legalising their marriage, ride their bicycles to the wedding site and ride back on one bicycle after becoming husband and wife, an elderly resident said. The elder further recalled Rwandan culture which had forbidden women from riding bicycles to the point where it even looks weird - almost a taboo -- in some parts of the country for women to ride.

But some women were quick to the defence of female bicyclists, saying women's emancipation has encouraged women and girls to do every kind of job to support themselves and their families.

The key obstacle to women riding bicycles is that they are unable to fix the mechanical problems they encounter, leading to Bugesera women to call upon their men to train them on how to fix them.

The landscape being generally flat in the area, bicycle transport is the most convenient mode of transport for taking merchandise to the market. Riding the bicycle in Bugesera starts at an early age for both boys and girls. However, in mountainous areas of the country like in the Northern Province, it is common for men and boys to be unable to ride bicycles. And as some local authorities told Cool Sunday, Bugesera has more bicycles than any other district in Rwanda.

The bicycle is so treasured in Bugesera that even the fate of marriage can be determined by it. One Nzamukosha says that when a girl is married she has to receive a bicycle as part of the wedding gifts to help her in the new life she is about to begin. Laughing, Nzamukosha alleged that some parents have even forced their sons to marry girls they do not want in order for the parents to acquire the bicycles.

Copyright 2006 The New Times. All rights reserved.

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