Imagine that a woman has to walk 45 minutes to collect clean and safe drinking water for her family and then return with the weight of two five-gallon containers, one balanced on her head, the other in her hand. Then picture the same woman with three five-gallon containers on the back of her bike, making the trip to fetch the water in less time and returning with a greater amount of water, expending less effort and less time.
Since globalbike's inception a decade ago, globalbike has provided bicycles to women’s cooperatives in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania. globalbike equips and trains women in rural Tanzania to run self-sustaining bike businesses that meet the transportation needs of their communities and propel women into sustainable careers.
I no longer have to conjure these images. This past August I got to see two wheels making a world of difference a world away with my own eyes. My daughter and I joined 19 other women on a 2-week trip sponsored by WomanTours, a company that organizes cycling trips all over the world for women. "Cycle, Service, Safari" was how our adventure was billed. With American and Tanzanian guides and a collective of Tanzanian support personnel and vehicles, we spent 11 days cycling the rutty, rock-strewn, undeveloped roads into villages to visit the women’s groups. We were received with singing, hugs and presentations about the benefits the women are deriving from the bicycles. They are carrying goods and produce from the village to the market and back to their villages. Health care is easier to access with the use of a bicycle; children are easier to transport. The women were delighted to demonstrate their proficiency in parts’ replacements, bicycle repair, and bookkeeping.
This was the first time, among my several visits to Southern Africa and Tanzania, that I was not looking at people, huts and animals at a distance through binoculars. We were with people in their homes, and in the midst of the marvelous wild animals, birds and vegetation of East Africa.
After visiting globalbike programs, we spent several days observing hippos, giraffes, elephants, baboons and countless exotic animals and birds “up close and personal” with our knowledgeable safari guides. Each guide was a font of scientific information and trivia. They all told us they looked forward to the next combined WomanTours/globalbike trip in February 2020. WomanTours has generously donated over $33,000 from the proceeds of their 2019 Tanzania bike trip to globalbike.
Last year, to celebrate my 80th birthday, I launched a fundraiser, called "Bibi’s Birthday Bike Ride," for globalbike. "Bibi" is the Swahili word for grandmother, the moniker I was given during the Kilimanjaro climb in 2013 and that I continued to enjoy on this return visit. Now that I have seen first-hand the remarkable benefits of globalbike’s initiatives in rural Tanzania, I am even more enthusiastic about supporting globalbike's programs. If you are moved to contribute, you may go here.
Asante sana. “Thank you very much” in Swahili.
- Katherine Jeter