NGO provides battery powered bikes for rural women's transport needs

BY TAKUDZWA MAHOVE

Mobility for Africa is transforming the lives of women by giving out trailered electric bikes in rural areas which they will pay for in instalments, reducing the heavy burden of having to walk long distances with heavy loads on their backs and heads. 

Working hand in hand with the Midlands State University (MSU) and the China’s Tsinghua University, the Non-Governmental Organization working has taken women empowerment to new heights, by tackling the century long transport problem.

The project is aimed at cutting the 14 million hours of unpaid labour that women give every year, taking children to school, fetching firewood, water and going to the fields and gardens. 

“The aim of this project is ambitious yet we believe that by providing mobility solutions targeted to rural women the aim is to improve their economic productivity without significant recurring costs” said Mobility for Africa Director Felicity Tawangwa. 

She adds that it is a social enterprise that aims to partner with China to introduce electric tricycles whose batteries are charged using solar energy which is free and abundant in Zimbabwe.

With job scarcity in the country the project has also created employment for graduates in the mechanics, engineering and development studies field.

A recent development studies graduate Miss Fadzai Mavhuna spoke to this reporter and said Mobility for Africa has presented a good opportunity for women to get jobs at a time when unemployment is at its highest.

“I am excited with the opportunity to help empower the previously marginalised rural women and gain experience as a development practitioner.

We have realised that women work for more than 14 million hours and this project will help reduce that number.”The pilot project, a first of its kind in the country was launched on the 20th of February 2018 at Shaka Hills Farm in Mashonaland East and the first batch of 30 bikes will benefit women in rural Marondera and Hwedza. 

With just 30 bikes so far the project is clearly in its infancy but has already started receiving raving reviews as a game changer in women’s empowerment and development circles.

On his official twitter page Transport and Infrastructure Deputy minister Fortune Chasi said the bikes will help women immensely and ensure they do not have to do the arduous task of carrying babies on their backs and water containers on their heads  while walking for many kilometres. He added that the tricycles will address the lifelong problem of the absence of ambulances in rural areas.

This reporter managed to talk to women from Mabasa approximately 40km outside of Zvishavane eho expresses excitement about the project. “Chinhu chakanaka chaizvo ichi, kwedu kuno tofambira chigayo nguva nenguva. Chikauya kuno tingayamurika chero kumagarden edutichienda patownship.”(I think it’s a good project we travel long distances to the grinding mill. If they bring them to this area we can also use them to carry our produce to the Township (Mabasa Growthpoint)) said Mai Tariro a beneficiary of another NGO Bethany Project’s We Care program which helped rural women set up vegetable gardens.

It is hoped that this initial pilot project in Mashonaland will be a success and will be spread to other areas like rural Zvishavane, Tsholotsho, Binga, Zaka and many other remote areas where women face hardships and have to travel 20 or so kilometres to fetch firewood with babies on their backs.