Isata is going places. Fast. And the bike is taking her there. Isata is one of only a few female bike mechanics in all of Sierra Leone. Isata was introduced to bikes in school when she first started riding as a student, and she never stopped. Back then she was racing the boys just trying to keep up, but now they are chasing her back wheel.
It is that same competitive spirit that drives her business to do well. Isata isn't just one of only a few female bike mechanics in the country, she is the only one with her own shop. Less than a year ago the Program Director for our partner Village Bicycle Project in Sierra Leone, Abdul Karim Kamara (seen above with Isata) approached Isata and asked if she wanted to be a bike mechanic. Karim trained her, armed her with bike tools, and helped her open a bike shop in Makeni. Isata already had a good head for business and the drive to be the best, so this combination was hardly a risk.
In less than eight months, Isata has already paid her rent for the next year from the profits from her shop. And she continues to expand her business. She is currently training two other women to assist in her shop. She has already built a great customer base, given her reputation has a local rider. And she keeps a plentiful supply of bikes on hand through donations from Bikes for the World and other non profits who send bikes to Village Bicycle Project in Sierra Leone.
Oh, did we mention that Isata is also the fastest woman on two wheels in Sierra Leone? Just last month she won the Tour de Lunsar. She definitely has bragging rights on and off the bike. She has earned the respect of her fellow team mates, most of them men. They wouldn't think twice to ask her to look over their bike and her clients in the village ask for her when they are in need of a part or repair.
Karim cites the lack of job employment in Sierra Leone when talking about the importance of the bike project he manages. It's not just about providing transportation to farmers, students, or apprentices who are paid little and live far from the city centers where they train. He sees the bike program as a way to empower women where there are little opportunities available to them. Giving those determined women a pedal-up is a personal mission.
Isata is breaking records and barriers to find her own track in a world focused on helping men succeed. Karim may be her biggest fan, but he's not the only one. Isata serves as a great role model in her community, especially to young girls who now know they can also dream big. Isata is a strong, successful woman with no intentions of slowing down any time soon. Boys, try to keep up.