The Bicycle Library provides bikes to hundreds of girls in Sierra Leone through our partner Village Bicycle Project (VBP). But how does that work exactly? Simply: exactly how you think. Girls who attend a school that has a Bicycle Library can 'check out' a bike much like a library loans out a book. This is just one of the tools of the Learn To Ride program established by VBP using your old bikes.
Mohamed Kabia is a Learn To Ride instructor working with VBP to bring more bikes to girls throughout Sierra Leone. Once a school is accepted into the Learn To Ride program, VBP establishes a bicycle library of 20 bikes that female students can use throughout the school year. The participants are chosen based on distance from school and their academic records. The goal is to improve school attendance and ultimately school performance especially targeting those girls most at risk for dropping out before completing their education. The beneficiaries range in age from 7 all the way up to 25+; as long as they are enrolled in school, they are eligible for the Learn To Ridge program.
Once a school signs up as a partner, Kabia is dispatched with a fleet of bikes and works with students in the program to ensure they all know how to ride a bike. He also stresses best practices to stay safe on rural roads. He works with them on basic bike maintenance so they can fix a flat and keep their chains and drive trains free of dirt and grime. Kabia also teaches responsibility off the bike, focusing on the importance of education. The girls are all expected to attend school every day, be on time, and work toward improving their grades.
For Kabia this position with VBP was a perfect fit. Kabia has been a primary school teacher for two decades and raised two daughters of his own. Since Kabia rode his bike everywhere he didn't hesitate to teach his own daughters to ride a bike. But this isn't the norm. Even today, some families think it is completely unacceptable for girls to ride bikes. The idea that riding a bike causes young girls to lose their virginity still exists in pockets of Sierra Leone and that's why this program is so important.
VBP and Kabia are working with schools to help change this way of thinking and empower women with bikes. The reality is learning to ride a bike helps keep girls in school longer. This in turn delays marriage and encourages women to wait to have to children, creating happier and healthier families.
We have a focus on empowering women with bicycles and breaking through some of the exclusions....When a girl stays in school she waits longer to have children. This leads to a healthier life for her and her children, improving their lives.David Peckham- Founder Village Bicycle Project