Empowering women is the name of the game and Village Bicycle Project is winning. Rebecca Conteh is the second of two female mechanics in Sierra Leone to to start her own bike shop. This is truly a major breakthrough in a country that still operates under some significant taboos against women even riding bikes.
Rebecca is only 20 years old and she is beyond excited to begin this new adventure in her life. She spent nearly a year training under Sierra Leone's first female mechanic, Isata, who we told you about earlier this year. VBP program director, Karim Kamara then stepped in to complete her training and provide the necessary tools she would need to run a bike shop.
Karim realized the potential bikes bring to women when he started with VBP. Through the Learn To Ride program, Karim was working with girls in schools teaching them how to ride bikes and how to do basic maintenance. He thought, why stop there? He pulled Isata aside and worked with her directly to teach her the ins and outs of being a bike mechanic and how to run a successful business.
Isata then took on Rebecca as an apprentice to help her own shop get off the ground. She also saw the potential in promoting other women owned businesses and wanted to help train Rebecca. Rebecca now operates her own shop in a small village near Kamakuwie.
Karim is dedicated to helping women break through the barriers holding them back from employment opportunities and success. He is also committed to promoting cycling as a healthy way of life, not just a mode of transportation. By helping these mechanics open more shops, Karim is ensuring that more bikes are reaching more people who really need them AND that they have the parts and tools to keep them moving forward.