Simon Usborne: Cycling is still oiling the wheels of women's liberation more than 100 years on

 

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The way cycling has oiled the wheels of women's liberation in this country and in the US is well documented (go dig out that quote by Susan B Anthony, the American suffragette). Less so is the way it is still doing so elsewhere more than 100 years later.

In rural Ghana, to take one of many examples, budget bikes from China are beginning to transform the prospects of schoolgirls. In villages where the walk to school can take two hours or more, almost half of girls are expected to stay at home. Those who do make the journey can also be vulnerable to kidnappers with forced marriage in mind.

ActionAid has helped 28 families rescue girls taken in this way, while also handing out 40 bicycles to keep girls in the classroom and in greater safety. Fuseina is 13. Her parents got bicycles for her brothers but saw school as only optional for her, so she didn't go. She now has wheels, too, and wants to be the first girl from her community to go to university.

Bikes are similarly transforming the lives of women and girls all over the developing world, as charities and other organisations realise their potential. Another charity, Re-Cycle, based in Colchester, turns unwanted bikes in Britain into emancipating machines through projects across Africa. If you have one at risk of rusting away in a shed, look them up: re-cycle.org. See also: actionaid.org.uk.

@susborne

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