“Previous evidence suggests that providing bicycles to school girls reduced the gender gap in school enrollment in India, but little has been known about the impact of bicycle distribution programs in sub-Saharan Africa and whether such programs can increase girls’ empowerment. In rural Zambia, researchers partnered with World Bicycle Relief (WBR) to evaluate the impact of bicycle access on girls’ educational and empowerment outcomes. The study found that the bicycles reduced commute time, increased punctuality to school, and reduced the number of days girls were absent from school by 28 percent in the previous week. The program also improved measures of empowerment, including girls’ sense of control over the decisions affecting their lives (i.e., their “locus of control” increased). Researchers did not find evidence that the program impacted school dropout or grade transition. “
Everyone loves this Susan B. Anthony quote: “I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
Here on the blog we tend to think of the connection between bicycles and feminism as a historical thing. I’ve written lots about that and I’ve given quite a few academic talks on the connection between the history of feminist activism in the west and the history of bicycles. See my post about the anti-bike backlash of the late 1800s here: Bicycles: Making good women go bad since the 1800s.
However, bicycles are still playing a role in improving the lives of girls and women all over the world. In many parts of the world, the choice is between biking and getting a drive from parents. But in many other parts of the world it’s the possession of a bicycle that makes getting to school possible at all. Often girls don’t have access to bicycles (and as a result, schooling).