10 February 2013

Rwanda: Meet Kigali's Female Moto Riders

BORN IN Mwizindiro Cell, Gasabo district, 25-year-old mother of two, Nadine Mukantwali, does what most people would consider a man's job. But those misconceptions have not stopped this hardworking woman from earning a living.

Mukantwali says she is very proud of what she does and knew that this was her calling the moment she learnt how to ride a motorcycle.

"While growing up, bicycles were things I was accustomed to because I grew up in a male dominated home. I learned how to ride a bike at the age of 15 and that is when I thought about becoming a driver or a motorcyclist - I embarked on the road to reach my target," narrates Mukantwali.

In 2008, she sought training in tailoring. But she wasn't in tailoring too long because it didn't pay well. She quit after she got married.

Mukantwali, whose spouse is also a motorcyclist, says they get up early in the morning to prepare for the busy day ahead.

"I wake up at 5; 00am and organise our attire; my husband wakes up shortly after me. We have breakfast together and then head off. We don't interact until we come back home around 10; 00pm," she says.

Mukantwali is able to pay rent and also cater for other things such as paying school fees for her children and her sister's secondary education. "I also manage to handle other family issues with the money I earn," she reveals.

Her children are taken care of by a house help whom she pays RWF 10,000 per month. Although she remits a daily sum to the owner of the motorcycle, Mukantwali still saves at least RWF 45,000 per month, which she uses to take care of her family.

Naturally, challenges have come her way, the biggest being lack of support from some of her relatives who insist she is in a male field.

"Nobody in my family approved of my choice to be a motorcyclist. In fact, they accused me of being a prostitute because I was joining a 'male' job. It was hurtful and discouraging but I decided to go with it anyway," she narrates.

Mukantwali's ambition is to get a driver's license and become a taxi driver.

Challenging start

At the beginning she was terrified at the nature of her work, especially with the roads filled with pedestrians and vehicles. "Sometimes I didn't know where to pass and was afraid of accidents. But after a few months, I became better," says Mukantwali, who has been riding her motorcycle for over 5 years now.

If you thought there is only one female motorcyclist in town, think again. Also 25-year-old Vestine Mukeshimana, a mother of four, plies the same business.

She also started in 2008 in Kigali. "At first, I feared using the road with other cars, but I eventually saw it was really simple," said Mukeshimana.

Just like her colleague, Mukeshimana has faced challenges, the worst being sleazy men who tried to lure her into having sex with them.

"Some men pretend they are customers yet what they really want is to get me to sleep with them, but my lack of interest always sends them away," she says.

These very brave ladies only wish that they could be supported more; possibly by being given the chance to own their own motorcycles and save more money for their families.

No woman should compromise her dignity. Riding a motorcycle for a living might not sound very classy to some people but it will put food on the table and change the way that men look at women in the workplace.

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