Project empowers women by exchanging bicycles for plastic bottles

2014-08-06 00:00

WORLD Bank chief economist Lawrence Summers wrote, “Investment in girls’ education may well be the highest return investment available in the developing world”.

Qhubeka, an organisation that donates durable bicycles as reward for projects, says on average seven in 10 of its bicycle recipients are women.

According to Pulitzer prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn, for every dollar a woman earns, she invests 80 cents in her family.

This was seen at a Qhubeka waste recycling programme, run in partnership with Wildlands Conservation Trust and Coca-Cola to empower women, in which participants earned Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycles by collecting PET bottles for recycling.

On receiving her bicycle, Nobelungu Mnikathi (62) said: “This bicycle is going to help my child when he goes to work, which will make him save some bus fare money.”

Her sentiments were echoed by many of the other women, most of them grandmothers, who planned to give the bicycles to their children or grandchildren.

Others planned to use the bicycles to collect larger amounts of waste products to trade for more bicycles, which they then planned to sell. It was obvious that these hard-working women were concerned primarily with improving the lives of their families.

Bicycles are also an enormously effective way to address the needs of school children in South Africa.

Twelve million of the country’s 16 million school-going children walk to and from school, and 500 000 of these walk more than two hours to school and two hours back. With a Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycle, a child’s commute time is reduced by up to 75%.

By mobilising girls with bicycles, Qhubeka hopes to help them to improve their attendance, their grades and their prospects.

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