You are here

Dissolving Gender Norms through the Boda Boda Safety Association of Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya---The Boda-Boda (motorcycle taxi) sector plays host to millions of young people in the country. While great strides have been made to improve the sector in terms of safety, viability and organization of players, it remains a male dominated sector with very few women having access or courage to venture into the industry.

 

With an extensive footprint of over 1.4 million riders across the country, Boda Boda operators can play a critical role in addressing socio-cultural and gender norms that propagate harmful practices such as gender based violence, child and forced marriages, as well as female genital mutilation. Women riders are in a unique position to provide support to women and girls who have been affected by these practices through their day to day interaction with clients, and knowledge of community terrains.  Additionally, the boda boda operators have provided support to women and girls seeking skilled care particularly during delivery irrespective of time of the day. Hence they are a formidable means of transport in many parts of the country where the road network is poor thereby saving the lives of women.

 

To promote meaningful participation of women in the sector, the Boda Boda Safety Association of Kenya (BAK) in collaboration with the State Department for Youth Affairs, the State Department for Gender, UNFPA and I Choose Life – Africa, partnered to launch the national women chapter of the boda boda association which aims to improve the welfare of boda boda women entrepreneurs. 

 

The BAK Women Chapter brings together women riders from all the 47 counties, with a goal of strengthening the organization of women in the sector, and amplifying their voices for greater empowerment and social change. The chapter will also foster access to affirmative action funds by women in the Boda-Boda sector which will enable them to grow their rider businesses. Most importantly, the women riders will be facilitated to boost their role as champions for the health and wellbeing of women and girls at the community level.

 

The launch of the women chapter was presided over by Prof. Margaret Kobia, Ph.D, MGH, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry Of Public Service And Gender, who congratulated women in the boda boda business for taking the bold step to transform their lives through the motorcycle business. “As a government we know that empowering women in leadership, decision making and in social economic spheres is the basis for building stable families, and stable families make a strong nation,” she noted. Prof Kobia added that BAK’s efforts in mapping female riders across the country’s 47 Counties is an important source of data which will inform engendered policies. She urged women riders to support the government in the fight against gender based violence, eradication of FGM, prevention of Covid-19, and in identifying opportunities available for the socio-economic empowerment of women.

 

UNFPA Representative Dr Ademola Olajide lauded the association for taking the initiative to promote the welfare of women riders in the country. “The under-representation of women riders in the Boda Boda sector mirrors the gender inequity that continues to challenge us as a society. The women riders here represent resilience and creativity through their ability to function in the male dominated sector, and as UNFPA, we will continue to support them,” he said.

 

The women riders shared the challenges they face in the business, including the stresses of dealing with menstrual hygiene when access to the sanitary towels is beyond reach, as well as the need to provide for and nurture the family while working in a fast paced profession.

 

Present at the launch carrying her six month old baby in her arms was Winnie Mukami, a young mother and boda boda rider from Embu county.  She has been a rider for six years, juggling the demanding business with the responsibility of caring for her family. But this has not deterred the hardworking mum who says that a career as a boda boda rider has enabled her to provide for her family over the years. “ As women riders, we have to balance our domestic responsibilities with the job, and it is not always easy. When I am away on maternity leave, my business takes a hit. We need financial support to grow and sustain our business and that’s why I am happy that the government and partners such as UNFPA, the Uwezo Fund, and the Women Enterprise Fund are now working to support women riders in growing our skills and accessing loans and financing,” she says.

 

UNFPA Kenya will work with the BAK women chapter in supporting women and girls across the country to access sexual and reproductive health services, advocating against teenage pregnancies, gender based violence and other harmful practices such as Female Genital Mutilation and child marriage at the community level, as well as in helping women riders access business financing opportunities that will take their boda boda businesses forward.