"There was a feeling of solidarity at the rally"
Samarthy Rani Roy had to face bad comments from boys when she started to go to school on a bicycle. But with more and more girls cycling the overall environment has changed for the better.
“I remember when I attended my first bicycle rally for women on the 8th of March. It was a great experience to be a member of the rally. I had an immense feeling of solidarity with the other girls and it broadened my view to see that we are so many”, Samarthy explains.
Samarthy Rani Roy is a lively 14-year old girl. When she’s talking about her bicycle, the eyes are widening from excitement. She says that she learnt to ride the bicycle already when she was eight, but at the time she was only pedalling around the house.
Wants to use a bicycle even after her wedding
“It was my mother who taught me. I think it’s a great privilege that my mother can ride a bicycle. But now she is married and doesn’t go out on the bicycle any longer. I want to use a bicycle even after my wedding, it gives me so many benefits”, she says and starts to count on her fingers; “It saves me time when I go to school, it saves money as there is no cost for the cycling and after school I can go for private tuition. But most important of all - I feel independent as I can go wherever I want and whenever I need. Sometimes I visit a friend’s house in the weekends, or even go to the market.”
Unusual to see women on a bicycle
According to gender stereotypes in Bangladesh, girls and women are not supposed to go on a bicycle and in large parts of the country it’s unusual to see women pedalling on the streets.
But when Samarthy started high school she saw girls coming to school on their bicycles and she told her parents that she wanted to do the same. Her mother agreed instantly, but her father was reluctant.
“In the meantime, a staff member of MKP came to class to talk about gender equality and to announce that there would be a bicycle rally on 8th of March to observe the International Women’s Day. That was the turning point for me, since I was determined to join in that rally.”
MKP supported her to participate in the rally
MKP supported Samarthy and motivated her to participate in the bicycle rally. From MKP she also received orientation on issues like gender equality, primary health care and women’s and girls’ mobility.
“MKP talked about the bad effects of child marriage and dowry and most important of all - they told us that girls’ rights are equal to boys’”, Samarthy says.
Samarthy loves the feeling of giving her younger brother a lift and she has already taught five older girls how to ride a bicycle.
“And when I get older and go to college, I want to go on a motorcycle, that will give me even more freedom”, says Samarthy.
Story told to Mazharul Islam, programme officer in Bangladesh.