Diakonia - People change the world

Feels free as a bird on the bicycle

A two-wheeler with an iron structure, the so-called bicycle has given a girl the feeling of flying like a bird and to have the taste of freedom. This is thanks to a gender project in the northern part of Bangladesh.

Sheema Akhter is a sweet and warm girl, around sixteen years old, with three sisters and one brother.  Her father is a shopkeeper and her mother a housewife. Sheema is very expressive and confident, and when she is talking her eyes shine.

Used to see boys riding their bicycles

She says that when she was a little girl she used to see others, especially boys, ride on their bicycles. Sheema herself had to go on foot to primary school. The school was far from her home and the walk took her one and half hours. But seeing some of her friends going to school on a bicycle made her wish for the same. Her mother agreed instantly but her father refused, afraid of what people would say. Instead, he tried to solve the problem by letting her rent a rickshaw. But the arrangement turned out to be costly. So Sheema had to continue her walking to school again.

Would not let go of her dream

Sheema stuck to her dream. She trained herself how to ride by borrowing a bicycle from a worker at a nearby steel shop.  She fell several times and cut her legs, but when she was in fourth grade she finally learnt how to ride. In the meantime, staff from MKP came to her school and inspired her even further to make her dream come true. One of the female staff members was using a bicycle as her vehicle and Sheema thought: “Why can’t I?”

So she again urged her father to let her have a bicycle. In Bangladesh, buying a bicycle is not easy for the poor and lower middle-class people since the cost is a heavy burden. This agitated the father, along with the sense of what people would say. But Sheema’s school teacher and neighbours gave their support and told the father that girls were riding bicycles nowadays and that nothing would happen to his daughter.  

The neighbours were teasing her

At last her father gave in and bought a bicycle for Sheema. The achievement of her dream consoled her but the hardest part was to continue riding. The neighbours teased her: “Have you become a man?”
She remembers an old lady saying: “It’s not good for girls to ride a bicycle”.
This continued for two months, but Sheema didn’t listen to the bullies.  

Sheema sees so many benefits from having a bicycle: “I take my younger sister to school and will teach her to ride a bicycle. I buy from the shop whatever is needed for my family, and my cycle helps me to go everywhere. Sometimes in the school break, I can even go home and have my tiffin.”

Wants to become a police officer

Sheema is also a sporty girl and she takes part in the cultural activities of the school and is a member of the girl scouts. Her dream is to become a police officer.

 “Police officers are brave. They have strength and power. It attracts me and that’s why I want to be one”, she explains confidently. 

While expressing her feelings about riding her cycle she says, “Flying like a bird! I feel free and I can go wherever and whenever, just like a bird!