In August 2016, Africa Rising announced their plan to form the first ever all African women’s professional cycling team. They had a big vision and an unrelenting passion to bring African women’s cycling to the international stage. As the year drew to a close, they realized they would not be able to secure adequate funding for the team. They looked at various avenues to possibly run a scaled down version, however, they also realized something more important while going through the process.
While trying to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for just a few women they asked themselves, were they potentially sacrificing the many for the few?
Over the past month, the answer has become evident. Africa is a vast continent, 54 countries, hundreds of languages, tribes, cultures, but with one common thread; give women an outlet whether it be education or sport or business and change the future not just for her, but her family, her village, her community.
Africa Rising realized that they could be of more value to more women by taking a step back to build the women’s cycling infrastructure, not just in Rwanda, Eritrea and Ethiopia, but throughout the continent.
Africa Rising Women’s (ARW) Cycling Program was born. ARW is a global initiative to promote women’s cycling in Africa, giving African women access to bikes for recreation, business or to someday join the professional racing ranks. They believe if we open the doors to the world of cycling at the youngest ranks, eventually they will have not just the first women’s African professional cycling team but dozens of professional teams.
Their vision states:
- Identifying stakeholders in each country who have a passion for the sport and are committed to helping women access the sport of cycling and empowering them with the tools they need to grow the sport
- Creating role models in each African country. ARW would profile these advocates and tell their stories and the stories of the women in their respective countries via our social media channels. We hope through telling these stories women will be inspired and empowered to do more in the sport, to ride more, to become advocates for other women.
- Attracting and directing effective charitable contributions and sponsorship opportunities to the various programs throughout the continent. Our goal is to be the liaison between sponsors and programs who might not have the opportunity to access the sponsorship funding or equipment
- Working with National Federations to build programs to give girls in school access to bikes
- Petitioning National Federations to add women on their executive committees. Currently, we know of no women holding any seat in any National Federation. Women’s cycling will never be a priority without the support of women at the highest levels of government or UCI navigating the policies for women
- Securing 2-3 positions for women leaders on the Confederation of African Cycling (CAC) Board in 2017
- Working with partners such as Qhubeka to bring bicycles to girls currently in Primary and Secondary school
- Working with the UCI to develop more women commissaires, coaches and mechanics. It is also important to see more women in management and leadership roles at the UCI
Kimberly Coats, Founder of Africa Rising Women, explains, “Long term, in order to help all women interested in the sport, we need to grow the grassroots support. We need to organize and help place women in leadership roles within local clubs or federations. We need women in the Confederation of African Cycling and more women in the UCI in leadership and policy making. And ultimately, we need young girls to know the freedom they can experience on a bike and the older women to be their mentors and voices. Together we can raise African women’s cycling.”
To learn more about Africa Rising Women’s Cycling visit their website:https://teamafricarising.org/womens-programme/