2 minutes reading time (458 words)

Kadiatu: Local Trailblazer

Kadiatu is a teacher at the Maria Inez Vocational School in Lunsar, Sierra Leone. She started working with Village Bicycle Project (VBP) several years ago and is one of the few female mechanics in the country.

Kadiatu is part of VBP's Learn to Ride program that started in Sierra Leone in 2009. Kadiatu trained to be a mechanic and she now keeps the bikes around the school in good working condition. She is also an inspiration to the girls at the school.

Kadiatu manages VBP's Bicycle Library program within Maria Inez School. This library was established to ensure that girls had bikes to get to and from school. For students who cannot afford to buy a bicycle this lending system allows them to borrow a bike to get to school. They are able to check out a bike much like a library book.

VBP initially formed in Ghana and when they tried to give bikes to girls they were faced with a problem. The boys kept stealing them. For years they continued to give bikes to boys while training girls to ride. The hope was that the girls could borrow their brothers' bikes.

When they expanded the project to Sierra Leone they added the Learn to Ride component which was specifically focused on getting girls on bikes. The Bike Library was added to ensure girls had access to bikes. Now girls had the opportunity to commute alongside their brothers, stay in school, and earn their degrees. They are becoming more confident as they ride and they are learning about mechanics and how to keep a bicycle clean and operational.

After five years, the program was so successful they took it Ghana and now run a Learn to Ride program there as well.

Annie is a student in Makeni, about an hour east of Lunsar (by car). Makeni is the main town near Makomp Bana, the village where Annie actually lives. The distance between her village and school makes her commute long and has negatively impacted many of her friends.

When VBP came to the community, many farmers signed up for the introductory class that goes over basic bike maintenance and includes a bicycle for every participant. The, mostly male, farmers planned to use the bikes to tend to their crops, carry more produce to market, and travel to the town center more quickly.

Annie wanted a bike to get to school. Many of her classmates had to find temporary homes in town so that they could get to school on time. Annie wanted to stay home to help her family but she also wanted to go to school. With her bike, Annie was able to live at home with her family and go to school rested and on time.

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