I can’t believe it has been six months since I started this blog.

During that time, I have found new projects, made some new friends, attended some great events and have certainly had my horizons expanded.

I’ve found great satisfaction in sourcing stories from all over the world and reading about the inventive ways people use bicycles to help themselves and others. All the while, I’ve been invigorated by the energy and diversity of how people use, adapt and integrate bicycles into their lives and impressed by the significant changes and deep meanings that come about from a life on two wheels.

Technicalities, timing and content

The technical challenges and achievements that I’ve had to work with have been really rewarding – and I have learnt a lot in the process. I’ve enjoyed testing myself and expanding competencies in relation to new skills and confidence using IT programs and processes that were previously completely alien – yet are now areas that I feel much more capable and purposeful using. It has shown me that ICT does not have to be so mysterious – and that Youtube tutorials are an invaluable enabling tool!

Looking back, my one of my steepest learning curves has been in how long the process takes (time) and the actual process of producing content for the blog (product)– and this is something that I am still getting to grips with. The parity and intense time allocation required for research, reading, thinking, writing, editing and blog publish/design should not be underestimated.

This has been most evident in the last 3 weeks as Semester 1 has returned back and juggling 4 teaching appointments, a Ph.D., Blog, and life in general, has been very edifying and I have really learnt what my limits are.

I have enjoyed challenging myself to produce texts on a regular basis. My favorite technique so far was a mini-challenge to write 500 words every day for a fortnight. However, it became quickly apparent that producing content and then editing and polishing work are two completely different things.

Insights so far -working to improve

Editing for grammar and expression is still an area that I need to focus on and hone. I know that it will take quite some time to find my own voice and to relax into a rhythm style and accuracy that feels natural – which was one of the reasons for starting this blog in the first place. Getting into a routine of writing is one thing, and now 6 months on, I feel that precision and thoroughness is equally needed – so there must be a balance to be struck. Even after writing a post and looking at it, I find a week later as I look at it again, grammatical errors that make me a little self-conscious. (If you see any, please sent me a comment with the location). So, I remind myself to be more vigilant about expression and accuracy, without being too harsh – after all I’m learning! One technique that I have employed very recently, that I should have used earlier is to use Grammarly software to run my text through before I post. I have done this for the past couple of posts – just as an editing checker and using it picked up a number of small edits that for whatever reasons I have not picked up myself.

Pleased that I have achieved:

  • a variety of locations around the world as I did not want to focus on any one particular region, continent or demographic group
  • include a wider variety of information sources – in addition to news, videos and projects (all of which could easily be the basis for content in an of itself), but that these sources are intermingled with community events, academic research, literature findings, and a handful of select PhD musing and ideas –which means that there is not one specific focus – which I think could be quite limiting, but that there is a clear theme that runs through the blog which means some variety can be included, without straying too far from core themes of this blog
  • Promote community engagement – that I have been faithful to my love of creating and putting on my own community events that I have instigated and developed, which I enjoy immensely – as well as being a feature that sets this blog apart from other cycling news/product based information blogs

 

Six months

When researching for this blog, I read about many inspiring and rewarding stories, projects and groups – but this one stopped me dead in my tracks.

I was incredibly moved this week to see that this month’s UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, USA saw the debut of the first ever black African female cyclist – Jeanne d’Arc Girubuntu from Team Rwanda.

Jeanne d’Arc has come onto the scene at a very opportune time and given that I am currently researching the devastating fact that being a female restricts all aspects of life in many countries – and that bicycles can often provide some means to ameliorate some of these issues – her participation at world class competitive cycling events is a game changer in also providing hope and opportunities for would-be cyclists from poor or war-torn countries.

That Jeanne d’Arc was the only black African woman on the podium this February, in Morocco at the African Continental Championships where she came second in the individual time trials speak volumes about a change very much needed in cycling – and that she has caused quite a welcomed stir in the media.

It is still quite a novelty to see Japanese riders in the Tour de France, so the impact and precedence that Jeanne d’Arc’s success could make cannot be underestimated.  Female cyclists worldwide have struggled to gain the attention, sponsorship, support and coverage that their male cycling counterparts have – compounded by dire socio-economic conditions and a lack of role models or any cultural history in the sport – what an amazing feat of self-belief to overcome such significant barriers!

Her success and presence opens up the cycling industry by providing a positive female role model for not just African women, but for all athletes who is under or not represented at world sporting events.

From the ashes

Hutu and Tutsi fighting first broke out in October 1990 and the conflict escalated to full-blown war crimes across Rwanda and drew in neighboring countries, like Tanzania, Zaire, Uganda and Burundi. Despite a UN intervention in 1993 being operationalized in Rwanda, a breakdown in peace talks in April 1994 (where the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were killed) set off a tidal wave of attacks, crimes and ethnic killings. 1994 -1997 saw some of the Rwanda’s worst and most unspeakable violence, war rape and genocide to occur during African’s First War. This crippled the country, and in 1994, half of Rwanda’s 7.5 million people were forced to leave their homes and yet the protracted and ferocious fighting continued. Finally in 1999, the official fighting was brought under control, yet this left 40% of Rwanda either dead or fled – and those left behind severely traumatised. The country has been struggling to repair ever since.

Jeanne d’Arc Girubuntu was born in 1995, so she only 21, which means she was born and grew up in this situation – which in itself is a remarkable thought. The fact that she is also a very gifted cyclist AND has found a way to train to an elite level AND found support so that she has reached the position she is in now is nothing less than astonishing.

On so many levels, her story is one of inspiration, courage, dedication and commitment – and also one of hope and change.

I am in awe of Jeanne d’Arc, her supporters and team – and have no doubt that her influence and presence will ignite inspiration and admiration both on and off the bike.

I am excited to see what developments and changes will happen – best of luck Jeanne d’Arc!!

Image: Dean-Warren Source: Cycling Tips.com

Image: Dean-Warren Source: Cycling Tips.com

Billionaire entrepreneur Manoj Bhargava has a philanthropist side project, Billions in Change, which could well be set to change the lives of half the world’s population. Aside from giving 90% of his money to the Giving Pledge charity, he is also very heavily involved and passionate developing approaches to address issues of poverty and energy resource equity through Free Electric.

The focus of Billions in Change is “to build a better future by creating and implementing solutions to serious problems facing the world in the areas of water, energy and health.” This project has produced a series of quite remarkable innovations that aim to address these issues and increase the quality of life for the world’s poorest people.

Free Electric Bike

Billions of Change looks at three major global problems: Health, Water and Energy. To address the issue of energy – the project’s website outlines their solution as “The Free Electric machine gives people the power to generate electricity themselves – pollution free. The machine is small, light and simple. Here’s how it works: A person pedals a hybrid bicycle. The bicycle wheel drives a flywheel, which turns a generator, which charges a battery. Pedaling for one hour yields electricity for 24 hours with no utility bill, and no exhaust, no waste.”

Manoj’s company makes some impressive claims:

  • They will be able to produce these bikes in India for under $200 per unit – making it much more affordable for local councils, communities, schools and NGOs in developing countries – especially if resources and finances are pooled and shared.
  • 25 bikes have already been installed at no charge to a sample of energy-poor households, schools, and small businesses in Indian villages close to Lucknow, Amethi and Raebareli to assess functionality.
  • Manoj has collaborated “with a local distributor and non-profit group to help with assembly and to train others on how to assemble and troubleshoot the bike. We’re also conducting pre/post surveys with recipients to learn their perspectives on the benefits of the bike, as well as to get their feedback about how we can improve it” .
  • Later this year, there is a pilot plan to implement 10,000 of these bikes in India.

It is quite exciting to think that such a contraption has the potential to literally revolutionize the lives of so many people – the fact that it is not a conception or theoretical model, but has actually been manufactured – is a massive step towards production for greater practical utility and for streamlining the design for cheaper and easier implementation.

This is yet another innovation similar to the bicycle-washing machine from a previous post, which seems to show that India and bicycle innovations have a very strong affinity for each other to create positive change.

Full Documentary

There is a post on Treehugger which gives some more details about this project – and it was there that I also saw that  there is a full Billions of Change documentary (45 min) which outlines Free Electric, and also details some other inventive approaches that his Lab called Stage 2 Innovations has also created, such as the Rain Maker seawater car, and the geothermal Limitless Energy resource among other designs.

It has been a very busy start to the semester, finishing the Summer program, new teaching roles and semester 1 going back to Uni…. my timetable has only just started to settle down into a more manageable schedule. In between teaching my classes and keeping up with general class administration and preparation, I have been ticking over some ideas to get started on my own Lit Review. OS I have been reading widely and trying to see what the common themes, main ideas and major trends are within my field. My past Lit Review Intersection earlier this month had the basic idea of a Venn diagram identifying the three main areas of Gender, Education and Developing Countries as the Holy Trinity needed to set me out on my general info gathering to start with. So for the last 2-3 weeks, although very busy, I have really enjoyed reading widely and seeing what is out there.

 

Updated Intersection and some other details

As with any good researching, my parameters have changed as I make room to accomodate some new ideas and details I did not have a couple of weeks ago. So far (and this is bound to change again) the Venn diagram has a new additional element of ‘location/geography’ included (to locate the other factors more specifically) which I feel gives it a better compliment for the other factors. I find that trying to visually represent my data helps to clarify what exactly are my main ideas and the like – so I had a go at creating my own infographic to bring it all together (see below). The process of putting this infographic together meant I had to refine and collate sources into basic summaries of main ideas – which was very helpful in an of itself – and already I have had some new insights that I want to change as a result – which is the whole purpose of producing it! Hooray Progress!

 

Too many details!!

In reading these last few weeks, I have been trying to get an overall sense of the main push and pull factors in my research area – and I can feel the attraction of falling down the rabbit hole in a few of these articles – super interesting reads, but I am really trying to be mindful to stay on track and not get sucked into really interesting , but slightly off-topic content (my, it happens sooooo easily!!). So, I have clear purpose and am looking at ways to tracks and document my explorations – and I will (literally) keep you posted on that front later on. Until then – here is a general overview of the main ideas thus far – minus all the details!

Nina's Lit Reivew Infographic

Nina’s Lit Reivew Infographic

It is common knowledge that cycling reduces dependancy on energy consuming products – most notably oil based fuels and petrol used in cars, trucks and other motorised transportation. However within our homes, daily consumable items and white goods use vast amounts of electricity and gas reserves – with little thought going to the cumulative impact that making breakfast, for instance, has on a global scale.  Times each breakfast by the number of people in your household, in your street, in your neighbourhood.. (you get the idea…)…

When looking to analyse the energy consumption needed to produce a standard Western breakfast, each item in turn needs to be considered – and primary to most breakfasts is the humble slice of toast.

So how can bicycles be linked to our breakfasts to teach us a lesson in energy conservation?

How do you like your toast done?

If you are interested to see how much energy it takes to power a toaster so that a slice of bread can be toasted – then look no further. German Olympic track champion (and yes, those thighs ARE REAL) Robert Förstemann teamed up with Stockholm University to produce this video as an reminder and expose to demonstrate just how much energy is required to produce a slice of toast.  It is definitely an effective way to stimulate discussion about breakfast, the merits of cycling and reducing carbon footprints.

The video below is under 3 mins and well worth a watch right to the end to hear what Robert says under his breath as a final private comment about the whole task – pretty much sums it up nicely!

Sunday was the revealing of the Bicycles Create Change Summer Program Art Bike Project – and what a success it was!

It was a relaxed, colourful and highly informative session and not even the small amount of rain that came could dampen our enthusiasm. I picked the team up early and everyone was in good spirits as we headed to the Community Gardens. Then the heavens opened and a few worried looks were exchanged. Nevertheless, as always, the sun shone through intermittently and then we had a burst of beautiful blue sky, right on cue as we had our bikes in hand and were rolling out to go and set up. As we walked our ART BIKES down to Bethania Street Community Gardens, we received a few locals honking and shouting out well wishes for our presentation. We arrived in plenty of time to set up and get ready.

The proceedings

We had nine attend, which was perfect (I was aiming for between 5 and 15 for the audience) so there were enough seats. It also meant that when it rained a little at the start, there was enough room for the audience, presenters and all the bikes to fit comfortably under the pavilion. Quickly after that, the weather turned it on and we had gorgeous sunshine for the rest of our time there. After a quick welcome, the order of proceedings and topics for the Art Bikes were:

Sachie – Gender Equality

Juliet – Women’s Emancipation and changing roles

Gabriel – The importance of bicycles in Cameroon Culture

Mauricio – Corruption

Nina – Child Labour

The presenters introduced themselves, their topic/issue and their bike, then discussed how their bike was symbolic of the issue they had chosen. At the end of each bike, the audience asked questions and gave feedback – which was fantastic as there were some very interesting insights and ideas raised.

We then had a brief close and thank you. It was great to see people milling around and making the effort to go and speak to each art bike artist to discuss their own reaction, interpretations and feelings about some of the issues raised during the presentations. It was very relaxed and friendly, with lots of jovial chatting. Conversations that were more profound emerged later on. Thank you very much to the locals and friends who came on the day to participate – your good company and input were very much appreciated.

Garden Butterflies

It was also heart-warming to see people drifting off into the garden to look at what was in bloom and finding something to munch on. I was especially pleased to see how excited Gabriel was to spot cassava growing there – he was delighted to see such a familiar staple food from Africa there, what made it even more awesome was that he had not idea it grew here – GOLD!

Congrats to all!

I was very impressed by the thought, effort and research that each team member had put into their bikes. The symbolism, motifs, creativity and explanations that were demonstrated showed a depth of critical thinking and careful judgement that surpassed expectations and made for a very enjoyable and stimulating morning. The presentations themselves were witty, engaging and well structured. I was incredibly proud of our team and was thrilled to be part of such a meaningful, worthwhile and illuminating event. We plan to have each artist share their bike creation and development process in a guest post on this blog.

Congratulations to the wonderful team members who have worked so hard for so long – I am so proud of you!

Bicycles Create Change – Art Bike Presentation

You are invited to an ART BIKE PRESENTATION on Sunday 13th March at 10.30am at the Bethania Community Gardens, Lota, Brisbane.

Background:

The Bicycles Create Change Summer Program has for the last 8 weeks, been working with 4 international students (from Japan, Cameroon, India & Columbia) on a collaborative learning internship to develop their academic, vocational and personal skills – which has community engagement as a central focus.

Local contributions to Art Bikes:

The program involves the participants undertaking an array of weekly tasks and self-directed activities. Each team member selected a social issue and creatively represented that issue in the form of an Art Bike. Some of the social issues the participants have chosen include women’s emancipation and corruption. One example of an Art Bike (that will be included on the day as well) can be seen here to get an idea of what will be presented – the social issue is Wasteful Consumerism: http://www.bicyclescreatechange.com/?s=art+bike&submit=Search

Local Community Involvement

We canvassed the local Lota community last month for donations for bikes to use for this project and the response was overwhelming.  We received more than enough and the reactions were super positive and engaging – so we wanted to let the wider community know what the final Art Bike results are.

Final Program Community Presentation:

We are having our final presentation where we will display and discuss our art bikes on Sunday 13th March at 10.30am at the Bethania Community Gardens, Lota, Brisbane. We would love for you to come and join us for an hour with refreshments included.

BCC Art Bike Presentation

 

 

 

There have been many culture shocks for me moving from Melbourne to Brisbane – but none more so than daily being confronted by the restrictive, narrow-minded, risk-adverse and controlling authority that Queensland has over its residents. In every other major city around the world, today is the World Naked Bike Ride Day 2016 – which is a peaceful political demonstration to protest against the burning of fossil fuels and climate change, as well as promoting naturism, biketivism and environmentalism.

 

Only In Brisbane

I laughed myself into a stitch, when I enquired about the event last week for the Brisbane chapter  and I read that in Queensland ONLY women can ride completely nude, but for reasons of ‘indecency’, men had to wear a G-string – WTF!!!  No other city I know of, has this rule – and I mean nowhere around the WORLD that I can find! Having said that, if I was a man who wanted to participate in the Brisbane ride – personally, I would wear the G-string on my head, around my wrist or my ankle. Talk about ridiculous laws!!

World Naked Bike Ride Day

World Naked Bike Ride Day 2016

Authority control = no Brisbane WNBR

Not only that, but the route that the WNBR Brisbane was to take was deemed to have too much ‘exposure’ to the general public by taking in parts of the M1 – so the police knocked back the proposal. This sparked a series of run arounds for the organisers by police, local officials and council  – so much so, that they bound up the permit so tightly and effectively that the event in Brisbane had to be cancelled. What a crock!

So, for those who wanted to go, the closest event for Brisbane supporters was Byron Bay – 2 hours away! Brisbane is notorious for having a pitiful turnout for this event because the participants get such a hard time when it does go ahead. So this year it was a definitive and flat out red-ribbon stitch-up for good. Problem sorted.

Queensland is old-fashioned, risk-adverse and draconian – quietly, but effectively pairing back on civil liberties one small step at a time, not enough that people get concerned, but just enough to ever so convincingly restrict locals’ choices in lifestyle, activities and access. Whether you agree or not with the World Naked Bike Ride, in Australia, we apparently have ‘the right’ to hold and/or participate in the event. I think if people want to cycle nude to highlight what they feel is an important social issue, all the more power to them – but the way Queensland authorities handled this event – flat out sucked!

What a good job of cutting Brisbane out of one of the most fun, colourful and popular international peaceful bike protests.

Well, here is kudos to every other cosmopolitan, contemporary, inclusive,  progressive and intelligent city in the world who enjoyed a gorgeous day of free speech, community participation and environmental awareness. I hope you had a massive blast, got your message out there and bless you brave souls and awesome supporters who attended!!

It is days like this that I sorely miss living in Melbourne.

I was genuinely sorry today, to have missed out on one of my favourite lively, refreshing and enthusiastic annual biking events.

If Cape Town in South Africa (see video below) can still manage do it in the midst of all their economic, political and social issues – then shame on you Brisbane – you are miles behind the times!!!

Happy International Women’s Day! There is much going on internationally to celebrate this day. I was very impressed with the diverse and comprehensive coverage that the ABC had on offer for the whole week, in fact, to draw attention to all manner of issues relating to gender, women and equality.

Filipino and Timorese experiences

Given my specific interest in gender education, this day provides a great platform to access and interact with the political and social milieu surrounding women’s issues. It is troubling that so much of the discourse surrounding gender issues is interrelated with other sociocultural problems such as poverty and violence. I caught an interesting item from RN Breakfast, where a former Filipino politician Liza Maza was being interviewed about the state of women in her country, which has seen an increase by 200% of violence against women and children in the last 5 years.

In many places around the world, many of these issues are systemic, ingrained and normalised. When I was working in Timor-Leste, I remember hearing a Development Facilitator tell his story of introducing and running a Gender Mainstreaming Program there. It was very well received and involved a lot of topics related to gender sensitivity. The workshop had great attendance and interest by community leaders and locals – both men and women. At the end of this intensive course, during the debriefing session when they were reflecting about the most significant changes and outcomes, one male participant said that it had all been very interesting, but that the biggest change for him was that he had to ‘beat his wife more now than before’ because the workshop had given her ‘ideas’.

These Filipino and Timorese realities are so far outside my own daily experience, yet it is paramount to be mindful that such situations occur daily for other women – and to do what little we can in our own way to effect positive change for all. I heard a call to action during Liza Mazza’s interview for people to do one thing each day that moves us towards some kind of positive change.

Salute the strong men!

My one activity to bring about change in light of insurmountable and devastating statistics about gender-based violence elsewhere in the world is to recognize and move towards the positive – and to thank the beautiful, brave and progressive men around the world who support and champion women’s issues, in little and big ways. On days such as this one, when the focus is squarely on women, I’d like to give my sincere gratitude to the amazing men around the world – many of whose names we will never know, but who, in their own small ways have done some action to support the women in their lives and communities.

To these strong and honorable men – I salute and thank you!

international-womens-day

Source: Dining for Women

The Art Bike that I have been working on for Sunday’s presentation is about Child Labour. I’ve been looking into the global statistics and issues involved with child labour and it is not surprising that poverty and circumstance play a massive role.

Child labour is a very difficult phenomena to quantify and collect accurate data on – and often results from different sources can be quite different.

The basis for my Art Bike is that 780 million children worldwide are engaged in some form of illicit labour work. Child labor, as defined by the International Labor Organization, is “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.”

The current situation

How is this linked to our experience? Matt Berg of the Borgen Project outlines that:

  •  Australia annually imports $16 million worth of tobacco produced by child labor, including tobacco produced in the U.S. Tobacco cultivation is extremely labor intensive and children are often subjected to serious health risks including nicotine poisoning.
  • Most cigarette smokers in Australia are unaware of the origins of the tobacco they consume.
  • According to the ILO, 168 million children worldwide are engaged in child labor as of 2013.Of these 168 million children, 85 million are engaged in what the ILO deems “hazardous work.”
  •  According to a study conducted by the ILO in 2004, the benefits of eradicating child labor would “outweigh costs by nearly six to one.”The sub-Saharan African region has the second highest number of child laborers in the world; about 59 million in 2012.
  • According to the Pew Research Center, children aged five to 17, or 21.4 percent, are involved in child labor while 10.4 percent are engaged in hazardous work.
  •  Agriculture accounts for 60 percent of child labor according to the ILO.Only one out of five children involved in child labor is paid for his or her work.The majority of children in child labor perform unpaid family work.
  •  About 60 percent of children in Ethiopia are engaged in some form of child labor. Many of these children work in the mining industry; an industry that poses some of the biggest dangers for child labourers.

The ECLT Foundation

The problem is often culturally systemic and driven by lack of access and opportunities to alternatives. However, there are a number of organisations that are working hard to address these issues – and most interestingly for me, is an outfit in Tanzania called the ECLT Foundation (Eliminating Child Labour in the Tobacco Industry Foundation.

Tanzania is interesting, because, although it is not in the current top 10 countries for child labour, its data on child labour is staggering. Agriculture is one of its primary and major industries, so one in every three Tanzanian children work to contribute to their family’s household income – and this is even more alarming as most child labourers live in rural or remote areas where most are engaged in hazardous conditions.

Child labour in the Tanzanian tobacco industry.

According to ECLT:

  • 84% of the parents of children working on the tobacco farms come from poor and very poor socio-economic backgrounds.
  • According to the 2006 Tanzania Labour Force Survey, 20.7% of children are engaged in child labour in Tanzania.
  • Tanzania’s main tobacco-producing areas tend to have low primary school enrolment.            
  • Most child labourers in Tanzania are unpaid family workers and work in addition to attending school.

To address such critical issues and to protect vulnerable children, the ECLT partnered with Winrock International and the International Labor Organisation to sponsor a conference convened by the Tanzania government—resulting in a commitment to action to end child labour in agriculture.

Using bikes to monitor and report on child labour.

Most interestingly (as I have highlighted in the quote), the ECLT ‘formed and supported Village Child Labour Committees on issues of child labour, identification, and monitoring. Because it is common for families to live six hours by foot from the nearest village, we also provided bicycles to committee members so that they could reach as many children as possible’ (ECLT.org). Yet again another incredibly worthwhile and productive use of bicycles to crest significant positive change for not just individual children, but families and communities alike. Bravo!!

 

Source: ECLT.org