Happy International Women’s Day  – A quiet ride to celebrate.

I have just returned back from celebrating International Women’s Day 2017 (IWD). It is late now, just past midnight in fact, so technically it is the day after IWD. I’m late as I had spent the afternoon and evening going for a wonderful IWD ride. So before my IWD night officially ends, I thought I would put up a quick considerations to mark the occasion.

International Women’s Day Background

For those who don’t know, International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

International Women’s Day has a long history in the West dating back to 1909. In 1975, the United Nations General Assembly made the holiday globally recognized by inviting member states to declare March 8 a day for women’s rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Since then, the UN creates an annual theme for International Women’s Day. Today also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity and the theme for this year is Be Bold For Change.

This day is important for many reasons, but  with the World Economic Forum prediction that the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186, the struggles of many women in disadvantaged situations is more acute than ever.

Therefore, International Women’s Day (IWD) is an opportunity to raise positively contribute to

  • celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women because visibility and awareness help drive positive change for women
  • declare bold actions you’ll take as an individual or organization to help progress the gender agenda because purposeful action can accelerate gender parity across the world.

International Women's Day

Two Awesome Historical Stories of Heroic Cycling Women

I got a real kick out of reading Peter Zheutlin’s article about his amazing great great-aunt Annie Cohen Kopchovsky’s ride way back in 1895 and the legacy that this event has had since in helping women to break boundaries – inspirational!

Another historical piece by fellow bike Blogger Nicola from Women Who Cycle offered some insightful comments when considering the impact and connections between bicycles and specifically American women (based on a Wisconsin stimulus).


International Women's Day

Source: Bike Penticton

IWD 2017 – Who, what and how?

IWD is not all about women – it is equally important that our brothers and the gorgeous men in our lives are also recognised! In fact some of the most staunch feminists I know are men.

There are many places to find out what is on this IWD. Some people offer ideas such as hosting your own events, for others who might want time alone or to be with friends, there are numerous suggestions on ways you can celebrate and share the day.

International Women's Day

How are riders around the world celebrating International Women’s Day 2017?

For the cycling community, regardless of what gender you are  – IWD guarantees a plethora of events, celebrations, awards and all kinds of reasons to get together for a ride – for example:

  • There were celebrations and rides all over the world, although coverage of these reports varied in detail and depth for example Malaysia, India and  the UK.  There was also a massive march in New York City, which some friends of mine attended and said they saw a large cycling cohort represented – hooray!
  • More locally, the Bushrangers MTB Club celebrated more women registering in the club than ever before.
International Women's Day 2017

Source: Total Women’s Cycling


Quiet time to reflect and give thanks

Personally, I celebrated International Women’s Day 2017 in low-key style. This year I wanted to mark the day with simplicity, gratitude and in a way that acknowledged the ordinary and everyday.

Instead of going to a big event, I opted instead to take a solo ride along the coastline and have time to reflect. For me, this was a more honest and personal way to ruminate and commemorate on the processes of womens’ struggles.

As I rode, I thought about my life and the lives of others.

I thought about the current situation of fellow sisters throughout the world, the amazing progress the world has made and areas that still need improving. I thought about how I impact the world, and how I felt I was making a difference and where I though we needed more change.

I took time to stop and gave thanks.

I watched the bay and listened to the lapping of the waves. It was a stunning afternoon. The ocean breeze was cool and reassuring, the sunset spectacular and full of promise for the next day and I was very grateful to be alive and riding my bike.

What did you do to commemorate this day?

What ever it was – Happy International Women’s Day!

Today’s post focuses on the recent UN: Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report by the UN Transportation department. The report is officially entitled Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling: policies a & realities from around the world and was released September 2016. This 70-page report is focuses on investigating issues of active urban transportation in middle and low-income countries. It outlines current major road accident risks, and describes some effective interventions that are being employed to save lives and increase mobility for improved future livelihoods.


UN: Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report

It identifies a few key concerns that are no surprises

  • active transport is safer
  • better for the environment
  • uptake is restricted due to a lack of infrastructure and investment
  • unsafe roads are a major social issue
  • increasing impact and amount of road deaths
  • transport is a key issue as it generates nearly ¼ of all carbon dioxide emission and is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases

Handy Acronyms for dinner parties
NMT– (Non-motorized transport) – such as walking, cycling animal carts, skateboarding, cycle rickshaw, hand-carts
IMT (Intermediate Modes of Transportation) is a broad term for low-cost transport that essentially fills the mobility gaps needs between walking and having a car. So push bikes are included as are low engine-capacity motorbikes and tricycles often with adaptions such as side cars, trailers and other load bearing modifications.
SDG – UN Sustainable Development Goals

Data collection
Stakeholders from government and civil society in 20 countries were surveyed three times over a 3-month period (March – May 2016). Stakeholders were invited to suggest other research participants as well to expand the research pool.

I thought it was interesting that in the data collection, only ‘stakeholders’ were invited to participate. So this means only people from ‘a range of independent or university institutes, global agencies, non-government organisations, consultants, individual activists or government officials’ participated in this study. The rationale given was that they these people were ‘more likely to have insight into and knowledge of NMT policy status and access to data in their region, country or city’ (p 10).

Summary of key findings

  • 1.3 million people died in road accidents last year = one every 30 seconds.
  • Need for nations/cities to have some level of (national) NMT commitment
  • Increase in global awareness to the intersection of poverty and transportation about the UN SDGs.


Key NMT policy themes

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016


What are the current types of NMY commitment – Transport Policy, funding policies for facilities, National Policy, Infrastructure Acts, related-by-laws, Strategic Frameworks, etc.

Type of supporting policies that will support the overall NMT commitments: vehicle parking restrictions, public transportation and all kinds of policies such as traffic calming, enforcement, education, budgets, encouragement policies, end-of-trip and others.

Local MNT planning – putting people before transport, favouring NMT over motorised transport, network establishment, safe infrastructure, increase mode shares, regulations and enforcement, more equitable allocation of road space, encouraging greater NMT, options of financial assistance for increased NMT use.

The quality of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure– across the board, current bicycle infrastructure is “almost routinely to be of poor or haphazard quality, disconnected and insufficiently part of a network” with only a few exceptions in South Africa and Brazil (p 25).

Funding for NMT – Nairobi (Kenya) is the only place to “commit to ensuring 20% of its existing and future road construction budget is allocated to NMT and public transport infrastructure and services” (p 26).

Data quality and institutional capacity – data is a major substantive gap in NMT planning and for transportation planning


Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016


Other interesting discussion points were
-public transport transformation or improvement
-Focus on vulnerable groups in African NMT policies
-Impact and stats on road deaths

Quotables from the report

  • A key government official from one of Africa’s largest economies told us that ‘the use of cars … is based on a colonial legacy of associating motorised transportation with education, affluence and elevated status in society. Therefore, the attitude towards NMT tends towards negativity. Thus the use of bicycles, walking and wheeling are associated with the poor’ (p 35).
  • Nigerian transport officials have described to us how ‘acquiring a car is a goal for most citizens who believe riding a bicycle [or walking] is less safe, less convenient, and less attractive, making the forecast decline of NMT a self-fulling prophecy….’ (p 35).
  • When speaking about India – ‘The marginalisation [of NMT] is seen in the backdrop of an emerging automobile culture linked with rising incomes, post-liberalisation and skewed notions of modernity. The continued dominance of motorised modes seeks to claim a larger share of road space mirroring the social power structure’ (Joshi & Joseph 35).

Outcomes and recommendations
The report then concludes with a country NMT summary for each of the participating nations, that identifies:
1. National NMT commitments
2. Civic society and social enterprise
3. For some countries, there is a focus box with extra details on a pertinent issue, facts, project or factors – which are insightful and very pertinent.

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016


The UN: Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report goes to the heart of my PhD research, and I was very excited when I found it. To date, it has been frustrating for me as a researcher investigating the intersection of poverty, gender, culture and location – as there has been such recognition gap in the academic and grey literature about the impact of transportation on rural and impoverished countries. With publications like this report, access and use of bicycles are now (finally) gaining attention. Such a pity it took until this year for such a report to be published- but better now than never!

I like this report as it is clear, informative and easy to digest. It condenses critical content well and is also unique in having what I think, is quite a positive view for future transportation improvements.This report will go a long way in promoting and communicating the complexities, restrictions and issues involved in people being able/not to access transport, as this is such a critical development issue – there is no point building more health clinics and hospitals if people cannot physically get there to benefit from such services!

Well done UN Transport department on your thoughtful and informative report – it is wonderful to see bicycles (and walking) being placed firmly on the international development policy agenda.


Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

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

Much of the research I have been looking at so far has been on projects in stable communities. However, when emergency situations breakout, then personnel are deployed to wherever help is needed. One area of project work that is very interesting (and disturbing) to me, is: aid workers in high stress situations, such as internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.This is a case study which I was seriously considering as a focus for my research: to see how bicycles could be used in IDP camps to increase women’s safety and access to facilities.

But ironically, I knew that such a context as Darfur Aid would be too distressing for me to maintain researching, so it was a very deliberate and strategic move away to focus more on positive bicycle aid contexts. I remember thinking to myself  that I would burnout if all I heard were repeated stories of suffering……

But even so, although not directly related to my current research area, the scope, scale and variety of international aid and development work still fascinates me, so out of interest, I often find myself still looking into what work my fellow IAW brothers and sisters are undertaking around the world. Some of what I found recently indicates that there is increasing research regarding International Aid Worker (IAW) burnout and job stress.

I chose this particular article because it is a reminder of the massive range of projects, work and aid that is disseminated worldwide, most of which we never hear about in the West. I find it grounding to read outside my comfort zone (or research area), not just to keep up with current affairs, but also to remind myself that there is a whole army of people and organisations around the world doing incredibly noble, dangerous and immediate aid and development work. Most of it is in extraordinarily more difficult conditions than mine. It helps to keep my head in check and reframes my reality just that little bit clearly. It also keeps me honest and modest.

I have summarised a selection of the research undertaken by two UAE academics who were reporting on the psychological impact that IAW experienced whilst working during the Darfur war in Sudan.

Main findings:

  • 31.6 years was the mean age of the 53 IAW (Sudanese and International Aid Workers) researched (20-55 year old).
  • 50% of Aid Workers in Darfur could be classified as ‘non-psychotic psychiatric cases’.
  • The vast majority of Aid Workers in Darfur were local Sudanese who have a significantly higher rate of burnout and secondary traumatic stress compared to their International AW counterparts. Three main reasons for this were:
  1. They themselves are victims and are displaced
  2. They speak the local dialect so experience the full force of stories in detail
  3. They can relate more personally to the stories of the victims
  • Working in a stressful environment and exposure to prolonged extreme job stress means that many (qualified and experienced) aid workers stop doing their jobs – this has an immediate detrimental effect for victims.
  • There is a tendency of ‘maladjusted’ individuals who chose to be aid workers.
  • Due to exposure to trauma, IAW can indirectly or secondarily develop the same symptoms as the traumatised victims they are working with.
  • In females and hospital based emergency teams, burnout usually involves experiencing ‘a variety of psychological disturbances and distress that exceed the aid workers ability to cope and thus leads the person to total collapse’ (Louville et al, 1997:144 as cited in Musa & Hamid, 2008).
  • Burnout was positively related to general stress and secondary stress.
  • Burnout was negatively related to ‘compassion satisfaction’.


Compounding Factors:

-Direct contact with highly traumatised victims

-Hostile environment

-Aid victims tend to blame the IAW for supply shortages or service problems


There are 5 types of ‘burnout’ identified in IAW:

  1. Emotional (depression, anxiety, irritability)
  2. Interpersonal (self-distancing, withdrawal, ineffective communication)
  3. Physical (sleep disturbances, exhaustion, illnesses)
  4. Behavioural (alcohol abuse, aggression, cruelty)
  5. Work-related components (poor performance, tardiness, absenteeism)


Secondary trauma – 4 main aspects:

  1. Empathy with victims – increased vulnerability to internalising trauma and increasing trauma related pain
  2. Recovery time – listening to distressing stories repeatedly without sufficient time to process
  3. Reactivation – Having own past trauma experiences triggered by working with victims who are/have experience/d a similar situation to the IAW, especially in the case of the local Sudanese AW.
  4. Fragmented Contexts – current psychological approaches for IAWs are focused on individual services not team-orientated.  In a working situation like war, operations are never experienced individually; it is always with others, so there is a fragmentation between the experienced context with the follow up service (the team that works together is best debriefed and counselled together as well as individually – not just dealt with separately or in isolation to other team members).


General conclusions:

Certain conditions increase AW suffering.

Aid organisations need to create positive work climates to adequately include:

  • Adequate training
  • Cultural orientation
  • Psychological services

I hope the findings I have summarised here will stimulate your thinking about these critical ideas, and that you share and discuss what these findings mean in relation to your understanding of the world.



Musa, S. A., & Hamid, A. A. (2008). Psychological problems among aid workers operating in Darfur. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 36(3), 407-416.