I love it when readers suggest and recommend people and projects for this blog.  RG sent me an email suggesting I check out The Lightning Furies – which I did. I checked them out online and then contacted them. Anna replied and we ended up meeting for a coffee. Here is what transpired. Enjoy! Nina.


 

The Lightning Furies

The Lightning Furies is one of a number of projects created under the SNAPCAT umbrella by Perth duo – artists Renae Coles and Anna Dunnill. As Snapcat themselves describe, their work is “ambitious, cheeky and political and involves painting, sculpture, video and participatory performance.”

Snapcat has produced a number of interesting, topical and provocative works – and none more so than The Lightning Furies. This project came out of their researching into women and sport and then was further developed in response to other input (like community consultations) into the feminist bike gang The Lightning Furies.

In their own words, The Lightning Furies are “a bike gang of tough women and non-binary people, dedicated to a feminist mission of utopic bad-assery. Wearing denim vests, bikes adorned with pennants, the Furies ride en masse through urban streets, wind through laneways and hold up traffic. Aesthetically, the Lightning Furies fall somewhere in between an outlaw bikie gang, Girl Guides, and the Vuvelini (Mad Max: Fury Road). We have a Manifesto and an Oath. We have gang colours and patches. We are fierce and inventive and ready to smash the patriarchy with boots and glitter.”

Meeting The Lightning Furies

Following a reader recommendation, I contacted the The Lightning Furies and this weekend met up with one of the co-creators, Anna.

Over a coffee, it was very inspiring to hear the background, development, reasoning and evolution of how The Lightning Furies came to be – and what they do.

I was intrigued by this project for a variety of reasons. It has significant impacts as an arts project and for personal and community development, as well as creating a space for much needed further discussions about important concepts such as gender, access to public spaces, the Australian cycling culture/s, normative behaviours, social governance and civic participation.

Their website gives a broad overview of the monthly rides and few cool snapshots of what happens on the rides, but correspondingly, these rides as a rich platform to cast a light onto the underlying ideologies, practices and outcomes that this project is addressing.

During our conversation we spoke about many ideas. We covered bikie groups, girl gangs, females feeling safe to ride bikes on the road, public perception of women riders, feminism, being part of inclusive group, how to get more women riding bikes, The Lightning Furies being invited to perform at events, the role of patches and branding, sport and female participation, and how women do (or do not) ‘take up or use’ public space. It was a great conversation!

Sharing stories and riding bicycles for personal confidence

Particularly interesting for me to hear, were the other critical ’empowerment’ aspects that were built into the project – such as the ‘crafternoon’ sessions that happen before the rides. In these session, participants make their own customised patches, bike pennants and other decorations to adorn their outfits and bikes which encourage individualism, expression of self and celebrating vibrancy through colour and art.

Not only is it valuable to be physically creative and to have a space to express yourself, but also a safe place to share stories.

It was inspiring to hear how important the ‘making’ sessions are for participants to come together and have time to not just work on this projects – but also to connect as a group of women. Anna told a few stories that while making decorations, participants would open up and discuss their riding experience, their fears, new insights and later on, how much stronger and more confident they now felt after being on a Lightning Furies ride – and how they had been able to hold on the excitement and strength they had felt during the ride, and translate it into other areas of their lives to great effect. So great to hear.

I thoroughly enjoyed my meeting with Anna and came away feeling inspired and excited about the innovative and creative ways that people come up with to get more people on bikes and The Lightning Furies is just one example of this.

 

The Lightning Furies

Source: The Lightning Furies Website

The Lightning Furies

Source: The Lightning Furies Website

 

Future Furies Action

I will be staying in touch with Anna and have invited the The Lightning Furies to guest blog post – I am very keen to see what the future holds for this group.

Whether The Lightning Furies is your style or not, they are a wonderful example of a local grassroots collaboration driven by genuine passion, creativity and a strong commitment to positive social change.

The Lightning Furies is just one example of how two women have come together to address an issue that important to them  – it presents the rest of us with a delicious challenge – what issue is important enough for us to get up off our butt and get some action and how would we go about doing it?

Theis story of Fancy Women On Bikes was sent through to me by a very dear friend MK, with whom I share a passion for positive action. MK sent this post after seeing it in the A Mighty Girl Facebook page and knew it that the floral, bicycle and social justice combination is right up my alley.  It is such a comprehensive post that I contacted A Mighty Girl and gained their permission to repost it here as a Guest Post in its entirety. Thanks to MK and A Mighty Girl for sharing such an important and colourful story with us all – NG.


 

Guest post by A Might Girl (3rd November 2016 ay 10.22). A Might Girl is a forum that provides a fantastic array of resources, stories and material to support families and communities to raise more intelligent, confident, and courageous girls.

 

Thousands of women — wearing flowers in their hair and riding elaborately decorated bicycles — took to the streets of cities across Turkey to proclaim women’s right to cycle free from harassment or bullying. The women, who call themselves “Fancy Women On Bikes” or Süslü Kadinlar Bisiklet Turu, were riding to raise awareness of the intimidation and harassment that many women are subjected to while cycling. Sema Gur, the founder of the movement, says learning to ride a bike at the age of 38 changed her life: “I can go to places that I wouldn’t walk or drive to,” she asserts. “I can stop, slow down, smell the things around me, talk to people, and be more mindful and healthy too… It’s a freedom like no other.” After Gur connected with other female cyclists who had grown frustrated by the status quo, the “Fancy Women on Bikes” movement was born to unite women in reclaiming their right to public spaces with the simple yet powerful message: “We should go wherever we want, dress however we like, be visible, yet not be disturbed.”

According to Banu Gokariksel, a feminist scholar of geography at the University of North Carolina, the changing political climate in Turkey has made the need for social movements like “Fancy Women on Bikes” even more important. “The rising social conservatism in Turkey in the recent years deteriorated women’s public status and freedom. With harassment and road bullying, women are denied their rights to the city,” explains Gokariksel. Gur, like many other female cyclists, frequently experiences catcalls, threats, and road rage, even in her liberal hometown of Izmir — and in more conservative areas, some women were being intimidated into stopping cycling altogether.

“Women’s visibility in urban spaces is key to reclaim that right to the city,” says Gokariksel. “Cycling is a particularly powerful way to do that – because it exposes a woman’s body in the traffic. It leaves them vulnerable in a way, but changes the way they interact with the city. Regardless of their backgrounds, transportation is a big issue for all women around the world. Women being able to peacefully ride bikes isn’t a trivial thing. This movement can trigger bigger changes, if it can overcome the differences such as class, religion, ideology and ethnicity.”

With “Fancy Women on Bikes” rides recently taking place in 26 provinces throughout the country, the group knows it’s making an impact both in encouraging individual women to feel more comfortable about riding on their own and in sending the message that women will not allow themselves to be intimidated off the roads. Gur knows that not all of the women who participated this time will become regular riders, but she believes that their movement will lead to lasting change. “You cannot bring patriarchy down overnight by simply cycling, of course,” she says. “But it’s a start and it’s what we can do. [When we were on the bikes] thousands of people saw us. Now perhaps they will be less surprised when they see a woman riding a bicycle and treat us better.”

To read more about Fancy Women On Bikes movement on The New York Times, visit http://nyti.ms/2e09ElZ – or check out their Facebook page at Süslü Kadınlar Bisiklet Turu

For a fascinating book about how bicycles became a tool of women’s liberation in the early women’s right movement in America, we highly recommend “Wheels of Change: How Women Rode The Bicycle To Freedom (With A Few Flat Tires Along The Way)” for ages 10 to 14 at http://www.amightygirl.com/wheels-of-change

For an excellent film about a young Saudi girl who dreams of greater freedom — in the form of having a bicycle of her own in a country where women are banned from freely riding bikes in public — we highly recommend “Wadjda”, for ages 9 and up at http://www.amightygirl.com/wadjda — or stream it online at http://amzn.to/2ef9h2p

Wadjda’s story has also been released as a book for ages 10 to 13, “The Green Bicycle,” at http://www.amightygirl.com/the-green-bicycle

For a fun picture book celebrating the joy and freedom that cycling brings, check out “Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen” for ages 4 to 8 at http://www.amightygirl.com/sally-jean-the-bicycle-queen

And, for our favorite t-shirt celebrating fierce Mighty Girls like the “Fancy Women”, check out the “Though She Be But Little She Is Fierce” t-shirt — available in a variety of styles and colors for all ages at http://www.amightygirl.com/fierce-t-shirt

Source: A Mighty Girl

Source: A Mighty Girl

by Sachie Togashiki

This post is about my art bike that I represented for the issue of gender inequality. Gender inequality has been discussed for centuries and there are still gaps between genders in salary, parliament, etc. This issue is no matter what the country, this issue is happening in both developed and developing countries.

 

I combined the structure of a bicycle with gender inequality. A basket filled with fruits represents wealth and the ‘fruits’ in terms of jobs, finances and political representation. The front wheel, (men), is closer to the ‘fruits’ than a rear wheel, (women).

 

According to the Australian Government, women get 82.1% of men’s pay on average,  so there is still a gap between genders. When it comes to political representation, women have 26.7% of all seats in the House of Representatives and 38.2% in the Senate in the Australian Parliament, according to the Brisbane Times.  Women account for about a half the population, but there are not enough representatives in government to accurately represent them. Also, women constitute only 17.3% of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of non-public sector employers in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. As you may realise, there is a real gender inequality.

 

There are some barriers and crossing gates that prevent women from getting the ‘fruits’ within society. In order to get good jobs and finances, women might have to go through ‘stereotypes’ which presents women as supposed to be spending time taking care of children or doing housework. Also, women are often characterised as being physically weaker, so many women have experienced domestic ‘violence’ in their lives, which affects not only physically in damage, but also severely impacts mental health, so the signals of violence leads to a worn-out heart (as represented as the bike saddle). Therefore, these barriers often prevent women from creating a better life.

 

The situation changes only when women visualise and realise the situation and corporate to solve these issues with men. Women should not accept gender inequality and need to assert their rights too gain equality in wealth. Also, men can often be the strongest supporters for achieving gender equality by suspending stereotypes of women, for example, by making lunch on weekends or by looking after their children instead of it always being their wives. It might take a long time to solve this problem, but only small actions can change this situation. I hope this post will cause a small change in a society.

 

Sachie with her Art Bike: Women Get Fruits in a Basket

Sachie with her Art Bike: Women Get Fruits in a Basket

 

 

Sachie Togashiki is our Guest Blogger, unveiling some of Japan’s bicycle culture for the fortnight from 11th April to 24th April.

 

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015). Gender Indicators, Australia (no. 4125.0). Canberra, Australia. Retrieved from

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4125.0main+features610Aug%202015

Downer, G. (2015). How to get more women into Parliament. Brisbane Times. Retrieved from http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/gender-equality-in-parliament-quotas-just-a-quickfix-solution-20150809-giuy5w.html

Workplace Gender Equality Agency. (2015). Gender pay gap statistics. Canberra, Australia. Retrieved from https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/Gender_Pay_Gap_Factsheet.pdf

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

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

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

Bihar – Girls Bicycle Education Scheme

Can giving free bikes get more girls to stay in school? The Bihar Girls Bicycle Education Scheme in India was sponsored by researchers, Karthik Muralidharan (University of California, San Diego) and Nishith Prakash (University of Connecticut), who investigated the effect of providing every schoolgirl aged 14 in Bihar with a bike.

The Results

The results of this bicycle program, launched in 2006, were impressive and immediate. It increased girls’ age-appropriate enrollment in secondary school by 30 percent and reduced the gender gap in age-appropriate secondary school enrollment by 40 percent (Muralidharan and Prakash, 2013). Most significant for me were two main aspects: first, it was undertaken in the poorest, most destitute state in India and second, the scale of the program, which was massive to say the least. Both these aspects make the project not only unique, but seminal, as it sets a precedence for future work to undertaken now that the location and volume have been shown not be to a hinderance in rolling out such programs.

From research to videos

To find out more about the research behind the 6 minute video Moving up a gear (below), you can read: Cycling to school: Increasing high school enrollment for girls in Bihar

Muralidharan and Prakash have since create a second follow-up video: Moving Up A Gear: Update. which provides extra information and a update.

To further explain their approaches, there is a number of papers that have been published to explain the research that provides analysis and monitoring for this scheme – as well as other documentation where the main research is more fully explained.

Digging through Rotorua’s mountain bike archives, I found this little gem. I thought it was a particularly interesting initiative as it was focused on getting more men riding, whereas it is usually women who are the focus of such programs. I was especially excited about the follow-up outcomes that emerged out of this program.

Background

Indeed, this program was developed following the highly successful Women’s Activator Series and its ongoing positive outcomes (a collaboration between Sport Bay of Plenty (BOP) and Rotorua District Council and Primary Health Services) in conjunction with the results of a 2006 survey, that found “that men enjoyed male-only environments and opportunities to get active with family members. Men preferred an element of competition and challenge to the physical activity as having a structured and encouraging environment was as important a motivator as the fitness benefits” (Fowler & Mansell, 2008).

The Program

The Program was 1-1.5 hour every Thursday evening for 10 weeks. It had support from local individuals and groups who provided shuttle transportation, expert guides, a personal trainer for the weekly pre-ride stretch sessions and the like. Basic bike skills were learned and practiced at the local BMX track for the first fortnight to build confidence and skills while individual fitness levels were determined. The rest of the Program was conducted in the forest, where a new skill was introduced each week – designed to scaffold skills and confidence.

Bicycles Create Change - First timers in the Whakarewarewa Forest

First timers in the Whakarnewarewa Forest. Source: Fowler & Mansell, 2008.

The Program identified three main aims (Fowler & Mansell, 2008): first: to increase the frequency and commitment participants have to physical activity over and beyond the 10-week series period; second: to increase the skills and 
confidence of beginner mountain bike riders; finally: to increase the usage of the 
Whakarewarewa forest by participants for mountain biking and other forms of recreation with family and friends.

Participants

An ad was run on December 18th 2007 in the local Daily Post newspaper (see image below) reading: “Calling all men. No matter your age, shape, size or speed (in fact, the slower the better) – this training series is for YOU & it’s FREE! For the past 3 years, we have had the Women’s Activator Series, but now it is time for something for the blokes…. Dad ‘n’ Lads is a 10 week fun run and mountain bike training series aimed at men who are currently not very active, but would like to improve their fitness, have some laughs at the same time and discover some great walking/running/cycling to share with family and friends once the series is over. For 10 weeks you will enjoy a weekly training session, which will have options for the beginners and progress to more challenging routes as your fitness increases. How much you challenge yourself is up to you!” 42 men responded to the ad (including 3 father and son partnerships) – of which 20 completed the program.

Bicycles Create Change - Dads 'n' Lads

Source: Daily Post, December 18th 2007

Outcomes

The 3 main aims of the program were met. Overall there were 5 main noteworthy outcomes of this program.

  1. Activity levels increased remarkably by week 10 with 60% increasing their activity to 2-3 days per week while the other 40% had increased their activity level to a minimum of 30 mins per day.
  2. Increased assertiveness using the Whakarewarewa Forest for recreation. Confidence and familiarity with the forest meant that participants felt confident to take family and friends into the forest for recreational activities.
  3. Setting and achieving goals such as fitness, strength or weight-loss, increased general activity levels (on the bike and in the forest) father/son bonding and forming new friendships were some of the top goals achieved.
  4. Educating others was a key feature of the program that every participant identified with, having involved or taken out for a ride, at least, one family member (wife, child or grandchild). The top 3 skills that were instrumental in taking out others that were learnt from the program, was: setting up the bike correctly, basic riding techniques and being able to change a flat tyre.
  5. Valued outcomes for the participants included: structured, yet informal/social setting, having bikes available to rent for the activity and the mutual support of the other men.
Follow-up positive changes

This Program had clear aims and solid support throughout, which meant that there was a consistent and reliable basis for the participants to develop their confidence, skills and networks. I think it is exciting that many participants put these skills into action and took others out into the forest, for family outings for example, increasing fitness; increasing appreciation and use of the amazing forest on their doorstep; and enhancing quality time with others – which shows the potential that such community programs have for ongoing indirect positive impacts benefiting a greater number of people in the community.

Also, it is great to hear that the participants formed their own group ride after the program finished – to maintain the camaraderie, skills and habits they had learnt. Their monthly group ride also includes their family members, which is a wonderful way of extending the enjoyment, fitness, ability and community that this program began.

Bicycles Create Change - Dads 'n' Lads group

Dads ‘n’ Lads Participants Source: Fowler & Mansell, 2008.

 

Fowler, A., & Mansell, L. (2008). Dads ‘N’ lads – getting men on the move with rotorua’s beginner mountain bike series.Australasian Parks and Leisure, 11(2), 34-37.

It is a fine line between unstructured online (re)searching for this bicycle blog and procrastinating.

I found myself teetering on this fine line earlier today – that was until I came across the mother load.

Bicycles Create Change

To put this in context – as I am relatively new to blogging, it has been a steep learning curve coming to grips with Word Press, content selection, time management and getting the right balance between subject matter: finding my ‘voice’ – something which will no doubt evolve over time. This is also one of the primary reasons for starting the blog, To have an accountability partner helps track my ideas, writing and process over time. So it is not surprising that I have been fact-finding about blog tips and advice – much of which has been incredibly helpful and immediately effective.

Part of the investigation into this new genre has been discovering and reading other blogs, especially those that contain similar themes to mine (bicycles, gender, community), which I have enjoyed immensely. I was impressed and slightly daunted by the array of cycling blogs. It seemed that many had a similar format: personal ride diary style, news and events; cycling shops and groups; bicycle style, product and lifestyle. This brings us to the mother load – Let’s go for a Ride.

Today my job was made that much easier and more enjoyable when I stumbled across Let’s go for a Ride website.

Their resources page provides an extensive list of (goodness knows how many!) links to women specific bike blogs.

The list has 3 main categories:

Women’s Bike Blogs

Cycle Chic Blogs

Other Bike Blogs

It was a delight to sift through some of the blogs, select a title, read a little, then move on to the next one…perusing, smiling, drinking tea as I went.

Some of the blogs are full of amazing photography, others transported me to mysterious places by travelogues, others again were full of training dates and race plates – and some others, sadly, have ceased to be – the last post left standing there, as testament to one woman’s freewheeling exploits (*sigh*).

I have since returned to this list and am still exploring some of the new blogs.

I find great satisfaction in fossicking around in a particular blog and looking through their archives – I hope you do too! Enjoy!!

Initiative: When Remya Jose was 14, she invented a bicycle –powered washing machine to help her do the family washing. With women traditionally doing the household chores, Remya and her sister had to take over the family washing after both parents were too ill to work. Hand washing Indian style is usually done in rural waterways that are away from the home and it is a time-consuming, physically demanding and labour intensive activity. Previously Remya’s family did not have a washing machine. After seeing other locals in her town of Kizhattoor Panchayat, India, use a few electrical washing machines, she fashioned her design based on the same principles, but added pedals as the power source so that no electricity was needed. The ‘washer’ is seated behind the machine on a seat so that when they cycle, a chain rotates a mesh cylinder inside a central aluminum box. It now takes Remya only about 20 minutes to soak, wash and rinse clothes. She designed it herself and with help, it was made from parts that were sourced locally.

 Effectiveness: This simple yet effective modification is a great example of what I consider to be the most effective, sustainable and powerful community change: one where the problem is self-identified by the community; a solution is self-initiated and implemented and  there is no reliance on external people, materials or skills in order to maintain the result. Such practices are a move in the right direction to reduce criticisms that aid perpetuates a culture of dependency and expectations, and that communities are best left alone to deal with and overcome their own problems without external intervention.

Connection: Furthermore, as Easterly (2008) points out, it is the people who are creative and experimental in trialing alternative ways to solving community problems (like Remya), who are usually more effective in alleviating poverty associated issues as opposed to those who invest copious amounts of energy, time and money into approaches that have no immediate results and/or are not locally contextualized.

Take away: This story is also a humble reminder for us Westerners of the lies we tell ourselves, like: ‘I don’t know how to fix it’, ‘I haven’t got the money’, ‘I don’t have the time’, ‘It’s quicker just to buy a new one’ – are all too easy and such thinking does not create positive change. But ingenious action will.

As this story exemplifies, training, education and money is often no match for being resourceful, shrewd and confident. I think it is a pity that such valuable skills are not promoted and taught within our community.

Where in your life do you apply cheap, innovative and functional solutions to problems?

____________________________________________________

Easterly, W., 1957, & ebrary, I. (2008). Reinventing foreign aid (1st ed.). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.