Girls on Bikes, a Canberra-based NGO, is mobilising migrant and refugee women in the ACT by providing a free learn to ride program.
Bike riding enables independence, mobility, fitness and strength, according to Girls on Bikes founder Sophie Fisher.
“It’s something that most of us learn at a young age, but if you don’t have the opportunity to learn then, sometimes you never get another chance,” she says.
“Girls on Bikes started because bike riding has brought so much benefit to my life, particularly here in Canberra, and I wanted to create a safe and supportive space where women from migrant and refugee backgrounds could have that chance to learn to ride and meet new people.”
Now in its second year, the program is based on the Cycle Well program from Girls on Bikes’ principal partner Pedal Power, and runs for five weeks. At the end of the program, participants are provided with a helmet and protective gear from Trek Bicycles and a free bike donated by the community and the Canberra Environment Centre, serviced by Goodspeed.
“The response to the program has been fantastic. Our next program is almost completely full; many women have been recommended by friends and family who have previously completed the program. We have also had great support from the community,” Ms Fisher says.
“The sense of community that has grown within the program is really special too. Our participants and volunteers become fast friends.”
“This year, through an ACT Government grant, a number of past participants and volunteers have also completed a coaching accreditation course so they are leading the coordination and coaching of this year’s program.”
A participant in last year’s program, Joyce Waweru, is now training this year’s participants. She says riding has improved her health, motivation and productivity.
“My experience changed my life and improved my health so much that I would like to transfer the skills to more women out there who may experience the same joy and benefits that I have experienced,” Joyce says.
“I know someone out there may have given up like I had and I would like to inspire them that no matter how old you are, you can learn to ride in a safe environment.”
Girls on Bikes is already planning to expand, with plans to teach another 50 women to ride in 2019.
For more information, or to donate a bike, visit girlsonbikesact.com.au