Female motorbike rider on ‘gear shifting’ stereotypes

Marie Louise Karegeya is not your ordinary girl. As a female motorcyclist, she is flaring up courage and a spirit of adventure among fellow women.

Karegeya goes on with her daily routine as swiftly as you would any other job -pursuing and transporting passengers. 

 

Her main areas of work are around Kabuga, Nyabugogo, Kimironko, Remera, and Nyanza-Kicukiro.

 

She joined this occupation three years ago after dropping out of high school due to financial constraints.

 

However, instead of sitting at home, she thought it wise to find employment and support her parents financially.

As the second born of five children, Karegeya was only 18 years old when she became a motorist. Her tender age and gender became a challenge as was she scorned by passengers and fellow motorists as well.

Marie Louise Karegeya was only eighteen years old when she became a motorist. 

She recalls the intimidation starting off right on her first day, and that this made it so hard for her to meet people and interact with them. 

“Even standing among other motorcyclists was really hard, everything was so different. Nothing was easy but I wasn’t scared because there was a lady I knew who was a motorcyclist. She gave me all the support and guidance I needed. She showed me that all was possible, I had someone I could look up to and this gave me strength,” she says.

Beating stereotypes

Karegeya recalls a time when her mother had given birth to a baby. Because the baby was a girl, some family friends consoled instead of congratulating her mother, saying that one who gives birth to a girl is met with misfortune.

“That thing bothered me a lot and I kept on asking myself why girls and women were always associated with problems,” she says.

From then on, she vowed to be different and decided to work hard and become all she could regardless of her gender.

This is the very reason that pushed her to find a job out of her comfort zone, to show that indeed women can be who they want to be without limitations.

On the road 

Karegeya says she is lucky to not have had any serious accident in the three years she has worked as a motorist.

Karegeya during the interview. Photos by Sam Ngendahimana

And though she regards herself as a cautious rider, she attributes her safety to the grace of God. 

“I try to be careful too, I don’t trust those I meet on the road. I do my best to be as cautious as possible for the sake of my life and that of my passenger. I know that when I am on the road, it’s only God because there was a time I almost had an accident. It would have claimed my life and that of the passenger but for some reason the car that was going to knock us stopped only inches away from the bike,” she narrates.

Challenges on the job

The 21-year-old says starting was really hard and among the issues that bothered her, was knowing the different directions and places, because at times she would lose direction and the customer would complain, or she would charge less money because she didn’t know the distance.

When she first started out, some passengers would learn that she was a woman and they would get scared. This, she says, affected her confidence.

Others would hear her voice and wondered why a man had a female voice, “They would never comprehend the fact that it was a woman riding them because physically it was hard for them to see me since we are usually dressed in big coats and pants plus the helmet.”

Karegeya also criticises fellow motorcyclists who tormented her with offensive words and language.

“Some were even abusive, cursing me that I would never be fit to be a mother or someone’s wife. These words used to hurt me and at times I chose to distance myself as a way of escaping them. But this never discouraged me, I continued to struggle till today,” she says.

Her persistence is now paying off as she can now pay school fees for her siblings, invested in farming and is also on her way to own her first motor bike.

“My job has been a blessing to me and my family. Right now the motor bike I ride is on credit, I am paying it in instalments but after I finish payments, it’s going to be mine. I believe that after I am done paying the loan, I will manage to do even a lot more,” she adds.

She sees herself taking up a vocational course to brush up on her skills in other fields, but being a loyal motorist, she also hopes to become a driver in the near future.

Her journey into male dominated fields has taught her that anything is possible as long as one commits to making it work. 

“I have learnt to trust and believe in myself and never lose hope.”

dmbabazi@newtimesrwanda.com

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