How long did it take you to get to school every day? Did you travel there by car, bus, or foot? For children around the world, the journey to school often means two to three hours of walking along remote roads, many times through dangerous areas. This can make school an impossibility: whether as a result of financial strain, the danger that could come on the trek, or the sheer difficulty of walking so far every day, millions of children are missing out on education because of distance. Last month, May, was National Bicycle Month, and this is the perfect time to highlight the impact that a bike can make on the life of a girl. A bicycle has the power to mobilize girls, giving them a way to move from where they live to where they learn, and thus the means to bring themselves towards a better life.
The number of girls around the world who are out of school is staggering: 35 million girls are not being educated. And with the known benefits of educating girls, this is putting them and their communities at a steep disadvantage. A study in Zambia found that HIV spreads twice as fast among uneducated girls, while for each additional year of education a girl receives, her chance of contracting HIV decreases by 6.7 percent. Children born to mothers who can read are 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5. In Indonesia, child vaccination rates are only 19 percent when mothers are uneducated.
Though primary school is compulsory in many nations, access to education for girls drops significantly once they reach the secondary school level, and this is largely attributed to the distance they must travel to get to school. There are commonly fewer secondary schools in developing countries, and they tend to be inaccessible for girls living in rural areas. These girls’ families often don’t have the money to spare for transportation costs, leaving walking as the only option – a problem, as many families will not let their daughters walk, out of safety concerns. As a result, dropout rates soar, and girls are denied the chance to better their lives through education. This can all be changed with a simple solution – bicycles.
Numerous organizations now recognize the benefits of providing bicycles to girls worldwide. Bicycle Relief is a leader in delivering bicycles to girls in need around the world – they aim to provide 50,000 bicycles to students (70% of whom are girls), as well as teachers and educational workers in rural Africa. Students in need are given basic training about bike maintenance and safety, and must sign a contract of commitment to education before receiving their bicycle. 10×10 partner organization Pink Bike has also made it their mission to equip girls with the transportation resources necessary to get the education they need. Kevin and Clare Cohen founded Pink Bike in 2010, inspired by 10×10’s own Martha Adams’ work in Cambodia for Girl Rising. 10×10 has now partnered with Pink Bike to provide Nepali girls with bicycles, as the majority of girls there live in sparsely populated and distantly spread-out villages. Since its conception, Pink Pike has delivered hundreds of bikes on three continents, and their impact is only growing. Room to Read, a 10×10 Impact Partner, also has programs in place that give girls in developing nations access to bicycles. Through donations to sponsor a bicycle for a girl, Room to Read “puts students in the fast lane, helping them navigate the road to a brighter future”.
World Bicycle Relief 2011 statistics on bicycles impact on community empowerment.
The evidence is clear – the idea that bicycles can make education more accessible for girls works. Based on results from World Bicycle Relief’s 2011 report, the early statistics on the influence of bikes in developing nations are promising. Data collected by WBR indicates an average attendance improvement of 14.4% for both girls and boys, with some individual schools reporting up to a 36.7% attendance improvement. This dramatic improvement in attendance greatly impacted student success as well – the data indicates an average improvement in term-end scores of 18% for both girls and boys, with individual schools reporting up to 35% improvement. The benefits of equipping school age children with bicycles doesn’t end with educational improvement; these bicycles had an empowering effect on communities as well, with improved access to health clinics, new opportunities to generate income, and newfound ease in visiting friends and family. Early data from World Bicycle Relief’s report showed a decrease in child pregnancy and HIV/AIDS rates attributed to the new bicycle access. A new government program being instituted in Bihar, India is also making great strides in improving access to education through the provision of bicycles to girls. The state government opened the program for girls to receive grants of $50 to purchase a bicycle, and the program was an instant success. In a state where girls’ literacy rates were only at 53 percent, the number of girls registered in the ninth grade in Bihar’s state schools more than tripled in four years, from 175,000 to 600,000.
Now that you have the facts, you may wonder, what can I do to help girls get to school? By supporting the 10×10 Fund for Girls’ Education, you contribute to our impact partners, such as Room to Read. Donations to this fund will be distributed among our non-profit partners, which also include CARE USA, World Vision, Partners in Health, Plan International USA, United Nations Foundation/Girl Up, and A New Day Cambodia, all of whom operate girls’ education initiatives around the world. With your support, we can bring education to girls worldwide – and help bring girls to their education.