Alice Takoberwa is a 43-year-old widow and mother of two. Alice saw her husband die from HIV-related complications. The pain of losing a loved one paired with the stigma of single parenting drove Alice to join Kadama Widows Association in Budaka, Uganda. There she found a group of like-minded volunteers committed to saving their community from the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
Recently, Alice heard that 100 bicycles would be granted to Kadama Widows Association thanks to a partnership with Comic Relief and World Bicycle Relief. The bicycles would be used to help the widows with their work providing home-based health care services. Alice was thrilled! She had already mastered the art of cycling and looked forward to the positive impact of having these bicycles.
There was talk though of an opportunity for someone in the group to be trained as a mechanic. Training mechanics to service the bicycles ensures that they remain in good condition long after the bicycles are provided. Alice didn’t have experience as a mechanic, but wanted to challenge herself. “You can see women driving cars,” she said, “why not me too? I can cycle. Why not make me a bicycle mechanic?”
Why not indeed.
On January 23-27, Alice attended field mechanic training at World Bicycle Relief’s assembly facility in Kisumu, Kenya. As part of her training, Alice learned how to build, repair and service the Buffalo Bicycles that she would later help maintain for her community at Kadama Widows Association back in Uganda.
On February 10, 2017 100 bicycles were provided to the widows at KWA. Alice put her training to work and showed the other women how to properly care for their new bicycles.
Alice believes widows can support and sustain themselves when empowered. “I want to teach widows to use their strength to work.“ she says, “To remove the stigma that only men can work.”
With work comes the ability to provide for one’s own family. Alice says that this independence helps remove the stigma and the worries about inheritance or remarrying that many widows face.
With her Buffalo bicycle, Alice is already achieving her goals to bring about social change. Alice built on something she was familiar with – bicycles. She also stepped up and bravely tried something new. Because Alice was bold, more babies will be born HIV free. More pregnant mothers will deliver their children in health facilities. Thanks to Alice’s resolve, the women at Kadama Widows Association will continue to move forward to a better future.
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Will you empower more women like Alice to be independent – to move boldly forward?
Photos: Leah Missbach Day, Joel Ogambi