In 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 global objectives challenge all countries to fight poverty, eradicate inequalities and promote prosperity for all – particularly in developing nations.
Mobility is an important element of development strategies that aim to achieve the SDGs and drive global progress. A high-quality bicycle in a developing country such as Malawi is a powerful, cross-cutting intervention that immediately improves livelihoods and educational and healthcare outcomes.
Buffalo Bicycles are sustainable, affordable, built to last, and can be used by individuals of all ages. Through our programming, World Bicycle Relief directly contributes to achieving nine SDGs, including ending poverty, universal access to education, improved health outcomes and gender equality in Malawi alone.
In sub-Saharan Africa, there are more than 600 million people who walk as their main mode of transportation. And in Malawi, one of the poorest nations on the planet, 71% of people live on less than USD$2 per day.¹ A lack of efficient, reliable transportation adversely affects economic development. Rural Malawians must walk miles to reach schools, clean water, food, healthcare and economic hubs. This, along with many other limiting factors, forces Malawians to choose between necessities.
With a bicycle, Malawians can transport more goods to the market more easily, carry heavier loads and create new sources of income. Bicycles offer families the opportunity to build entrepreneurial businesses and create momentum for the entire community.
As part of the third SDG, countries around the world have committed to ensuring healthy lives, including reducing maternal mortality, universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services and ending the epidemics of diseases like AIDS and Malaria.
According to USAID, Malawi has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios globally. The overwhelming majority of child and maternal deaths could be prevented through well-known, low-cost, and easily deliverable interventions.
However, the interventions needed to diagnose, prevent, and treat the causes of these deaths must be delivered by skilled community-level healthcare workers, midwives, nurses, and doctors, according to UNICEF State of the World’s Children 2016.
In 2016, women in Malawi accounted for 70% of new HIV infections in young people.² And 29% of Malawian girls ages 15 to 19 have already been pregnant.³
Without intervention, the cycle of these health crises continue.
A lack of transportation options in rural Malawi, however, makes it difficult to access health clinics and doctors. And Community Healthcare Workers struggle to reach patients by foot.
With bicycles, healthcare workers are motivated and more likely to continue their volunteer duties. They can more easily provide quality outreach services to people in remote areas, and make up to 45% more patient visits.
Access to bicycles results in higher quality care and healthier communities.
The average Malawian student spends approximately 4 hours a day walking to class. Almost half of them never finish primary school.
The difficulty of travel hits girls especially hard in Malawi. Girls have many more domestic duties than boys. They often arrive at school late despite getting up early to finish their chores, which can result in missed classes or even punishment.
High rates of child pregnancy and marriage in Malawi, where nearly two-thirds of women with no formal education were child brides⁴, also contribute to high dropout rates.
Girls who finish secondary school, however, are six times less likely to be married as children.
In Malawi, education is the key to unlocking a lifetime of greater earnings, better health, and stronger self-confidence.
Through World Bicycle Relief’s Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP), we distribute bicycles to students – 70% of whom are girls.
By giving a girl a way to get to school safely and more quickly, she has the chance to transform her future, breaking the cycle of poverty armed with an education and a bicycle.
The UN aspires to “support the current and upcoming generation of adolescent girls, to truly fulfill their potential as key actors in achieving a sustainable and equitable world.”
World Bicycle Relief’s work aligns with the UN’s ethos for the investment in girls for a brighter future.
In Malawi, systemic gender inequalities hold girls back in a variety of ways, particularly when it comes to education and sexual health.
From a young age, many Malawian girls see their educational potential stymied through social norms and expectations that do not have the same impact on boys. Girls are expected to help with more household chores and caring for younger siblings. These tasks contribute to late arrivals at school or dropping out all together.
High rates of child marriage and pregnancy also impact Malawian girls’ ability to continue their educations.
On their long walks to school, girls are often approached by men. Relationships that end in pregnancy normally result in the girls dropping out of school. And while some young mothers return to class, gender expectations often keep them at home.
Providing girl students with bicycles can have a profound positive impact on their educational, health, and economic outcomes.
Child marriages would drop by 64% if all girls had secondary education, according to UNICEF.
Bicycles can be used to make household chores easier and faster, freeing up girls’ time for other pursuits – including school.
Compared with walking, bicycles also are a safer way for women and girls to travel long distances.