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Unleashing Freedom: When She Rides, Mama Africa Rejoices

Updated: Mar 29

"May I?” she asked while pointing at my motorbike.

“Hell, yes,” I replied.

That said, she jumped on the bike and raced off like a hurricane. I have never seen a more scintillating smile on a woman's face in Tanzania.

The most insignificant places hold the biggest surprises

It was a sunny day in August 2021 in a dozy village middle of nowhere at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. I had no intention of pulling over in this deserted place while heading out to some secluded hot springs.

But something compelled me to do so anyway.

It was perhaps the sight of a respectable woman sitting by the roadside under a sprawling bougainvillea tree that flawlessly matched the color of her headscarf. She was relaxing on a precarious plastic chair, calmly observing the infinite dust rise and fall.

. . .

We exchanged a grin, and an instant later, I sat next to her, sharing her shade. We were gesticulating using hands and feet without a common language we both mastered. We chatted away underneath her tree in exquisite harmony for a while when suddenly, a young woman popped round the corner.

When she requested a spin on my bike, I nodded. She lifted her skirt, hopped on, accelerated, and darted up and down the village’s main track as if the devil were chasing her. She was screaming and laughing at the top of her lung.

I briefly wondered if she’d held a driver’s license but instantly cursed myself for my narrow-mindedness. The way she was handling the motorcycle left no doubt.

She knew what she was doing. Without an audience. And quite possibly also without a license.

Eventually, she circled back, climbed off the bike, and thanked me with a genuine grin. She tossed the keys toward me and exchanged a few words with the woman under the tree before she roamed away. The latter smiled when I glanced at her curiously.

“My niece,” she replied, not without evident pride.

I jotted down the number of women whose niece had just delivered such an incredible display of her skills. I vowed to send her the pictures I had been able to snap. Though, I had no clue how. Her mobile was a prehistoric brick with a cracked screen that would unmistakably not support receiving any images.

As I rode away, I couldn’t get this young woman out of my mind.

She was a pro but stuck on Tanzania's dusty backroads.

Poking the head in does pay off

The young woman with the daring riding style is Germana.

Born and raised where I had met her. She had taught herself the art of riding. Way back, before she got married and toiled at a local gas station. She often had to shuttle motorcycles back and forth to keep the pumps she serviced clear of vehicles. Such as when riders briefly disappeared to stretch their legs or grab a bite to eat.

She closely watched all those motorcyclists who stopped by—for weeks, months, and years. She poked her head in, asking vital questions. She practiced what she’d picked up on the very next occasion. Thievishly enjoying the brief rides around the gas station, which—in her mind—slowly began to drift beyond the horizon. She wondered what was out there for her if anything at all.

She couldn’t imagine that one day she may actually have the chance to endure it.

A table can carry a vision on a bike

Amani runs a small motorcycle touring company in Moshi. He has ambitious visions for his business and the people of Tanzania.

One that empowers women, which Amani and I both share. I told him about the encounter with the young woman and her aunt in the dusty settlement. And while I did, the many small dreadlocks that cascade down his face frantically started bobbling up and down.

“Seriously? A woman riding a motorcycle?”

He has been keeping his eyes and ears open for motorcycle-riding women in and beyond his community for a long time. For women who would one day run part of his tours through Tanzania with international clients. Until this very moment, to no avail. In fact, he was close to giving up on the idea altogether. When we said goodbye to each other, he promised to go and look up the mysterious girl.

“Awesome! She’s out of this world on a bike!”

was his first reaction after Amani met Germana. Like I, he was instantly taken by her convincing riding ability and not just that. A couple more girls in Germana’s neighborhood seem as sure in the saddle as she does.

Seeing women strive knows no borders

This encounter signifies a particular moment in our bikers’ lives or maybe a turnaround point for Germana, Amani, and me. One that may hold different features for each of us but unites us in our mutual passion for motorbiking, and we can do with it. Suppose we allow it to happen.

It’s about tapping into the spirit and ability of women motorcyclists, making them part of a beautiful journey into more confidence and ultimate freedom.

And that’s just the opening of an empowering story that rises to reveal its next episode as Germana rides along.


Thank you for reading! And I hope you find a reason to return.

Note by the author: While I was writing Germana’s story, this skilled young rider and one of her friends were back at school to obtain their motorbike license with our help. Who knows, one day, we may see more and more women in Tanzania who embark on a journey that will ultimately lead to more freedom and self-determination.

If you need to know more about riding in Tanzania, grab a free reader.

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