When I was growing up, I was fascinated by images on the television, of women on their motorcycles cruising through the streets of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Seeing women on motorcycles was always a wonder. It was so refreshing, and seemed like such a simple act, yet a mark of independence. These are not women riding Harleys or fast bikes, but simple women wearing wrappers or boubou (The Boubou: A Traditional African Garment) or Faso dan Fani, everyday women taking their children to school, going to work, etc. Even more amazing is that many of these women are Muslim. It is no secret that women in Ouagadougou love their motorcycles. This means of transportation which particularly boomed in the late 1980s is synonymous with independence, freedom, courage, and near infinite possibilities for the women. After all, for anybody who has ridden on a motorcycle, it feels so freeing to have the wind bashing all over oneself while zipping through the city. Today, the country has trained hundreds of women mechanics.
When Thomas Sankara, the president of the Faso, came in power in 1983, he led a series of changes that emancipated women, bringing them closer to equal rights in the society. It is no wonder that Nigerian filmmaker Kagho Idhebor felt the same way as I did, and was so intrigued by these women on their motorcycles, that he made the documentary”Burkina Babes” which was featured at this year’s FESPACO. Excerpts below are from AfricaNews. Enjoy!
In Burkina Faso’s capital, many ride their motorcycles every day to commute, go to school or move around the city.
In 2020, nearly one Burkinabe in seven owned a motorcycle.
the vehicle is also a tool of emancipation, For women like Valérie Dambré
“This defines the Burkinabe woman, the courage of women. In fact, riding a motorcycle demands courage,” the motorist.
When Nigerian filmmaker Kagho Idhebor first came to Ouagadougou he was blown away by how many women whizzed about on motorcycles. So much so that he directed “Burkina Babes“, a documentary on that. It even ran at Africa’s largest film the FESPACO, the pan-African cinema and TV festival of Ouagadougou.
“I have been to couple of parts of the world and even in Nigeria you see a lot of motorcycles, guys driving motorcycles but I have not seen women in the last country driving motorcycles with so much attitude and very independent and that captivated me, like I was blown away!,” the man in his thirties exlaims.
Since 1977, the Women’s School for Skills Initiation and Training is based in Ouagadougou. It has trained over 700 women to be mechanics and bodywork repairers.
…. During his four years in power in the 1980s, which ended traumatically with his assassination, Sankara “played an emancipating role, breaking down traditional mindsets and thrusting women into the public space, outside the home,” she said. “Young women today were brought up on his ideas.”