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Tired of abuse, women ride bikes to claim public space

Published Apr 02, 2017 10:21pm

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Women ride bicycles while taking part in Girls on Bike rally in Islamabad. ─Reuters
Women ride bicycles while taking part in Girls on Bike rally in Islamabad. ─Reuters

Dozens of women took part in female-only bike races in major cities across the country on Sunday, as part of an event organised by a group called 'Girls at Dhabas' to challenge what they termed "the male dominance of public spaces in the country".

“Our strategy is simply to be visible in public spaces,” said Meher Bano of Girls at Dhabas, a group which organised the races after a woman from Lahore was pushed off her bicycle by a group of men last year for not responding to catcalls.

The bike race was one of many events organised in the last few years by Girls at Dhabas to promote female participation in public events, fight restrictions faced by women in public places and increase awareness.

A woman flashes victory signs as she rides a bicycle in Islamabad. ─Reuters
A woman flashes victory signs as she rides a bicycle in Islamabad. ─Reuters

“I drive on these roads all the time but this was maybe the first time I got to experience them while biking,” said Humay Waseem, one of the riders on the 5-kilometre race around Islamabad. “I loved the feeling of freedom with the breeze in my hair.”

Members of Girls at Dhabas say they are a new generation of Pakistanis determined to build on progress made by their predecessors. “The women's movement is as old as Pakistan but it is not something that is really talked about or written about,” said Bano.

“It's part of a much greater narrative that leads to harassment, it leads to violence,” she said.

A woman and her daughter ride bicycles as they part in Girls on Bike rally in Islamabad. ─Reuters
A woman and her daughter ride bicycles as they part in Girls on Bike rally in Islamabad. ─Reuters

After the race in Islamabad on Sunday, the riders, mostly aged in their 20s, swapped stories about being gawped at or catcalled when they go out. They also talked of the need to fight growing conservatism on Pakistan's streets, saying there are fewer women out in public today than 20 years ago.

“We are letting that space go and society is getting more narrow-minded,” said one of riders.

A girl rides a bicycle as she takes part in Girls on Bike rally in Islamabad. ─Reuters
A girl rides a bicycle as she takes part in Girls on Bike rally in Islamabad. ─Reuters

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Comments (12) Closed



INDIAN GAL Apr 03, 2017 12:25am

Wow Pakistan! This is an eye opener for guys in India. Lots of love. Keep moving up.

Rational Corp Apr 03, 2017 12:50am

My salutations to the brave and forward looking Sisters of Pakistan.

ALBA Apr 03, 2017 12:51am

A brilliant idea for Pakistan that will catch on and grow. This could be Pakistan's Occupy New York movement. Sincere congratulations Girls at Dhabas. Women in Pakistan need to stake out their claim to city space.

Sana Apr 03, 2017 02:03am

Great job keep it up you no longer need to be the "hidden" part of the population Public space is for ALL- men and women Grow up Pakistani men - and start to respect the rights of your sisters, daughters, mothers and wives

AYZA Apr 03, 2017 02:08am

Bravo to Isloo gals for this all girls bike riding day! As for low lifes who verbally insult female bicyclists, a suggestion: place a camera on your helmut and record these immature weirdos comments by uploading their misogynistic slurs to social media/ You Tube for all to see - thus shaming these creeps.

BTW, Pakistan's small towns and large urban areas need to be more "bike friendly" with dedicated raised biking paths.This would serve two purposes : safety from cars hitting bicyclists and encouraging adults and children of all ages to engage in a healthy outdoor activity vs riding in cars everywhere. The govt. needs to fund this type of infrastructure all over the nation. Perhaps with more females riding bikes, there will be more "strength in numbers" to ward off the negative mindset of depraved male onlookers.

Saeeds Apr 03, 2017 02:40am

Majority of people have conservative thinking specially in urban areas. I can see these ladies can bike more easily in villages but not in Pakistani universities.

sajed syed Apr 03, 2017 04:15am

Ladies, take care, stay safe, better to move steadily but slowly through family networks than visible on the roads, easy targets of terrorists menfolk who have no respect for their Mothers, sisters and daughters. They are weirdos and schizophrenics.

Jawaid kamal Apr 03, 2017 04:28am

Great .you go girls.

PakistanI Apr 03, 2017 04:56am

I support our women in everything, proud of them. Pakistani men need education and behave like normal men.

Azad kashmir Apr 03, 2017 05:10am

Good job ladies!

Siddhartha Apr 03, 2017 07:26am

Good job ladies! Keep it up. Best wishes from America.

Pakistani. Apr 03, 2017 07:37pm

I concur with the idea of cycling to create awareness about misogyny and reclaim the public spaces for females...but 'tired of abuse' is not the right sentence and a bit sweeping. Mostly I see staring...at the most by males.

On the other hand the respect is certainly there by the males towards females in all strata of the society, in general...there are some exceptions though.