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How One Initiative Empowers Women—One Bicycle At A Time

With International Women’s Day on the horizon, it’s a good time to give some insight into The Rockefeller Foundation’s holistic, wide-ranging approach to women and gender. We look at every initiative we put into development with an eye toward uncovering the social norms, gender roles and biases that aren’t always explicit, but underpin or hinder progress. We also work to uncover and highlight the ways in which women around the world are exerting a positive influence on their communities and societies.

The Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is one example of the good work being done by women entrepreneurs around the world, to both generate sustainable income and address a number of Ghana’s pressing challenges. The Bamboo Bikes initiative does it one high-quality bike at a time.

Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on a Bamboo Bike
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (F) rides a bamboo bicycle made by young women in Ghana as part of efforts to tackle climate change during the 2013 UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, Poland, on Nov. 20, 2013. Photo credit: Xinhua/Zhang Fan

Founded by a female entrepreneur and fueled by ongoing women’s leadership, the initiative trains and employs women with limited access to education to manufacture and assemble bicycles out of bamboo—in one fell swoop, effectively addressing several of Ghana’s most pressing challenges: migration between urban and rural areas, traffic congestion, low employment and environmental degradation. Additionally, cultivating bamboo to build the bicycles—as opposed to using wood or metal—helps to conserve the country’s fast-disappearing forests, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve air and water quality.

Since 2012, Ghana Bamboo Bikes has been on the radar of the UN Framework for the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat’s “Momentum for Change: Women for Results,” a Rockefeller Foundation-supported initiative celebrating the efforts to improve development outcomes for women globally, including climate change adaption and mitigation. The initiative works to inform governments, media, and the public about the role of women in solving climate change, and showcase innovative, effective and scalable models.

With this increased attention, the women have received and filled orders as far away as Europe and the United States. Now, the initiative is already working to create new jobs and expand into new locations across Ghana.

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