She has been a motorcycle rider on the streets of Kigali for four years now. It’s the evening rush hour in the Rwandan capital. Cars are inching their way through the city center and clogging up the intersections. The small African country is growing rapidly. Construction sites have sprung up everywhere, slowing down the traffic even more. But Claudine just zigzags her way between rows of backed-up cars. Over and over, Claudine brings the motorcycle to abrupt stops. Drivers are changing lanes unexpectedly or suddenly slamming their brakes; riding a motorcycle is not exactly hazard-free; accidents occur daily. Motorcycle taxis are the main mode of transportation in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali where Claudine Nyanamajambere lives is Rwanda’s only woman motorcycle taxi driver amidst her male colleagues.
“My female passengers say I’m doing something for women. By driving a moto, I’m helping to promote equal rights in society.”
Motorcycle taxis are simply the fastest way to get around in this sprawling city. There are more than 5,000 motorcycle-taxis moving through Kigali. No matter where you are, you’ll always find a moto in no time whatsoever. Claudine shares that it was not a conscious choice. “I spent a long time looking for a job, but I couldn’t find one. I had already been a bicycle taxi driver in my home village. So I got a motorcycle license, and that’s what motivated me to become a moto driver.”
Whether men or women are better motorcycle operators is not an issue for Claudine’s male colleagues. I think it’s a good thing for women to drive a moto and make a living that way. After all, how well a person rides is only a matter of experience,” moto driver Jean de Dieu Nikarionza says.
There are more women than men in the Rwandan parliament. Women can be found at all levels of government, and the government promotes equal opportunity in schools. Nonetheless, Claudine is regarded by some as an unofficial gender equality officer. “My female passengers say I’m doing something for women. By driving a moto, I’m helping to promote equal rights in society.”
But in the end, what‘s important to Claudine is not that she is the only woman to drive a motorcycle-taxi. “I need the money for my family. My husband is out of work now, and if I can still save up a bit, I’m happy,” she says.
Being the only female seems to give her an advantage. Claudine says, “Most of my customers are men. Whenever I’m standing around with the other moto-taxi drivers waiting for a passenger, the men choose me. They hear my voice and come over. I take them to their destinations safely.” She shares, that she has not experienced any harassment or other problems with male customers.
Photo: J. Johannsen/DW