Equipping Young Peacemakers initiative spotlight: Beskla
written by EYP participant Mohamed Walid Jomni
“Cycling” probably isn’t what you think of first when you consider how to address Sustainable Development Goal 5 on “Gender Equality”. But during the third SDG Roundtable of the Equipping Young Peacemakers program, biking is exactly what I spoke about.
When I ask people “What transportation problem did you have last week?”, I usually get one of the following answers: “My flight was delayed”; “the train was late”; or “I got held up in traffic”. Many of us have so many transportation options at our fingertips that we only consider them for as long as we need them. But if I asked the same question in a rural region in Tunisia, the answers are totally completely different. In the regions where I do my evidence-based changemaking, people complete all of their daily tasks while moving at only 2–3 miles per hour.
Mobility and the Sustainable Development Goals
Mobility is a critical component of development plans to achieve the SDGs. In locations where distance is a barrier, the lack of efficient, dependable transportation has a negative impact on economic and social growth. The bicycle, which is often overlooked as a development instrument, has the potential to propel global progress. In a developing rural area, a bicycle is a potent, cross-cutting intervention that improves livelihoods, educational possibilities, and healthcare outcomes almost immediately.
As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an extraordinary impact on everyone: the loss of loved ones, enforced solitude, health woes, and, economic stressors have tragically affected billions of people. The pandemic has exacerbated global inequalities and existing problems in the neighborhoods where my initiative operates. More students, especially gils, are dropping out of school as a result of school closures, the lack of online opportunities, and care responsibilities at home.
Education as a Catalyst
Education is a significant tool for ensuring children’s long-term equality and success. It promotes gender parity at a young age, fosters confidence, and develops the skills and information that will improve future career opportunities.
Beskla is a social entrepreneurship project that aims to reduce the time spent by students on the way to school so that they can devote more time to their studies and avoid dangers. Compared to walking, bicycles increase carrying capacity and distance traveled while decreasing transit times. They are a sustainable tool used to bridge the gap between needs and resources, empowering individuals, families, and entire communities to thrive.
Through Beskla, we also educate young people about the importance of preserving natural resources and utilizing ecological solutions. Beskla uses a multi-site, multi-client model to conduct our work. Collaborating with local partners, we organize cycling events and tours for pre-fixed fees. Thanks to our cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, we have been able to exchange specialist knowledge in human rights activities and launch Ena Bdit. Renting bikes to tourists allows them to sustainably discover Tunisia in its many facets, its inhabitants, and its visitors. This improves the quality of tourism in our country’s cities, based on the driven approach to local development and social innovation. Then, we are able to invest those tourism profits into new bikes for our rural students.
Throughout the past two years, we have supported ten students in four different areas of Djerba thanks to the positive engagement of local inhabitants and their willingness to bring a positive change in the region. Taking a strong evidence-based approach to our work, we have been monitoring the academic performance of our participants – and have found that they improved significantly.
Students with bikes traveled 50 minutes less per day compared to students without bikes. That’s more than four hours a week the students can spend working on homework, helping out around the house, and ‘just being kids’. Students with bicycles also missed eight fewer days of school per term than those without a bicycle, a difference of 72%. Students in the Beskla project were 28% less likely to miss more than 10 days of school than students without a bicycle.
Moreover, we are promoting gender equality by giving 70% of our bikes to female students, and employing locally skilled technicians to assist riders. This contributes to a long-term cycling infrastructure. Community involvement and participation in our activities reinforces the importance of girls, allowing their views to be heard.
Next, we hope to install the first bicycle station in Tunisia and to assist local partners such as municipalities and NGOs to design effective measures for cycling safety.
Our Programming Directly Contributes to Achieving Five Sustainable Development Goals
- Goal 1 – No Poverty
Bicycles can assist people in overcoming distance barriers and allowing them to move more in less time, allowing families and households to pursue a living. Bicycles are precious assets that add to a family’s net worth.
- Goal 4 – Quality Education
Schools in developing countries’ rural areas are frequently located far from households. Bicycles can help students who live far from school improve their attendance, performance, and retention in elementary and secondary school.
- Goal 5 – Gender Equity
Bicycles can be used to make household duties easier and faster, allowing females to devote more time to other activities, such as education. Bicycles are a safer option for women and girls to go great distances than walking.
- Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities
With a bicycle, those who have been unable to participate in critical income-generating activities owing to distance or a lack of transportation can seek more options and earn more.
- Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities
Bicycles are a safe, affordable, reliable, and sustainable transport option accessible to all people.
Prioritizing Women and Girls
Women and girls continue to suffer cultural barriers that limit their access to education, markets, well-paid work, effective reproductive healthcare, and property rights. Barriers to education – including gender and social norms, household duties, safety concerns, and lengthy trips to school – disproportionately affect girls, leading to worse educational outcomes that have a negative influence on girls’ entire prospects.
At the 2015 United Nations Summit, world leaders chose “Gender Equality” as one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals aimed at ending poverty, protecting the environment, and ensuring prosperity for all by 2030. A bicycle is a powerful, cross-cutting intervention that can assist women and girls in gaining access to education and healthcare, boosting their status in the home and community, improving their safety and confidence, and raising their earning potential.
Advocating for Rural Mobility
In emerging sections of the world, particularly in rural areas, there is a huge demand for reliable, durable, and economical transportation. Scaling up to address this need for mobility requires the help of our field partners and social enterprise sales. Community-led growth in healthcare, education, and economic possibilities can flourish – and communities can become more resilient – if we enable individuals and groups to go further and quicker. We are always looking for new platforms and chances to advocate for a bicycle-friendly environment. We build ties with local groups and governments in the areas where we serve to help develop a bicycle-friendly culture.
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