Things have surely improved for women in Liberia. Gone are the days when a woman sits at home all day waiting for her breadwinner to come home while spending those long waiting hours cleaning, cooking, ironing, minding the children climaxed with massaging her spouse’s feet when he finally does arrive.
Contrast this scenario to today’s women. They study, raise families, and run organizations. They even drive taxis and motorcycles. In Liberia, they ride motorcycles with a singular objective, and that is to make money, while feeling the wind blow through their hair.
Some say they plan on doing it for life.
Cairo, Egypt was one of the first countries to begin putting pink colored uniforms on their female drivers, a service marketed as a safe way for women to travel on their own or in rented vehicles. Safety was an issue for Egyptian women and the pink uniforms helped civilians to identify the female drivers and also help look out for them.
Liberia has also picked up on the same idea, but with pink helmets and jackets for female motorbike riders, christening them ‘Pink Panthers.”
It all started with donations from Henrietta Tolbert of the Angie Brooks International Center for Women Empowerment (whom we have contacted or an interview but still await her response). Since her donations, the Pink Panthers are now able to identify with and be on the lookout for one another, as all motorcyclists do.
According to a recent BBC story, tired of being robbed and harassed, Liberian female motorcyclists formed the Pink Panthers collective to make sure that they were easy to spot.
David Johnson, a motorcyclist who lost his brother to a motorcycle accident last month, says he has been impressed with the way the women, though only a handful, have come together.
“You know, as a woman, you should know your place in terms of knowing how to act and fit in. Sometimes these women try to act like men and can get very aggressive with people. I don’t know, but we are used to seeing women. The President made it easy for everyone to get used to seeing women working, too. But they are so aggressive at times, and that can lead to people wanting to take advantage of them,” Johnson stated.
But according to Michael, an arresting motorcycle union officer who runs traffic to make sure that motorcyclists are under control, he sometimes comes across these women. He feels that they are doing a great job by making money from their interest in riding motorcycles.
“I like to see women, especially those who look focused and don’t allow anyone to interfere with their purpose out here. With some more training and a little more sensitizing of the public about them being out here, too, they will be okay. Every motorbike rider is robbed and harassed, not just them; though I haven’t seen it. People need to just respect the fact that driving motorcycles for a living is not easy and they should give us a chance for taking the risk that comes with it,” he shared.
For now, safety is a prime concern for women considering commercial motorcycling or being taxi drivers, which carry the risks of assault, harassment and theft. What measures can be put in place other than having them wear pink to further protect them?