Women cycling through the Himalayas for the One Billion Rising campaign

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A funny Facebook post by feminist-activist Kamala Bhasin of One Billion Rising, actually had a whole story behind it

Sometime in March, feminist-activist Kamala Bhasin posted a Facebook message saying she had bought a bicycle just in time for her 75th birthday.

She was looking for women her age to ride a bike, and the group would be called the Cycling Feminist Auntie in her seventies. He also asked Hero Cycles to start a brand called Shiro Cycles, which led to the message being shared on social media, with over 400 comments on his post.

“It was a joke,” she says, though she takes out her new circle to move around her colony. “My real inspiration to buy bicycles was two young girls who are cycling 56,000 km for the One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign,” says Kamala, South Asia coordinator for the Worldwide Campaign to End Violence Against Women.

ride through the mountains

On 2 February, 24-year-old Sabita Mahto and 21-year-old Shruti Rawat embarked on a trans-Himalayan cycling journey covering 5,800 km across eight states and Nepal. In keeping with this year’s OBR theme: Rising Gardens, the idea was to stop along the way and talk to school students about gender equality and the environment.

Sabita has previously cycled solo in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka; Shruti did not. “Shruti was my student during the MTB course organized by the Uttarakhand government,” says Sabita, who has spent six years as a mountaineer and three years as a cyclist.

Shruti, who has graduated and now works with the Kartavya Foundation, says she attended the course, but later when Sabita told her about the campaign, she really wanted to participate. “The longest run I did was 43 kms and I am not an athlete,” she says.

stay cycling course

Right now the girls are in Assam after doing 68 days. They will end up in Arunachal Pradesh, although they do not have a clear plan as to where their final stop will be. While OBR provided the trek cycle to Sabita, the Uttarakhand government gave Merida to Shruti.

It has been difficult for Sabita to reach this point. The daughter of a fisherman from Bihar, who later moved to Kolkata, fought hard to avoid marriage after class XII. She had already quit the sport after class ten because of wearing shorts, as her parents were always worried about: “What will People Say? (What will People Say?).”

Her brother and brother-in-law helped her father to persuade her to send her to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling for training. On his solo trips, often without money, he would visit police stations, hotels, gurudwaras, Temple, and the church. “My idea to include Shruti was to create a chain of empowerment,” she says. Shruti found it easy to explain to her family what she wanted to do.

On the road, the tough part is simply cycling that stretches for eight hours a day, rough terrain and rapidly changing weather. They stay in hotels and have a big meal at night, and start between 7 am and 7.30 am. No untoward incident ever happened to him, people only encouraged him along the way. “When we are at home we are told that the world is bad, but the world is not. For every one or two bad people, there are 100 good people. Do not sit at home and assume that everyone is bad,” says Shruti says.



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