The Care Group’s collaboration with the local charity 'Cycle Sisters' to launch The Somali Cycle Sisters Women's Project has achieved remarkable success since it started in February 2023.
This is largely attributed to Cycle Sisters' expertise in motivating and supporting Muslim women to embrace cycling, bringing about a truly transformative experience.
The programme's primary objective was to empower Somali women to take up cycling, while addressing gender and racial disparities in health and wellbeing and fostering stronger, more connected communities. Cycle Sisters offers an inclusive and culturally sensitive safe space, enabling Somali women to explore cycling, develop their skills, and build confidence.
Take part in an inclusive, culturally sensitive environment
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The project identified many participants during a 'Clean Air' event held in July 2022 that the Care Group organised. A Somali cyclist from Cycle Sisters demonstrated cycling in a culturally sensitive environment, sparking significant interest and enthusiasm among the attendees.
Beyond the benefit it brings to residents' health and wellbeing, this project aligns with our vision of achieving Net Zero objectives. By promoting cycling, we actively aim to contribute towards reducing the carbon footprint, positively impacting the health and well-being of the wider community.
The project has successfully supported over 30 Somali women thus far. Between February and July 2023, 40 group cycling sessions have been delivered tailored to the needs of the participants. The project commenced with learn-to-ride sessions for beginners, gradually advancing to cover cycle handling skills and on-road techniques as the women grew more confident.
These sessions were conducted in small groups of three to six women at Victoria Park, led by experienced female instructors. Generous support from Bike Works ensured that bicycles were provided during the lessons.
Enthusiastic interest, profound impact
Throughout the project's duration, Cycle Sisters reached out to over 80 women through effective publicity and outreach efforts. Surprisingly, more than 90 Somali women expressed interest in joining the project, with over 30 actively participating in various cycling activities.
The impact has been profound, with one participant showing exceptional commitment by undergoing training in May to become a qualified British Cycling Ride Leader. Her dedication is commendable; she has also acquired qualifications in first aid and basic bike maintenance.
Rahma said: "It has been an incredible experience to become a Cycle Sisters Ride Leader for the Somali sisters. Seeing people overcome their fears and begin cycling in a matter of weeks is thrilling."
Another learner said: "I never thought I would benefit from cycling, but I started cycling seven months after my c-section; it really helped."
Zainab, the Community Engagement Lead for Women’s Inclusive Team, added: “The Cycle Sisters sessions have been a true testament to the power of community and empowerment. Witnessing Somali women embracing the opportunity to enhance their mental and physical wellbeing through cycling has been incredible. What truly made it extraordinary was the creation of a tailor-made session, guided by a Somali trainer who fostered a genuine connection and understanding with the participants.”
Camaraderie and belonging
To enhance the project's impact further, Cycle Sisters have employed two local Somali women who have served as exemplary role models, inspirations, and pioneers for others. Witnessing the progress and enthusiasm displayed by all participants, Cycle Sisters are excited to continue supporting them as they join the weekly Cycle Sisters Tower Hamlets group rides, nurturing a sense of camaraderie and belonging.
The success of the project would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts and unwavering support from Cycle Sisters, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Bike Works, Dr. Farah Bede, and the Women's Inclusion Team.
Together, we have instigated positive change, empowering Somali women to embark on their cycling journeys and making our community healthier, happier, and more sustainable. Let us celebrate this extraordinary achievement and anticipate more collaborative ventures that will continue to uplift and enrich the residents of Tower Hamlets and beyond.