Back to Joburg after 8,200 km (over 5,000 miles) feels unreal. It’s roughly the same distance as NYC to Alaska or Johannesburg to Egypt, to give you a bit of an idea how much we rode. Ending violence against women is not a short ride either. We all know that.
Frans Pieterse summarized it in three words when he spoke at a rally in Swaziland : “educate, communicate and eradicate”. These are long and deep processes to which men must be as committed as women. Hopefully, this trip will give rise to many men joining our cause. In any event, we are confident to connect the men groups and bikers associations we discovered in all nine countries we visited. They will reinforce each other and make sure the 16 days of activism will become 365 days of activism.
By the way, this was the Slogan in Zimbabwe. We liked that. Enough is enough. In Malawi we rode on even though there was no gas for sale thanks to magic of the UNWomen office.
Perhaps the only annoying thing during our trip was the frequent border crossings. The red tape, paperwork and bureaucrazy were sometimes endless and time consuming. We got a bit better at it towards the end when Peter Hood and I -armed with our blue United Nations Laissez Passer- went to the diplomatic window: “we are here for the secretary general’s campaign”, we said. “How many are you, two?”, came the answer.
“No 19″. “Ok, bring em over!”.
In the scheme of things, it was a small annoyance.
Wesley, our road captain made a deep impression on me with his leadership skills. Every time I heard his voice I started running for my bike. Found the right nick name for her. “Ontembaar”, which is the Dutch word for ” Untamable”. This word has somehow been assimilated in Japanese in the 18th century when the Dutch were the only foreigners doing business with Japan. “Ohtembah” means now Tomboy. The bike seems that way, very strong, sturdy and untamable. A bike with a tough soul. This is how our campaign must be. Bold, unconventional and undeterred by any nonsense, potholes or bureaucratic bs.
The deputy President of South Africa, Mr. Kgalema Motlanthe, saluted and applauded us during the closing ceremony of the 16 days of activism. We were deeply honored. He also launched the National Council against Gender Based Violence. South Africa commits. The neighboring countries are also committing. Harley Davidson Johannesburg and the other twenty sponsors are also committing, all in different ways. There seems to be a definite momentum. Our job is to contribute and help to maintain it! Awareness raising and fundraising go hand in hand. We raised some funds for the SG’s Trust-fund to end violence against women.
Further we met the Swazi Boys, the bikers association of Swaziland. Good guys poised to join our cause. They have already adopted an orphanage. We met with the Permanent Secretaries of Gender in Lesotho and Mozambique, both men and very keen to make a difference for women.
In all countries we felt very special to be part of the cause. Perhaps this helps to explain the sadness we felt when the ride was over. We were first jumping up and down in the parking garage like Serena Williams after winning Wimbledon. We were screaming and hugging each other. The joy was for making it to the End. The underlying sadness later was for saying goodbye and going back to our routines.
We will cherish the unspeakable beauty of the landscapes, the comradery and the strong belief in our cause forever.
We will think of and pray for the women who suffer in silence and we never lose hope that something positive will be done soon to improve their situation.