Thursday, 23 November 2017

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Helen Clark becomes honorary member of the Pink Panthers Motorcycle Club

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19 February 2015 - The Pink Panthers are a group of eleven young women who have been riding motorbikes around Monrovia for years. They have faced harassment, robbery and sexual assault, and decided they would be stronger if banded together in the hope of attracting more women to the male dominated profession. There are currently only 15 women in Monrovia who earn a living this way.

Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, met the motorcyclists on her visit to Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. “We need to make sure you're getting the help you need to make an income, as well as to be able to get around town without being harassed” she said to the women. “It's a matter of equality – women deal with extra risks, therefore they deserve extra protection from police.”

Dearest Coleman, one of the members, has been riding for six years. She said that while she enjoyed the work, there are constant threats to her safety and well-being.

“I've been robbed so many times,” she said. “Sometimes men will ask me to take them somewhere isolated, and then they threaten me and rob me. But I have to keep going because I rent the bike and I need to pay the owner 500LD (US$6) each day.”

Helen Clark said that she admired the girls for being so determined and strong in light of all the challenges they face.

Safety measures

On 15 February the Deputy Director of the Liberian National Police gave a commitment that he would work with his officers to put measures in place to better protect women who ride motorbikes, and Clark has encouraged the Deputy Police Director to keep to his commitment.

UNDP partnered with a Liberian NGO, the Angie Brooks Foundation, to bring the women together, and provided the jackets and helmets. Yvette Chesson-Wureh the centre's Establishment Co-ordinator said that in order to get more young women to take up riding, there needed to be more job security and higher incomes, as well as for women to feel safer on the streets.

“Above all, we want to ensure their safety. We will talk to women in different communities and see if there's a market for an all-female taxi service – so that both the driver and the passenger can feel safe.”

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