Saluting The First Female Okada Rider In Freetown

Echo Of The Pen!!

By Lansana Fofanah

Saluting The First Female Okada Rider In Freetown

The introduction of Commercial bike riding in Sierra Leone some years ago serves as a perfect alternative for some youths to gain employment for themselves in a country where the youth unemployment rate is high.

Commercial motorcycle transportation commonly known as ’Okada’ is considered the fastest but risky means of transportation in the busiest towns in the country.

There have been thousands of accident related-cases some resulted in life-time injuries, the amputation of the legs of riders, pillions, and sometimes pedestrians that have made Government Traffic regulators like the Sierra Leone Police, Road Safety Authorities see the need to regulate the riders.

Amidst this risky-profession is Kadiatu Barrie; a 29-year-old single mother of three who has been riding Okada for seven-years in Freetown.

Dropping out of school at an early age and encountering difficulties in a love relationship, Kadiatu now depends on Okada riding to provide for her children.

Riding a commercial motorcycle in Freetown requires one to be bold, tricks in meandering among pedestrians, taxis, and law enforcement officers in the Central Business Districts. I noticed all those qualities in Kadiatu during my first encounter with her.

Having seen her on several occasions, I decided to hire the service of Ms. Kadiatu from the central part of Freetown to the East-end part precisely, Upgun.

And here comes the lucky day for me this week when I met her at PZ hunting for pillions together with other male riders.

“Can I give you an executive ride to your destination?”, she requested. “Why not” I humbly replied because I saw the moment as a perfect opportunity to know the woman that is breaking the barrier of a long-stereotype against women and why she chose to venture into a male-dominated trade.

Off we went to my destination with ease and comfort.

The ten minutes we rode for, was all about a question and answer session.

Among the thousands of Okada riders in the country, Kadiatu is popularly known as the ‘Queen of the road and a ride with her will tempt one to request her service another time.

For Kadiatu, the days of women waiting for people to write and tell their stories are over and there should be life beyond prostitution which many less-privileged girls believe is the only way out.

“I rode Okada for a boss for sometime before saving enough money to buy this one.

It was challenging when I started it but I had to confront my fears and what people will say about me. Today, I am a proud owner of this motorcycle which I am using to take care of my children.

Men could only give you something when they expect something in return but with this Okada, I decide what is good for me and my family”, she confidently said.

Riding okada in the Central Business District is something the Police keep restricting because of the rate of accident and the reckless nature of riders. But for Kadiatu, she goes where men dare not. “My brother, this is my business and the only means of survival. I have to do it with all seriousness it deserves, unlike other riders that are trying to spoil the trade. I have an updated rider’s license and I follow strict adherence to the law and that is why the Police and Traffic Wardens protect me against a bully,” she said.

For Kadiatu, while there are few women riding rickshaw (Keke) she wants to see more women in the traffic riding Okada and stop depending on men to provide for them.” If I can do it for seven years without any accident or injury, other women can do it better. Customers call me daily to pick and drop them in different locations because I ride with care”, she boasted.

Indeed, Kadiatu has demonstrated that what men can do, women can do better. We wait to see when there would be more women competing with men in the Okada sector.

News 24 publication.

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