Being a Female Cyclist in Kampala: The Verbal Commentary

Do you ever question the existence of traditions and cultures and how they became the true norm amongst different societies?

Things like for a woman to be proposed to, the man has to kneel and on one knee?

Or a man was (or is still) considered prosperous to have as many women as he could and a woman, on the other hand considered immoral and promiscuous or further killed if found guilty?

Well for some reason, whatever the myth, value or practice, it seemed to favour the men either implicitly or openly.

In the early years, the currently trending equality was unheard of – in fact irreverent – since women were considered as the weaker sex.

The liberty that a woman has now to express herself or pursue her ambitions or even “shooting her shots”, was known to only be a man thing.

Community gatherings, who got to do what, who had the right to say what-

In some way or another, the men were considered more superior!

This though, doesn’t resonate with me given how few genes there are on the Y chromosome compared to the X chromosome🤷‍♀️, which women have in double.

You already know where this is headed – the feminism talk!

Anyways, back to history of inequality.

From the bible for example, if you have read it, you know of King Solomon and Mary Magdalene

If it wasn’t for Jesus, Mary Magdalene would be stoned to death for sleeping with more than I don’t remember how many men.

But you don’t hear anywhere – from the many versions of the bible – that someone attempted to stone King Solomon for sleeping with 1000 women, that is, 300 wives and 700 concubines – wow this guy!😅

Well you could argue he was a king

But there were others: Jacob the son of Isaac with two wives and two concubines, Elkanah with two, Esau, David, Benjamin – name it.

And not just Israelites or Jews, this was a common thing in different cultures all over the world, even in other aspects of society.

Moral uprightness, physical capabilities, mental abilities, political capacities – men held the power over these.

As generations shift, that is from early stone age to the now digital age, there have been tremendous shifts in how society views the capacities of a woman and the liberty they are entitled to, to showcase them  

By efforts of women like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Simone de Beauvoir  and the likes, the western world has striven to have equality enacted.

As much as this has been keenly promoted in African countries like Uganda, through advocating for girls to stay in school, equal employment opportunities among others, some changes regarding equality are either at a snail’s pace or just imprinted on DNA.

Cycling for-example

It is as unbelievable as it is true how unconventional it is to see a woman/girl riding a bicycle in the streets of Kampala

And for some reason, the reaction on seeing one riding – whether positive or negative – is like witnessing the moon shine bright at noon!

As a female cyclist, I have gone through all sorts of otherising every other day I ride.

It comes from all sides anywhere: boda-boda guys at their stages and those enroute; passengers seated in taxis and on boda-bodas; pedestrians walking in the same and opposite direction – everywhere

Somehow these people feel entitled to impulsively say or shout out anything that pops to them!

I can’t deny, some of it I like 😃

Some of it, I am impelled to think, “Whoahhhhhhhhh, the gutssssssss!🙄”

And for other instances, I am indifferent to whatever is thrown at me, like, “ Oh well, I didn’t see that coming – regardless – we (me,myself and I) ride!”

In this post below, I will be sharing comments I have received while on my voyages – from the most to least common phrase(s) – for being a female cyclist.

  1. Banange laba omukazi avuga eggali!

Which translates to:

Damn see a woman riding a bicycle!

Okay seriously there is two wrongs with that, and around one word

WOMAN

First of all, hey y’all, I am not yet a woman – may be 5 years from now.

Maybe I am one but I still think I’m eligible to be called a girl😅.

Anyhow, whether I am one or not yet one, how is it okay for kids to blurt out such?

I have seen kids stop playing and resort to staring at me, saying that exact line and additionally one of them, booking my bike to be theirs😄.

The latter reminds me of how I used to book trucks as my cars while I was with my peers – such is the power of being innocent and dreamy when young!

So for the kids that covet my bike, it’s totally understandable – I mean have you seen my bike?😎

Seriously though, I don’t hear kids get shocked seeing a man driving a car or riding a boda boda

What kind of environment are we letting innocent young blood live in?

It is from such prejudices that they, especially the girl child, convince themselves they can’t pursue STEM courses because well, the men do them, not women!

And you know these are young kids, the next generation of leaders being shocked to see a woman exercising her rights to be alive.

Like we are not entitled to the benefits and the whole nine yards attached to cycling?

No no no, UGANDA this is totally wrong!

Truth be told, this is one of the many lines I am never happy to hear.

2. Baby mpamu nvuggemu

This translates to Baby, help me with your bike so that I can ride for a short while

I get this every day, to and fro a designated destination  

Every single day!

And I really never know what to say back or if I should say anything back

“Can you handle this one, it is the kind with no gears?”, me on a good day and I am pushing my bike on a hilly surface

or

“…well…..if you can catch me”, says me if I am riding

And other times, especially if I just want to reach home to rest from a really long day, I am never in the mood to even pick my phone no matter how many times it rings

So definitely, those my fans are most likely to be speaking to a riding log

Though, lately I have been thinking about risking my bike

I want to give it to whoever asks just to laugh at the fact that they can’t reach the pedals because well, the seatpost of my bike is quite in the sky to cater for only my long legs.

3. You’re the best/ Gw’asinga / Kyekyo baby

Just like the English statement, the subsequent Luganda words which mean the same thing are actually uplifting remarks.

For some positive-reinforcement reason, I find myself with a grinning face, especially when such a line comes from a fellow woman.

You know that statement, “You are my ride or die”

It totally means something very different but somehow, it comes to me while climbing a hilly terrain, especially after a junction when the lights go green.

I either ride or die.

When the lights are on red, it is typical for motor cycles and bicycles to be at the front of the cues.

A picture showing cars and boda-bodas waiting for the light to go green in the right lane at the junction of Kira road and Lugogo bypass. (Sqoop, 2020)

When the lights go green, on top of all the kinds of noises behind me , there is all kinds of vehicles – cars, motorcycles, bicycles – on my wheels.

That moment is an actual adrenaline-rush situation and feels more like the Olympics, when they call out, “…..On your mark..get set..goooo….”

So I endeavor to pedal hard because well, my bike is a gear less one and I love my life to lose it in a race with boda-boda guys

When other people spot me vigorously climbing the hill, in my understanding, they can’t help it but call me the best – which I am anyway😃

4. Baby Ntwalako /Ntwalako/Baby nvuga mu

…..which translate to “(Baby)carry me /give me a ride on your bike “ and the last statement literally means “baby ride me on your bike”

These statements have different connotations.

I presume the first meaning is used because my bike has a pillion which I mostly use to carry merchandise and only once, attempted to carry a friend and for a short while.

A picture showing my bike after a ride under drizzles, having a bucket with detergent tightly tied on the pillion using an elastic band. Photo credit: Brenda Nakandi

It is usually said both in English and Luganda and I am generally smiley when someone says it.

In most cases, this comes with a joking tone.

If I know that someone, I similarly banter by asking them to jump on if they can.

For the latter meaning, the guys usually insist to ask me in a more vulgar tone followed by other figurative profane words.

Usually, this is always said by men that are either seated by the road side lacking what to do or boda-boda men redundantly seated on their boda-bodas

Boda_Boda_riders_on_stage
A picture showing boda-boda men at a boda-boda stage (Kampala Dispatch,2020)

When one says it, it’s like a spark for his colleagues to utter all kinds of sexist comments only idle minds can imagine.  

When I hear something like that, I am only reminded about how important it is to actually have constructive thoughts and the right company, lest other people suffer.

5. Baby embuzi egenda

Come again?

“Baby the goat is going…”

……is what that statement literally means.

Goat in this case is a metaphor for virginity used commonly in the central, western and eastern regions of Uganda

Whenever I get that, I wonder, “How is sitting on a miniature-raised seat while using my lower limbs to propel me forward using pedals on a bi-cycled device make me lose my virginity?”

The guys that utter that radiate a loud-spoken impudent sort-of personality.

And as far as I can recall, it was guys that load merchandise on trucks, male passengers on boda-bodas and boda-boda riders that at that moment were riding recklessly – you can imagine!

It reminds me of some of the myths I was told while young.

“Girls don’t climb trees or ride bicycles otherwise they lose their virginity!”

That though, didn’t stop me from doing either of the two and well, I don’t remember losing my virginity while doing either.

6. Name calling – Azawi, Quinamino, Rasta

Surprisingly though, for Azawi and Quinamino, I have got this from different locations and various times

Azawi is a Ugandan musical artist that is known for her unique vocals, hit song Quinamino and dreadlocks hairstyle.

A collage showing Azawi. (MBU, 2020)

I like to think I get this because of my usually dread-like-coloured long hair and unique narrative(being a regular female cyclist in a patriarchal society)

Additional to my hair, I am called Rasta and in fact, more often than the above.

And for some reason I tend to be giggly when called any of that.

7. Sexy Ngenda kuwasa

😅😂Okay wow!

This translates to, “Sexy, I am going to marry you!”

I am already booked I guess.

I got this once from a boda boda man and I remember everyone in the vicinity laughing, including myself as I rode off

When he said it, I was heading home along a busy street in a village close by home often referred to as “trade centre” by locals.

I was so overwhelmed and ended up grinning the rest of my journey.

8. Bye Museveni

YOOOO!😂

I got this once and it just cracked me up!

For crying out loud, my bike is super red and I don’t remember owning any yellow garment in my closet.

You would think someone would instead say “People Power” – which I have received on a few occasions by the way.

But for some reason, to them, I appeared like a roaring blade-slap sound from a helicopter

That statement – “bye Museveni……” – is said in unison and repetitively by kids in the central region while facing the sky when they see a helicopter.

I mean, wow – bye Museveni?!

Anyways, like I said, regardless we ride!

Riding from work. Photo Credit: Lucy Namuli

To me, riding is one of the best decisions I have made for the last 25 years.

And to the society I live in, it is one of the most shocking thing to ever be witnessed.

All in all, WHETHER I am cheered, ridiculed or sexually harassed, it comes down to why I do it – the free transport, the exercise, beating traffic, the fresh air, the great feeling of freedom, the amazing feeling of being in control – and so much more.

With all this, it surely gets me back on the road the next day and all the other days – heading anywhere as fast as my legs can take me.

If you have any comments or questions about the things people say to me while I ride, put them in the comments section below – I am more than happy to respond to them😊.

42 Comments

  1. When something becomes ubiquitous, it tends to lose its meaning and often becomes a joke. This happened for feminism – honestly. But this piece was just it for me on the subject. I am a guy who is irritated by the hyperbole in feminist articles but I didn’t want this particular “story” to end. It exposes butt bare the problem in our society. Lays out the issue encapsulated in humour but keeps the message neat. I took me on an introspective journey and I definitely need to be better because I’d react exactly the same way.

    Looking forward to the next keeping up with Brenda T Nakandi.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This, my friend is actually great to hear and I like how blunt you were in every statement you put in your comment.
      Like wise, I am looking forward to not disappointing you regarding keeping up with me 🙂

      Like

  2. You have talked about so much that I have questioned myself… and I have to say you really do look like Azawi though….Anyway you blog is bringing a fresh light to the things we woman have to put up with or things that society sweeps under the rag. I love your blog and keep it up!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha well I better question Afande if there is something I need to know about who my siblings are. Nonetheless, thank you so much for the great feedback and yes, I am keeping the flame burning.

      Like

  3. It is so sad how some people view things. Sometimes people just comment with no remorse 😰😰 and they forget the impact or damage their comment brings onto the other person🙁. It’s nice to know that this doesn’t ware you but motivates you. Good thing is, it’s not all bad😊😊😊 there are some pretty good comments you receive “@Museveni” 🤣🤣🤣🤣.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow!
    I’m so glad I have a riding mate 🤭although we’re in different cities (I am in Lira) I have been riding to work and field since the lock down and although women riding bicycles is normal in my city, I still get someo of those bizarre comments more so from my colleagues!
    Whichever way, we move👌

    Like

    1. Whoah it is a pleasure to e-meet you, Immy! It’s a great feeling to discover a fellow female cyclist – feels like home😊😉! I am keen to know how your colleagues take it and if you are interested in posting your story on this blog 😊

      Like

  5. It was all nice and beautiful to imagine👌🏽☺️I cycled right from childhood, taught by my dad it’s something I miss but until we Reached the name calling and unnecessary banter God I’d beat someone 😡😡😡!!!!
    Thank you for sharing the raw experience Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Baby embuzi myeh egenda…..Sometimes i hear some profane statements being uttered by my fellows and two things come to my mind. How dumb can this guy be? Or I get the impulse to knock them out but then am like naaaaah you ain’t worth my time.

    Like

  7. I like no. 5 “embuzi egenda”🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣😀😀oh God! 🙉 this is hilarious….😂😂
    I loved the story, just exactly what I wanted to know cause our society normally views things differently. Keep it up Brenda, our society surely needs strong willed, persistent and unshakable women like you.

    Like

  8. Fascinating, thought provoking blog and inspiring blog. Illustrates the small things we often take for granted. Thanks for sharing it Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Leaders lead by example, thanks Brenda for stepping up to the stage to show people that what a man can do a woman can even do better. Nevertheless cycling 🚴‍♀️ regularly is a good form of physical exercise which is of great health benefit to any one. Kudos
    bye bye Museveni

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Its a nice one Brenda. Keep it up though very hilarious and eye opening well for most of these things we women know because we still experience them especially in down town.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great post and I Love how you get out there and are free as the wind riding your bicycle where ever you need to go, and one of my favorite paragraphs;

    “All in all, WHETHER I am cheered, ridiculed or sexually harassed, it comes down to why I do it – the free transport, the exercise, beating traffic, the fresh air, the great feeling of freedom, the amazing feeling of being in control – and so much more.”

    I found you as featured on Uncle B’s (Beatons) Best of 2020 bloggers. Keep up the great writing! ~Diana 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I really enjoyed this read I must say, I am involved in a business that has me going to Kampala streets quite a lot and the comments from some of these guys will be the death of me one of these days. This was quite cool and refreshing, glad I stopped by.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Super glad you passed by too 🙂

      Somehow, they feel entitled to saying whatever they wish and society makes it look like it’s okay – interestingly! But yeah, we do share similar sentiments and I hope your work is not affected a great deal by their noise.

      Thanks for passing by 🙂

      Like

Leave a Reply to JJ Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s