How Allen Kisakye overcame fear of trousers to become a bodaboda rider

"The community was shocked too see a female rider. Some people would even shout things at me and chase me,” says Allen Kisakye Butundu, a 27-year-old social worker cum boda boda rider recounting her ordeal on coming into her new found passion.

Allen Kisakye Butundu

Two years ago, Butundu started hitting the streets near her home and waving down motorcyclists to teach her how to operate a motorcycle at a small fee or for fueling. Back then, she was looking for a way to save money on transport between Kampala and the rural areas she used to frequent as a social worker.

This was after she shared her dream with her husband, a trained veterinarian with seasonal employment, who flat out refused to indulge her. But overcoming ingrained gender roles was only the beginning of the challenges she would deal with.

I didn’t give up. I stopped boda boda drivers on the road and said: I’m not a customer but I want to learn how to ride this bike, I want to do your business,” she says.

Her sister was bewildered by her choice of change for a career, “She didn’t believe I was her biological sister," Butundu recalls.

Swayed by her determination, her husband relented and deposited Shs6.3million on a new bike.

In her zeal and ambition to defy external odds, Butundu was unaware of her own inner resistance to her new occupation. When she was finished with training, she decided to leave her job as a social worker to commit to the comparatively more flexible hours of motorcycling.

Up until that moment, she had never been seen in trousers in her community. The shame drove her into sneaking around with her work gear and looking for places to change away from the public eye.

My neighbours had never seen me put on trousers before. I felt ashamed at first,” she says. “I used to pack my helmet and trousers in a bag and change near my bike, which I parked away from the house," she narrates.

Gradually, she came to accept that the dress code came with the territory. That if she wanted to ride with the big boys, she had to put on her big girl pants.

"But then I thought, 'I have to start accepting that this is part of my work,” she says.

Today, she is a one of the three full time women boda boda workers with a local transportation startup. Plus, she's one of the 1 million commercial motorcyclists in the country.

Also, she recently purchased a second bike that she rents out to her friend.

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