When suffragist leader Susan B. Anthony saw a bicycle, it wasn’t just a way to get around; it was a tool for self-liberation. “I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world,” Anthony said in 1896. “It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.”
More than a century later, it looks like Anthony’s assessment was right. A program designed to close the education gap among girls in Bihar, India, had tremendous success. Since then Nishith Prakash, professor of public policy and economics at Northeastern University, and a team of researchers helped bring the program to Zambia as part of another successful trial. With hopes of bringing similar programs to half a dozen more countries, Prakash says bicycles could be a powerful tool for public policy and empowerment.
“We find huge effects on female empowerment, and we also find that for these girls [in Zambia], attendance went up by 45%. These girls walk, by the way, 110 minutes to school, one way. That went down to 35 to 36 minutes. Coming to school on time … went up by 66%.”