Bikeygees was founded by Annette Krüger who explained that the name comes from the words "bike and refugees."
Do you remember the joy when you first rode your bike? The thrill of finding the right balance and finally getting to ride without your training wheels is a feeling like no other. Getting to ride a bike, however, is not something every child gets to do. While it may be just a fun activity for some of us, it is an act of rebellion, a symbol of independence and freedom for many others. Especially in some parts of the world where women are frowned upon for riding a cycle. When they flee to other countries for a better life, they can finally get their autonomy back.
“In my country, women are not allowed to ride a bicycle,” Roqiya, a young woman from Afghanistan, who has moved to Germany told Bike Citizens. She saw many women cycling to work or alongside their children and was inspired. Thankfully, a Berlin non-profit called Bikeygees came to her assistance. The group teaches refugee women from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria how to ride. It was established in 2015 when there was a huge influx of Syrian refugees fleeing the war. So the people of Berlin decided to embrace a concept called Wilkommenskultur, or "welcoming culture," to greet newly arrived refugees.
The non-profit was founded by Annette Krüger who explained to NPR that the name Bikeygees comes from the words "bike and refugees." Bicycles are an important part of German culture and Krüger, who is an avid cyclist herself, at first donated bikes to refugee centers and eventually started teaching the refugees how to ride them as well. "It is possible to change the life of a woman in two hours. It is really magical," she stated. The program has since grown and today there are volunteers who offer lessons to refugee women five days a week in 15 locations in Berlin and Brandenburg.
Roqiya started to learn how to ride a bike by attending Bikeygees meetups in 2017. She can now ride her bike with confidence and also volunteers her time to help other women learn to cycle as well as promotes the organization throughout Berlin. Since their establishment, Bikeygees has managed to teach 1,131 women and girls how to ride a cycle in 564 training sessions and has donated 412 bicycle sets, which include a bike, helmet, bike lock, and bike tools. They also teach women to fix their bikes, to help instill a sense of self-sufficiency.
"We believe that cycling is a fundamental component of the (re) acquisition of individual mobility for refugees/newcomers who have come to Berlin." the website states. "Women in particular need support here. Many routes are made on foot. They feel isolated in their accommodations. Cycling offers an obvious solution to explore the new living environment." It has allowed refugees to find the new and better way of life they came seeking. “In my experience, in refugee camps, I saw so many men who bought nice things for themselves, went out all day, and then wouldn’t allow women to go out at all," Rahima, a refugee told The Guardian. "My father and mother didn’t allow me to ride in Iran or Afghanistan, but here, there is an opportunity and I have to use it."
Speaking about the impact Bikeygees has on the lives of refugees Krüger said, "We are all learning something. The idea has always been to show the world that it’s not so complicated to effect change. Most people say: the government is evil and I can’t do anything. You can! This is the evidence." You can donate to the organization here.