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Pikala Bikes: Creating education, providing jobs and more

©Pikala Bikes

Located in Marrakesh the project Pikala Bikes runs a bicycle training center for teens and young adults. There they learn how to restore, repair and maintain a wide variety of bicycles. Moreover this project offers a chance for girls and young women to develop themselves. DW spoke to Cantal Bakker, the director of Pikala Bikes.


Could you explain the situation of girls and young women in Morocco? And in Marrakesh in particular? Do they have the same rights as boys and men? 

Morocco is a country in rapid development so it therefore also has a lot of contrasts. Girls and women are making big steps in their freedom, rights, personal- and professional development but at the same time  in rural areas there are still a lot of girls who do not even finish their primary school education. There is rising awareness and this is the beginning of a change but it needs time. Bigger cities like Casablanca and Rabat are ahead with women participation and also in Marrakech you will find a quite a lot of independent young women. In our social Pikala Bikes project  we have an equal amount of girls and women working with us.


Is there a certain mentality that hinders the development of girls or young women?

That’s the source of the problem. A change of the position of women changes the whole cultural/social/society structure. The hardest part is respect that is not given to girls that show ‘independence’. A lot of men find it difficult to be with a woman who is more self-aware, professional and outgoing.

©Pikala Bikes

Could you explain the project Pikala Bikes? How did it start? What do you do? What is your goal? 

Pikala (Moroccan slang for bicycle) is a non-profit organization to promote bicycle use in Morocco.  Pikala uses the bicycle as a tool to create education, provide jobs and to find solutions for environmental- and mobility issues. It’s a relatively young project that was started on the  personal initiative of Cantal Bakker (26) from Holland. She had given cycling classes to women refugees in Holland. When she visited Marrakech two years ago, she saw that the bicycle had the potential to help a lot of people in their mobility, create technical education and stop all the mopeds in the old city centre. What started as an innocent idea turned into a real project.

The goal of Pikala is to change the concept of the bicycle (now it’s seen as transport of the poor), to start the project in other cities in Morocco and in Senegal, to have thousands of students benefit and to create more that 100 jobs before 2020.


You mentioned at the Global Media Forum that your team is comprised only of women. Could you explain more? Is this a unique situation in Morocco? Have you faced challenges or obstacles because of your women-only team?  

The board of the association and the organisation consists only of women. It surprised many people here in Morocco since the bicycle is seen as a man’s object It’s not a ‘girly topic’, it contains mechanics and a lot of logistics etc. Of course, we also work with men in the project but we have girls integrated in all our activities even in bicycle fixing! There are advantages that we are just women in the organisation but of course we are also seen as the underdog sometimes. We assume that the things we have achieved so far come from a combination of the vitality of the project, the energy in the organisation, our unconventional spirit and our womanpower.


What does Pikala Bikes do for girls/young women? In terms of education and empowerment? 

Pikala involves girls in all its activities. Cycling classes for girls and women are very popular. It provides them with a physical activity (experience their physical power) and it helps them in their mobility (cycling is freedom) Also we have an equal amount of girls in comparison to boys who guide the bicycle tours through Marrakech. We organize presentations, language and coordination workshops to improve skills and attention and to give people a feeling that they have a safe environment. This provides great mental support to these girls.  We also have girls doing internships to develop their organizational skills.

©Pikala Bikes

How is Pikala Bikes helping to improvesociety in Morocco?

Pikala connects very well to various relevant issues such as the environment, urban mobility, traffic safety and health issues. Through crossovers, partnerships and educational programs, Pikala wishes to bring more awareness, more hope and more cycling joy. After the summer, we will start a campaign for traffic safety and bring awareness among youth about environmental issues. Apart from that, we are also working on different concepts to provide more jobs for young people as  youth unemployment is a big issue in Morocco.


What is the long-term goal of Pikala Bikes to help women? 

Pikala would like to be an exemplary organization in which woman are equally represented in the organizational structure and in the  activities. It’s important to showcase that women and men are working together in a professional way and that the bicycle is unisex. We wish to educate the first professional female bike mechanics in Morocco with  Pikala.


Do you have any plans for the near future, especially regarding women?

Things grow naturally and in unforeseen ways sometimes We provide cycling classes for girls in the morning but recently the mother of two came to us in the evening asking if she could use a bicycle and learn how to ride it. She came back the next evening and the evening after, now we suddenly have a whole group of mothers that join us in the evening hours just before sunset to cycle around in our garden. Pikala wants to be an open space and to be flexible so that unexpected things can happen.

Interview: Marjory Linardy

Editor: Anne Thomas


Check out more about Pikala

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16.08.2017 | 19:31