KIGALI, RWANDA – Furaha Uwamahoro, 21, is one of just four female motorcycle taxi drivers registered to operate in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.
Uwamahoro has dark skin and short, natural hair. Wearing baggy blue jeans, a Lacoste T-shirt and men’s shoes, she stands on the streets of Kigali, taking a short break from transporting residents around the city. She has a medium build and walks with a masculine swag. Her voice is deep yet feminine.
Although the legal driving age in Rwanda is 16, Uwamahoro says she started to learn how to drive a motorcycle when she was just 9 years old. On the way to primary school, there was a place that offered lessons on driving motorcycles. Every time she passed by, she used to stop and watch other people as they learned.
Soon, her brothers taught her how to drive one. When Uwamahoro was in 11 th grade, her family started struggling to pay her school fees. She dropped out and decided to become a motorcycle taxi driver.
“I decided to become a motorbike driver as I was no longer able to get the school fees,” she says.
It has been five years since Uwamahoro began offering motorcycle taxi services in Kigali. She doesn’t have her own motorcycle, so she rents them from other people, splitting her profits with them.
She says she earns 9,000 francs ($15) per day. She gives 5,000 francs ($8) to the owner of the motorcycle, leaving her with 4,000 francs ($7) for a day’s work.
She also teaches other women how to drive motorbikes, offering lessons outside Amahoro Stadium. Uwamahoro is quick to add that she earns more money instructing than offering taxi services.
“Normally, when coaching, I can make 20,000 Rwanda francs per day,” she says, which is $33 after paying 30,000 francs ($55) to the bike’s owner.
Uwamahoro says that some people think that learning how to ride a motorcycle takes too long, and that is why they choose other jobs. But she says this isn’t true.
“You can drive within a month,” Uwamahoro says.
She says that there are only three main skills that people need to know in order to drive a motorcycle: “accelerating, decelerating and shifting the gears.”
Uwamahoro lives with her father and her two brothers. Her mother died when she was young. Her father, Emmanuel Gatera, says he is proud of what his daughter does.
“I felt really happy,” says Gatera, a 65-year-old truck driver. “She is my only kid who is trying to follow my career.”
Gatera isn’t concerned that his daughter instructs men. He says his daughter is more than capable.
“She is even able to drive a car,” he says joyfully.
He says there isn’t much difference between running a motorcycle taxi business and driving trucks. As such, he has a surprise for his daughter.
“I am planning to help her get a truck driving license,” Gatera says. “Because I think she will be able to drive trucks abroad, like in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.”
Gatera urges other parents who have daughters with