The United Nations has stated that sport in its most basic form, has the capacity to promote gender equality and empowers women and girls to benefit from the positive impact it has on health and psychosocial conditions. In South Africa, two developing cyclists, Yomelela Mfazwe (19) and Ongezo Mini (19) believe that by encouraging more women to ride bicycles, they could break down gender stereotypes in their communities and inspire women to pursue their dreams.
The dynamic duo are on a mission to pedal their way to a better life through cycling. Juggling between waitressing tables in Stellenbosch and cycling some of the country’s rockiest roads and toughest mountains, they share a common goal – to become successful cyclists who can inspire change within the sport of cycling by getting more women on bicycles. This is their story.
Once upon a time
Mfazwe started her cycling journey two years ago when she was 17. Focusing predominantlyon mountain biking, she attended the Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy, a non-profit organization in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape. “I have always been a sporty person. Growing up, I used to play Netball and Soccer, whereafter I discovered cycling through a friend at school. She told me about the Academy, where I learned how to ride a bike, the rules of cycling and how the industry of cycling works for free. Ever since, I’ve been on a mission to conquer some of the country’s most difficult cycling races, including the Cape Epic.”
Mini, on the other hand, is all the way from KwaZulu-Natal and started riding when she was 15 years old at Go Durban Cycle Academy. “When I first joined the club, I was the only female, which challenged me to work harder. I thought, if a male can do it, then why can’t I?”
“Riding brings me joy and empowers me to overcome the challenges I face every day, allowing me to focus on the present moment and appreciate the beauty of the journey,” she adds. “With every ride, I discover a renewed sense of vitality and inspiration that fuels my soul, reminding me that anything is possible when I set my mind to it.”
Changing the narrative
Mini and Mfazwe recently embarked on their latest adventure – the Race To Willowmore (RTW) on 27 March 2023, where the use of modern-day navigation technology like GPS was not allowed. The pair set out on a challenging 500 km cycling expedition, guided, and supported by female Sports Activist and Endurance Sports Athlete, Ingrid Avidon.
“Yomelela and Ongezo are incredibly strong, both physically and mentally. Their strength and courage throughout the journey was remarkable. Unfortunately, however, Ongezo fell on the first day and had to withdraw, but Yomelela and I continued. Growing in confidence over the days Yomelela had to dig deep, but her resilience shone brightly – especially when it came to crossing 11 rivers without being able to swim,” explains Avidon.
Mfazwe notes how inspired she was after traveling for five days. “I want other women to see my experience as proof that if we keep trying and don’t give up, we can succeed not only in sports but also in life.” Although Mini could not finish this particular race due to her injury, she says her pursuit of inspiring women in her community will continue.
The next chapter
The trio’s journey was made possible with the support of global sportsbook and gaming provider 10bet South Africa. “The goal is to bridge the funding gap and promote diversity, and inclusivity, enabling and empowering women from disadvantaged backgrounds to engage in sports,” explains Zanele Nhlapo, CSR and PR Manager at 10bet Africa.
“Supporting women in sports has far-reaching effects that benefit not only women but society as a whole. It can inspire and empower women to become leaders and role models, promote gender equality, and contribute to positive social and economic development,” she adds.
“As a result of these opportunities, Mfazwe and Mini are determined to make a lasting impact on their community by empowering more women in townships to pursue cycling. Their dream of establishing a non-profit organisation in the near future where they can teach people in townships to cycle is inspiring, and we hope to partner with them again to support athletes from disadvantaged backgrounds,” concludes Nhlapo.
Notes to editors: Issued for and on behalf of 10bet South Africa by At Hook, Line, and Sinker.
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