Israt khan Mojlish is the Founder and the precident Bangladesh Women Rider Association Club. Her club is dedicated toward helping and accommodating new women riders in a society that that is still reserved toward the idea. Turbine crew had a chance to seat down with her and share her experience.
Please tell us a bit about yourself, and your family?
I’m Israt Khan Mojlish. I’m a computer engineer by profession. Currently, I am in a company with my husband and usually spend most of my time there. And another thing is I’m among one of those women who drove a bike for the first time in Bangladesh.
What is your role in the Bangladesh Women Rider’s Association Club?
Currently, I’m the founder and the president of this club.
It is indeed a great initiative, and we are very curious to know what sparked the idea that led you to start this club?
I started the club in the year of 2013. I bought my bike in the year of 2012. When I started to drive the bike around, I noticed that not many women were riding any bike the way I am. Due to this problem, as a woman biker, I wasn’t able to communicate with other women bikers in case I ran into some issues. Moreover, back then, the barriers the women bikers had to face, the looks of the people they had to endure and the way it reflected in their daily lives was quite a struggle. They would have to bear through unwanted whistles, verbal abuse from passers-by of middle-aged and even old men. Also, when it would get dark outside and a woman has to go through a narrow street on her bike, random male bikers will speed through passing by them in very close proximity to scare them so that the women would fall off the bike or something. Then again these would happen more years back when the society had a hard time accepting women driving motorbikes.
Are these the only reasons that led you to start the Club?
More or less, yes, these are the reasons that motivated me. Also, if a scene takes place where a lot of other women like me are driving bikes as well, the views of society might change about women bikers. Over time what can be observed is that the concept of women bikers has become more tolerable in society. Another reason would be to bring all the women bikers together in one place where they can communicate with each other in case of any help they might need from each other. I even got hold of women bikers by locating them in the physical world and by chasing after them myself. I even constructed free workshops for women bikers, especially for newbies by getting them interested to drive a bike. I talked about how it’s not a hard task to pull off and I also offered to teach them myself in my own bike. In this way, throughout the time we started to accumulate countless women in the club. When we started the club, in the beginning, there were very few women. So the few of us would participate in rallies about women empowerment through social activities and also take part in works that were related to the awareness of the society. Even though we were few, we would still organize these kinds of events to grab the attention of society.
Q: How did you further expand the group, to bring it where it is today.
We started to get in contact with people who are a part of these kinds of social activities. At first, when we approached them they said that they can’t find any common grounds through which they could find a connection between women bikers and their activities. Then I replied to them saying ” What can be more liberal than women riding bikes.
In your opinion, what would you say best explains what the core principle of this club is, and what it represents?
Because here we are breaking sort of a “standard” by letting women ride bikes in society, which makes us seem like rebels who are going against barriers. As you people mostly talk about Women’s rights, equal rights and also put effort into protesting against torture upon women with a bunch of festoons, then if a group of women bikers joins you there, it’ll be a form of protest as well.” So after giving them an idea, they were gradually interested to give in to the thought. So, the fast rally that we took part in was from Action Aid. Action Aid runs a program that lasts for 16 days focusing on gender violence. It is a program under the UN that takes place all over the world that consists of rallies, awareness, and activities based upon protests against women and children abuse. So we got involved with them as time progressed and also took part in their rallies. In this way, we joined quite a few more organizations like some women’s and children’s centers. We also got to work with Sharmin Morshed ma’am. With her organization, we worked with various others on International Women’s Day. In doing so, we became involved in various social activities. Overall this club isn’t only about bikes, the concept of women bikers is merely a gateway to a contribution to existing society regarding other social struggles. So my idea was to initiate this concept in the first place.
If one of our readers would want to join your club, what are the steps one must follow?
The condition to join our club for a woman biker is that she needs to have a valid license. She must have a driving license. And she needs to have a bike of her own. And the rest of the requirements are not so different from other clubs which include good manners and other etiquettes and laws.
What are your plans for the future? How far are you willing to proceed with this club?
We have registered the club internationally. We are the only internationally registered club in Bangladesh. We are a division of the World Motorcycle Association. In short, it’s called WIMA and we are a division of it. WIMA is linked all over the world and they call each nation by division, for example, our club is their Bangladesh division. I’m the president of this division. It is through this that we are connecting with international women bikers from different countries. In the meantime, I have brought nine bikers to Bangladesh so far. They have come to Bangladesh and Successfully toured with us in different places and also traveled in bikes to various locations. Moreover, they joined us on several Activities related to Social Awareness and various other causes. There were even articles published regarding this topic. And lastly, we took part in the World Women’s Relay. This event takes place all over the world. In this event, the bike ride started in England. This takes place from border to border. One-woman biker crosses a border of a country and another woman biker from the other side of the border receives the other biker and accompanies her throughout the country, helping her to participate in all kinds of social activities on the way. Then she transfers her to another border and in this way, they continue the tour throughout the world and eventually, the relay finally comes to an end. So, this relay was done in Bangladesh as well. Two women bikers visited. One was from Belgium and the other was from India. We received them accordingly and they traveled all over the country. An international article is said to be published regarding all this which hasn’t been done yet but we’re looking forward to it. If this happens, it’s going to be a great and respectful thing for women bikers and women in general of our country.
Would you say it is helping people to view things from a more open-minded point of view?
Absolutely. In our country, too, the appearance of open-mindedness and attitude towards women bikers is a big deal. Especially because of the taboo that’s present related to Muslim or Muslim majority countries that women are always oppressed or tortured and barred from various activities. So, if the concept of women bikers in Bangladesh is highlighted then it will give rise to the thought that women bikers are accepted and respected here. It will make our nation more reliable. Normally the existing mindset is that women are unsafe in our country. So, highlighting the women bikers could be a way to bring a shift to that idea.
Do you have a dream bike that you would like to purchase in the future?
Yes, I do want one. But in our country, there is a cc limit for bikes which is not over 160 cc. For example, in Bangladesh, the first person to enter with an 850 cc motorbike was a woman who visited through my invitation. Her name was Melison Malinda. You’ll find her mentioned in an article in Prothom Alo under the title “850 ccs”. So this is a thing that as a woman biker who owns an 850 cc is touring around the world. Various companies are sponsoring her, they are financing her, encouraging her, they are taking care of her safety and everything. Compared to that, in our country, there is still fear or taboo about women driving bikes. I have this wish that when higher cc bikes of really good brands start to arrive in Bangladesh, I’ll definitely purchase one and would love to go on a world tour on it as a Bangladeshi Woman.