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Sat Oct 25 21:00:31 SAST 2014

Bikers on crusade to end abuse

PEARL BOSHOMANE | 26 November, 2012 00:29
TTP6BIKERIDE26-25-11-2012-14-11-03-175-.jpg
Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana showed her support for the Johannesburg Harley- Davidson Bikers' Club. The bikers started their 17-day ride across nine countries on Saturday to raise awareness about women and child abuse PICTURE LAUREN MULLIGAN

Fifteen bikers have embarked on a 17-day ride through nine countries to raise awareness about abuse of women and children and to mark 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, which began yesterday.

The male motorcyclists are part of the "Ride On! Speak Out" campaign, which aims to promote gender equality. Men are at the forefront of the movement.

With orange flags on their bikes and wearing orange T-shirts, the group's members are also trying to promote Orange Day, which requires people to wear the colour on the 25th of each month as a statement against women abuse.

Partnering with UN Women and Harley-Davidson Johannesburg, which sponsored the motorbikes, the bikers' ride began on Saturday in Johannesburg, where it will end on December 10. The 7620km trip will take the riders through South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho.

John Koller, a rider for 40 years and one of the participants, said the cause was close to bikers' hearts.

"We realised how important it was for men to stand up and talk about it. That's what got me in. Now that we are talking to men, this might open a can of worms and we, as men, speak out and say: 'Enough. These are people we should be nurturing and treating with absolute respect'."

Harley-Davidson's Pierre Delport, also taking part in the ride, said it was not difficult to find men willing to join the cause.

"People have this impression that bikers are rough and tough. We want to show that we do care. I hold women very dear to my heart. It's totally unacceptable that men abuse women. You must have respect for women but you must also have respect for yourself. A lot of people don't have self-respect so they think they can treat other people like animals."

UN Women director of resource mobilisation Antonie de Jong, said: "[Gender-based violence] can not only be dealt with by women. If you want to end violence against women and girls, you must also involve men and boys."

The riders are documenting their trip online and through social media. Go to http://rideon.hdavidson.co.za to track their progress.

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