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Saturday, Sep 13, 2014

Sports

Cycling the globe for women’s rights

The Jakarta Post/ANN | Saturday, Sep 13, 2014

Pedaling for women’s rights: R4WR cyclists (left to right) Monique van der Veeken, Sophie van Hoof, Lidewij Ponjee and Carlijn Bettink get ready to ride at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta on Sunday. The four are traveling by bike from Jakarta to the Netherlands in 400 days to raise awareness of women’s rights.

At the break of dawn on Sunday at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, four smiling women clad in orange cycling apparel stood by their two red tandem bikes, glowing with enthusiasm for an adventure that would span the next four months.

Ride 4 Women's Rights (R4WR) is a Netherlands-based women's rights foundation founded and run by four University of Amsterdam graduates: Sophie van Hoof, Monique van der Veeken, Carlijn Bettink and Lidewij Ponjee.

After their recent graduation, the four childhood friends agreed to devote their time to gain knowledge on women's rights and equality in other parts of the world, sharing this knowledge with others on the cycling route and with those back home in the Netherlands.

With no pre-conceived judgments on women's rights issues in the countries they will visit, the four women are embarking on an ambitious cycling journey from Jakarta to the Netherlands in 400 days with their tandem bikes - all in the name of equality for women.

"We have read some articles on women's rights in the countries we will travel to, but for us the challenge is to enter these countries with open minds. The goal of this trip is exploring what goes on and giving the reality more attention," Bettink told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Bettink added that part of the group's inspiration to focus on women's rights worldwide stemmed from the reality that not every woman in the world enjoyed the rights they had in their home country.

Their long journey will bring them through 22 countries, spanning Southeast Asia, South Asia and Eastern Europe, in their efforts to explore the state of women's rights with each visit.

Beginning in Jakarta, they headed for Rembang, Central Java on Sunday to participate in a project, before continuing to the Asian mainland through Singapore and cycling through countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, India, Iran, the Balkan region and then Georgia, before finishing their journey in the Netherlands.

In these countries, the four will participate in local projects run by non-profit organizations Plan International and Care International, as well as hold low-key projects and events of their own. In Nepal, for instance, they plan to organize a girls-cycling tour as well as visit schools to chat to students and community members, taking in stories and the perspectives of the local residents.

Their journey will be documented weekly on their website, blog, YouTube channel and their Facebook page, which is mostly written in Dutch. English posts will also be uploaded to their sites.

Ponjee described the documentation process as vital to the group's mission, as it provided a vision to those unaware of the state of women's rights in other countries.

"Our main goal is to raise global awareness of women's rights and also for people to reflect about their rights as well. We had the opportunity and freedom to get an education and make our own life choices back home. We want that kind of life for every girl across the globe as well," she explained.

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