What you need to know:
- Iman Kagumba has defied religious and cultural beliefs to pursue her passion in a male-dominated sport - cycling.
- She says as a young Muslim woman, it is a sin – Haram – for her to dress in tight-fitting gear.
- She has received a lot of criticism, shaming and negativity from people around her. Many have questioned why she doesn't wear a hijab. She has been told to find a better sport.
Even though not allowed her to wear tight-fitting clothes, 22-year-old self-taught bike instructor Iman Kagumba has defied religious and cultural beliefs to pursue her passion in a male-dominated sport - cycling. To ride comfortably, she has to wear bikers.
The Diploma in Community Development student from Mt Kenya University, Mombasa Campus, says as a young Muslim woman, it is a sin – Haram – for her to dress in tight-fitting gear.
“You have to look at the bigger picture. I am out there cycling, keeping fit and earning a living as a bike instructor,” says Ms Kagumba who hails from Mombasa County.
“I have received a lot of criticism, shaming and negativity from people around me. Many have questioned why I am not wearing a hijab and not dressing properly. I have been told to find a better sport.”
Ms Kagumba says she enjoys the sport and is determined to tackle the stereotypes and myths against women engaging in activities perceived to be a preserve of the men.
She urges women not to be blinded by culture and religious beliefs, and pursue their passion.
At a young age, she was an energetic child and engaged in playing football before she discovered the bike.
After high school, Ms Kagumba acquired a bicycle and started commuting to university, a highlight of her journey to campus.
In 2017, she started professional cycling.
“I started doing more mileage gradually increasing from 5km to 30km. I got better kits, gear and eventually a more sophisticated bike,” she says.
“I consulted widely from those in sports and contacted someone who helped me identify a coach who helped me through the journey of cycling,” she says.
During a competition on Mashujaa Day held in Mtwapa in 2018, she was the only female contestant, emerging top.
“From that race, I got the drive and passion to bring more women into cycling. Since then, I have taken part in more than five races in which I have emerged top,” she says.
Early this year, she was scheduled for the Rwanda Epic Race but it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On September 6, Ms Kagumba took part in the Rapha #Womens100 Kenya edition.
“The Rapha #Womens100 has been held globally for the last eight years to encourage more women to ride bicycles. For the first time this year, we organised the #Womens100 challenge in Kenya to encourage more women to embrace cycling for fun, sports and for commuting,” she adds.
Ms Kagumba’s team of 12 cyclists among them three women, managed to complete 100km off-road challenge from Nyali to Vipingo in Kilifi County and back.
At the same time, she says, a separate group of cyclists rode in Diani and Nairobi in her honour, while other riders were at the Mombasa Treasury Square.
Fifty-year-old Ms Farhana Adamji, a retired teacher, is one of Ms Kagumba’s students. She too, believes that passion for riding should be nurtured at a young age.
“Girls should not be scared of riding as a sport, because it is a sport like any other. I suffered from a back problem and riding has actually been beneficial to me,” she says.
“In the last two years, I have hardly been on painkillers, I haven’t seen a doctor and my physical fitness at the moment is at its best.”
The former teacher notes that no sport should be gender specific and that women have the right to do any sport irrespective of their religion or cultural beliefs.She urges parents to encourage their children to pursue their passion.