Adolescent girls are learning though a cycling centred programme how to deal with other aspects of life. (Image: DMA Facebook)In a densely populated township in the north of Johannesburg, where it’s hard for people to make ends meet, a leadership programme focusing on adolescent girls and a biking academy are making a positive difference.Girl Ignite Africa, a leadership programme for girls centred on cycling, was founded by Lerato Motsamai, the managing director of Petrolink Retail Fuels Consultancy. The idea of cycling for a better future was born when Motsamai was stuck in traffic for hours in 2010 because of the 94.7km Cycle Challenge. She watched the participants cycling through Joburg and was prompted to join them.Motsamai decided to take up cycling for fun on her own; she later teamed up with Diepsloot Mountain Bike Academy (DMA). The sprawling township, Diepsloot, is in northern Joburg, next to the flourishing suburb of Fourways. Motsamai’s partnership with DMA was targeted at helping girls make changes in their lives.“I was inspired. I told myself one of these days I was going to buy myself a bike – and little did I know that the bug had bitten,” she told Motsamai told Youth Fit Africa.Launched in April 2014, Girl Ignite Africa focuses on adolescent girls up to the age of 20. “It is a life skills programme that is centred on girls. It is a world-class programme, though still in the piloting phase… I meet the girls every Saturday after they have completed their morning cycling training, and their maths, science and English tutoring. We start the day with two hours of cycling.”TAKING CYCLING HEAD ONIn 2012, before setting up Girl Ignite Africa, Motsamai bought herself a road bike and started cycling. She entered several competitions, some in the name of charity. Through her partnership with Africa Tikkun, an early childhood development centre in Diepsloot and various other townships, Cycling 4 Filling Tummies was born. Under its banner, she rode for charity in races such as the 94.7 Cycle Challenge, the Jacaranda Satellite Challenge and, most recently, her first PnP Cape Argus.Girl Ignite Africa not only focuses on cycling and school subjects. Girls on the programme are also exposed to meditation and yoga, as well as entrepreneurship, financial literacy and other disciplines. They are also enrolled in the prestigious President’s Award Bronze Level. According to Motsamai, the programme aims to develop the girls’ full potential, including spiritually, intellectually, physically, socially and culturally.“I want to bring out the creativity and the cultural aspect of education as an enhancement to the current education system that focuses on academics only. By bringing out those creative dimensions, you allow the child to be confident in all areas of her life, and can compete on an equal footing with her peers from privileged backgrounds,” she said.A GREAT PARTNERSHIPThe DMA is also making a contribution to the people of Diepsloot. It was established in 2006 with the objective of providing opportunities to underprivileged youth from Diepsloot through cycling and life skills programmes.The DMA’s sports development and youth empowerment programme provides its members with educational support, access to mentorship and personal development, and opportunities to participate in recreational and competitive cycling activities.Participants in the programme range in age from 10 to 24 years. There are 70 members at present, of whom about 50 attend the club every weekend. They come from the schools in the area. To get club membership, participants must attend the club for eight consecutive weeks.Besides cycling, the DMA tutors its participants in English and maths and helps high-performing students to get bursaries. The long-term vision of the DMA is to develop each youngster into a well-rounded, skilled individual who is able to earn a sustainable income and provide for their families.