Margaret Eby
October 13, 2014 10:22 am

There are bike trips, and then there are jaw-dropping feats of cycling. Four amazing Dutch women have vowed to cycle across 22 countries in order to raise awareness for women’s rights on a global scale. Their journey all the way from Indonesia (via South-East Asia, Central Asia and East-Europe) to the Netherlands is taking place, get this, on two tandem bikes. That’s  almost two continents, and 14,000 kilometers in total. Someone give these women a medal.

The Amsterdam-based group, Carlijn Bettink, Sophie van Hoof, Lidewij Ponjee, and Monique van der Veeken, founded Ride 4 Women’s Rights last year after noticing, in their travels, that women in many other countries lacked the freedoms they enjoyed. They set off in early September on their epic journey after a year of planning.

“We, as Dutch girls, didn’t really notice gender inequality because we have the chance to study and do the things we want,” Bettink, the president of R4WR, said in an interview with Bernama. “We got to be very interested and frustrated about these issues.”

The idea of the bike trip is to demonstrate  that gender shouldn’t restrict you from setting off on big adventures or setting lofty goals. It’s also a chance to spotlight those incredible women making major strides on behalf of gender equality in other countries.

“We want to say to all the women in the world that if they want to achieve something, they can, and they should never feel insecure being a woman,” Bettink said. “This is because women are strong, we want to show that. We believe that gender inequality has to be eliminated, so we are all the same.”

In order to make the journey, the foundation racked up a bunch on sponsors. But the team is also taking donations to support their journey. At the end of the trek, they’ll share the stories and observations from their long journey through a symposium in the Netherlands.

This week the women are in Malaysia before they make their way to Thailand via Penang. There’s a reason they chose the route they did.

“[It’s] because our mission and focus points are of relevance in the countries we cross,” they wrote on their website. “Our three focus points, right to education, right to gender equality and right to family planning are relevant starting points. In many of the countries, themes such as child prostitution and lack of education are highlighted, but in other countries, for example Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, it is still unknown territory. Cycling via this route gives us the opportunity to explore women’s rights in various settings and cultures.”

While on their journey, the team has been inspired by some of the women they’ve encountered, like female business owners in Indonesia and a female firefighter near Kuala Lumpur, who talked about how being the only female in her rescue department made her “feel independent and” “work even harder.”

“She said that, if these guys can do it, then she can definitely do it,” Bettink, told the Malaysian Digest.

It’s one of several individual stories the team is posting to Facebook, intended to inspire readers, but also motivate the bikers to keep on trucking. Make that, pedaling.

(Photos via Facebook/Stephanie van der Wiel photography, Ride 4 Women’s Rights )

Advertisement