Changing women’s lives and livelihoods: Motorcycle taxis in rural Liberia and Sierra Leone

Jenkins, Jack; Mokuwa, Esther Yei; Peters, Krijn; Richards, Paul


In rural Liberia and Sierra Leone about half of motorcycle taxi passengers are female, with this proportion increasing on market days. However, all motorcycle taxi operators in rural areas are male. This study assessed if and how motorcycle taxis have contributed to the livelihoods of rural women and whether there is appetite among them to become operators themselves. Data were gathered through male and female focus group discussions, roadside traffic counts and operator and passenger surveys. The study was conducted in three districts in rural Sierra Leone and one rural county in Liberia. The Liberia field site was the location of a pioneering pilot project on upgrading footpaths to motorcycle-accessible tracks. This project, funded by a German development agency, aimed to connect remote villages to the feeder road network. Both men and women were involved in track construction and this study assessed whether the women’s involvement made them more likely to take up commercial motorcycle riding. Women nearly universally praised rural motorcycle taxis, indicating that they have made access to markets and (maternal) health much easier. However, while many expressed the desire to become operators themselves, they identified a number of barriers, the most significant being lack of friends or business persons willing to rent motorcycles to female operators.