With more than 60 percent of its parliamentary seats held by women, Rwanda is often celebrated as a leader in women’s political empowerment.
Jeanne d’Arc Girubuntu is eager to see that success extend to the sports arena, too.
Jeanne d’Arc, 22, is Rwanda’s first professional female cyclist. She grew up playing soccer, basketball, and other sports and would only ride her single-speed bike to fetch water for her family. Then she watched male cyclists in the Tour du Rwanda race through her community and she decided she wanted to be able to ride like them.
Without any women’s teams to join, Jeanne d’Arc trained on her own. Her success in early races got the attention of Team Africa Rising, a non-profit organization that founded the Rwanda national cycling team, and she was invited to join the team.
She has since competed in races in the U.S., Egypt, Switzerland, Morocco. She was the first black African woman to ride in a World Championship race.
For too long people have only associated Rwanda with the 1994 genocide, Jeanne d’Arc says, but when people watch her and her teammates race they understand how far the country has come since then.