|Jeanne D’Arc Girubuntu (Photo Source, The Nation)|
At 20 years, Jeanne d’Arc Girubuntu has transcended the status-quo and made history as the first woman of color, African woman and Rwandan woman to ever race at an international competition. In September, Jeanne raced at the 2015 Union Cycliste Internationale (International Cycling Union) Championships in Richmond, Virginia. Born in 1995 and raised in a village in Rwamagana District, in Eastern Province of Rwanda, she did not succumb to the stigma and hardships associated with women cyclists. She is part of Team Africa Rising, an initiative based in Rwanda that trains Team Rwanda and other cyclists from Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
She spoke to The Service Mag (TSM) about how she started cycling in 2012, the motivation that drives her and the people who inspire her daily in her rise to fame as a female cyclist.
TSM: What role do you play in order to influence change within your community?
JEANNE D’ARC: My Cycling has inspired very many people in Rwamagana especially young girls. Just like Adrien Nyironshuti inspires a whole generation of Rwandan cyclists, she has affected the people of Rwamagana. Every time they meet me by the road, they tell me that they want to become cyclists because they see that I have gotten to the next level.
TSM: Why is cycling important?
JEANNE D’ARC: If I were not cycling, I would not be where I am right now. Cycling has saved my life and give me exposure. I have been to the US, Europe and so many other countries and learnt a lot.
TSM: What do you consider the biggest challenge in your field?
JEANNE D’ARC: The fact that I am the only female and there are no other girls in Team Rwanda is a challenge. There are seventeen cyclists on the national team and I am the only woman. There are some upcoming female cyclists but they are not yet on board.
TSM: How do you hope to overcome present challenges through your career?
JEANNE D’ARC: Whenever we are at different competitions, I know that South Africa, Eritrea and Ethiopia are strong teams and they always have about five women riders and whenever I see them breaking away, I also join them so I can fit in, it helps but it is still very difficult to do this.
TSM: What is your biggest success story and how has it made you feel?
JEANNE D’ARC: Being the first woman of color competing at the world Cycling Championship is a big achievement. I am also very excited that a professional cycling team is interested in working and training with me. I will be joining them in the US in February and two months later, I will move to Europe when it gets warmer. In addition, I used to ask my parents for money to go for trainings and maintain my bicycle which was very expensive, but now I am able to handle these costs. I am very happy that I can do these things.
TSM: What motivates you to do what you do?
Kimberly Coats and the Rwanda Cycling Federation have been very helpful in preparing me and organizing my trainings and travels. Knowing that there are people who support me keeps me going.
What are your aspirations?
JEANNE D’ARC: I want to be a professional cyclist.
What is your take on service delivery in Rwanda especially in your profession?
JEANNE D’ARC: By competing, I feel that I am providing a service for my country because we are changing the image of Rwanda. These days Rwanda is internationally known for cycling. The service delivery in the cycling fraternity is ok but there is need for more female cyclists.
What is your message for the Rwandan youth?
JEANNE D’ARC: Rwandan youth should embrace all sports and not segregate with statements like ‘this is for boys and that is for girls’ they should try all types of sports.
|Jeanne d’Arc Girubuntu is Rwanda’s top Female cyclist (Photo source, wamc.org)|
When are you happiest? “When I race at international competitions I am happy because I am competing with international teams and improving my skill.”
What inspires you the most? “Kimberly and Jock Boyer are always there for me and inspire me to be better.”
What makes you sad/ want to cry? “In September at the All Africa Games, I missed a prized medal by microseconds and this was very sad and I cried.”
Your favorite hangout spot? “I love spending time at home with my mother because I am always away and checking on my friends.”
Favorite drink and dish? “I love drinking milk, and eating potatoes, matooke and cassava.”
What gadget can’t you possibly do without? “My Microsoft phone”
Your Dream Car/Bicycle? “A Prado and I already have my dream bicycle. It’s a Pimarello, it’s the world’s best bicycle on the market right now.”
If you had one wish, which famous person would you like to meet in person? “Chris Froome, the Tour de France champion.”
Are you dating, single or married? “Single.”