SCENES shines a spotlight on youth around the world that are breaking down barriers and creating change. The character-driven short films will inspire and amaze, as these young change-makers tell their remarkable stories.
A group of motorcyclists ride through the country roads of Tunisia, turning the heads of onlookers as they zoom past. But this is no ordinary group of bikers. Meet the Queen Bikers, Tunisia's first female-only motorcycle club.
Khadija Hssaini is the president of the Queen Bikers club. Her passion for biking started when she was a child. "The moment I start the engine, I totally forget about the people, the streets, as my whole being is fused with the bike. The more you speed, the more you feel comfortable and the adrenaline goes off the roof," the 27-year-old explains.
Khadija takes her hobby seriously and wears full protective gear on every ride. However, getting support from her family hasn't been easy. "The difficulties we face as female bikers start with the family because they usually do not accept a woman riding a bike. They see bikes as a danger lurking in the darkness," she tells Scenes.
Khadija is not afraid to tackle stereotypes within her community. She refused to let cultural barriers get in the way of her passion.
Khadija plucked up the courage to enter into a motorcycle rally in the south of Tunisia. To her surprise, three other women were also participating. "The women presented a challenge for me, and I was happy about it. One of the women joined the rally for the first time. She was a newbie but dared to join all by herself," Khadija recounts. "So when I saw the women owning the rally, I thought to myself what a wonderful idea to start a women-only group," she adds.
Khadija reached out to the girls on social media and suggested they come together and form a group. Soon, they were in constant communication, sending messages back and forth, swapping selfies and becoming firm friends.
Queen Bikers member Chima ben Ammou, told Scenes what biking means to her. "Personally, riding a bike changed my life. I used to be so stressed out by my job. Even though I was a regular at the gym and other sporting activities, nothing compares to riding a bike."
In Tunisia, most motorcycle clubs are exclusively for men. It is generally believed that women should only be passengers on motorcycles.
"Since I was a child, people would come up to my dad and say: ‘Why is your daughter like this? Why do you let her ride a motorcycle?’ They would ask the same to my mum: ‘Why does she let a girl ride alone and not fear for her safety?’" explains Chima.
The Queen Bikers ride together as a group because it is safer. "When bikers are riding for a long-distance, they need to be with a group because it's safer and more organised to follow certain signs. There is a biker who opens the road and another one who closes the road," explains Khadija. "Signs are given to slow down or speed up and alert you when there's a bump or an obstacle," she adds.
Attitudes toward female bikers are changing in Tunisia, and the Queen bikers welcome the change. "Male riders are encouraging women to ride. They'll salute you whenever they come across you. That's what we call a biker's spirit," says Chaima. "It's an encouraging sign and there's absolutely no difference between male and female bikers. Thankfully, this gender-based mentality is fading away amongst young riders," she adds.
Queen Bikers' future goals
The women gather regularly to ride their motorcycles along Tunisia's scenic beaches and coastal roads, documenting their rides on social media. "It's very comfortable to be amongst women. When I'm riding with girls, it's a familiar feeling. We always have so much to talk about without boundaries," explains Chaima.
Khadija's goal is to encourage more female riders to join Queen Bikers. The group of five organise rallies and events to recruit new members. "We have more than 300 women who own a licence in Tunisia and that number is growing, but we do not see them on the streets," she says.
Khadija is hopeful for a bright future for all young female bikers in Tunisia to take to the open road and challenge social stereotypes.