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Story: Motorfoɔ (pronounced motofwoh) means “motorbike riders” in Twi, the language spoken across Ghana. The word conjures up images of grown men riding motorbikes which is a common sight in Ghana. Drive around Accra and you’ll see plenty of men riding bikes. If you see a woman on one, she is likely to be sitting behind the man; for the duration of the journey, he is in control.

Female hawkers are also commonplace in Ghana. You’ll spot them carefully trying to weave their way through a traffic jam, doing all they can to avoid a wounding clash with a motorfoɔ. It’s analogous to the gender power struggle.

Motorcyclists in Ghana do not tend to comply with road rules. They run red lights, drive on the wrong side of the road and are reluctant to stop at zebra crossings. There are little or no legal penalties for their chaotic behaviour; the bedlam is recurrent, the power struggle exacerbated.

Before my trip, I asked numerous people that are more familiar with the terrain about their experiences in Tamale, a predominantly Muslim and conservative part of Ghana. I received an extensive list of things to see, food to try and places to stay. In passing, one of my friends added “Oh, motorbikes! They’re everywhere!”

So I knew to expect countless motorfoɔ in Tamale. But what I did not expect was the myriad of women driving them in kaba (traditional Ghanaian dress) and hijabs with young children strapped to their backs. Everyday transport in Tamale was redefining stereotypes in its own way.

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