My name is Vorisoa. I’m 14 years old. I come from Tsihombe and live in Tulear. I live with my dad, my mum and my brothers. We are five children.
I went to school until grade 4 and started to be rickshaw puller this year. I was 8 years old when I stopped going to school. I can write my name, but I can’t read. When I was a student I wanted to become a policemen or teacher, but I didn’t finish my studies. That’s why I became a rickshaw puller.
I do this work because I don’t have money and I like working. Before I was a rickshaw puller I sold chicken. I went with my mum to sell chicken. We went to the North to buy them and afterwards we sold them here in Tulear. When I asked my mum to give me some money to buy clothes, she said I should go and work to earn money. That’s why I learnt to pull the rickshaw. I prefer being a rickshaw puller because my father and grandfather did it as well. My dad gave me some advice when I started. He taught me what the street sign looks like for one-way streets, so I knew which way to go. He also showed me how to hold the rickshaw right at the front, so if the rickshaw is heavy it does not tip back. I worry about pulling the rickshaw and it falling over. Once I dropped the rickshaw. I was exhausted. The passengers were very heavy and we were on sand. I couldn’t hold the rickshaw anymore and it fell backwards. There were two passengers. They didn’t pay me but I didn’t care. They normally go to the police or want to go to the hospital. They didn’t do either. That’s why I wasn’t worried.
The difficult thing about being a rickshaw puller is the policemen. If we don’t have a license they take the cushions from our rickshaw. So we can’t work and have to take a day off. And we have to pay a 1,000 Ariary fine to get the cushion back.
Once I had a customer like every other customer. He asked me how much it costs to go to Maninday from Sakama and I said 2,000 Ariary. In the middle of the trip he asked me to stop so he could get rice. He asked me “Do you have change for 10,000 Ariary?”. I looked for change and gave him 8,000 Ariary. Then he gave me an envelope and told me not to open it until he’d left. He ran off without any change.
I get my lunch at a street stall and then I go straight back to work. I drink coffee for breakfast. I buy it near our house. My favorite food is rice with beans and meat. I like chicken too, but that depends on money because chicken is 1,000 Ariary. Without chicken it costs 500 Ariary. I don’t eat chicken because I don’t make enough money. I earn 3,000 to 4,000 Ariary per day (circa $1 USD). I give 1,000 Ariary to my patron, spend 2,000 on food and if there is extra I give it to my parents. I work from 8am until 6pm. I work all day. I take a day off every Sunday. I didn’t yesterday because I have a debt with my patron. I didn’t pay 1,000 Ariary one day last week. If I had my own rickshaw I wouldn’t have any debt and I wouldn’t have to worry. I could rest whenever I wanted because it would be my rickshaw.
Madagascar, the island state off the south-east coast of Africa is one of the few countries left in the world where rickshaws are pulled by men on foot, rather than the bicycle type. The men, and in some cases teenage boys, eke out a meager living by renting a rickshaw, which they call a "pousse pousse", on a daily basis from a businessman known as a patron. They pay the equivalent of US$2.50 a day, which comes out of their earnings of $3 to $4. They have to survive on the money that is left and many have no homes. Instead, they sleep on their rickshaws and store all their belongings under the seat.
Monyati Initiatives, a non-profit social development organization has come up with a scheme to help rickshaw drivers in Madagascar.
Three years ago they set up a social business which allows rickshaw pullers to upgrade their current foot rickshaws to bicycle rickshaws and, thanks to a micro-loan structure, the pullers become owners of their own rickshaws as well. This will allow them to generate more income for themselves and their families and increase their standard of living. With the establishment of micro-businesses Monyati Initiatives supports true empowerment and long-term change. In the case of Vorisoa, the organization decided to send him back to school. He is now the best performing student of his class, and has been for the past two years. For more information please visit www.monyati.com
Courtesy of: Monyati Initiatives
Photography: Amelia Johnson