By Mwambazi Lawrence

Namugongo, Uganda – May 21, 2024

In the bustling town of Namugongo, Uganda, the roar of a motorcycle engine often signals the arrival of Sharifah Kateete, a rising star in the world of motocross. Born on October 22, 2002, Sharifah has been making waves in motorcross a sport traditionally dominated by men, defying expectations and setting new standards.

Sharifah Kateete chasing dreams and making memories one ride at a time

Sharifah’s journey into the world of motocross began in 2010 at Busiika. At just eight years old, she climbed onto a bike that seemed almost as large as she was. “I could barely see over the handlebars,” she recalls with a laugh, “but I had a heart full of dreams and an engine ready to roar.”

With unwavering support from her family, including her father, Kateete Abdul, her mother, Namutebi Josephine, and a host of siblings Shadia, Shamilah, Ahmed, and more Sharifah quickly moved up the ranks. She now competes in the MX2 category, riding her trusty Gas Gas 250, a machine that has become an extension of herself.

Sharifah Kateete in one of the races far right is her Dad Abdul Kateete.( Photo Credit SB4 Media)

“Motocross has taken me far beyond the borders of Uganda. I’ve raced across Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda. Each country offers its unique challenges, from the dusty tracks of Kenya to the high-altitude courses in Rwanda. And while the racing is intense, the friendships and fame I’ve gained along the way are equally priceless. Yes, fame it’s quite something to walk into a Kenyan café and have someone recognize you from a motocross event”.

However, the journey has not been without its hurdles. Being a woman in motocross comes with a unique set of challenges. Sharifah often finds herself battling not just the competition, but also societal perceptions. “We often don’t receive the respect we deserve,” she says. “It’s a strange world where a helmet can give you anonymity, but as soon as it’s off, the questions start: ‘Can she really race?’ ‘Isn’t motocross too rough for a girl?'”

Every fall is a chance to rise higher

Support for female racers is scarce, and Sharifah believes that needs to change. Women racers need recognition for their skills and the unique challenges they face. From the physical demands to the often-overlooked emotional support, creating an environment that encourages rather than questions their capabilities is crucial. “Ladies, we could do with a little less skepticism and a lot more support!” she declares with a determined smile.

Despite these obstacles, Sharifah and her fellow female racers are paving the way for future generations. They are calling on young girls who believe they can’t compete with boys to think again. “Our goal is to inspire and lead the next generation of female motocross champions. After all, we’re not just racing against each other; we’re racing towards a future where gender doesn’t determine your place on the podium.”

Sharifah Kateete (c) celebrating victory with other fellow female riders.

Sharifah’s achievements in motocross have driven her career, opening doors to new opportunities and making her a recognizable face in the racing community. “Motocross has given me fame, friends, and the chance to travel the world,” she says. “It’s driving my career and making me a recognizable face in the racing community.”

Sharifah Kateete riding her own trail one race at a time

She shares a humorous anecdote about her fame: “Once, a fan asked if I was really the rider or just posing with the bike for a photo op. Spoiler alert: I revved the engine just to see their shocked face.”

As Sharifah Kateete continues to blaze trails in motocross, she remains a beacon of inspiration for many. From Namugongo to the world, her journey is a testament to determination, skill, and the unyielding spirit of a true champion.

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