Keisha Mayuga: Advocate for Transportation and Communication

The Philippine capital is the fourth most traffic-congested city in the world, according to the latest data provided by a Netherlands-based global data provider. In a country where many citizens don’t have access to education, lack of basic legal literacy also remains a pressing concern. Finding solutions to the Philippines’ lack of accessible information, along with its transportation issues, is exactly what Keisha Mayuga, the co-founder of LawKo, decided to tackle.

  • Traffic congestion and lack of legal literacy are some of the most pressing concerns in our country that need to be addressed.
  • Keisha Mayuga, a licensed environmental planner, noticed the burden that traffic congestion is bringing to the people and made it her personal goal to bring people home in under 30 minutes. Fueled by her goal, she switched careers, studied urban planning, worked for the first student-led bike share system in Southeast Asia, and founded a bike donation drive that lent bikes to frontliners during the COVID-19 quarantine. 
  • Mayuga also knew that the law should be digestible for the common people and co-founded LawKo, a social media initiative that helps Filipinos understand legal processes through a Facebook-based chatbot.
  • Although women’s presence in historically male-dominated areas has been growing over the past decades, much work remains to completely abolish the conscious and unconscious gender biases in all fields.

Mayuga has always had a passion for serving the community, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines (UP) and a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from the same university. As a licensed environmental planner, Mayuga found that one of her greatest challenges was in shifting her focus from journalism to transportation to technology. However, her vast experience allowed her to have a wider and diverse outlook in these fields. She now considers this struggle to be a useful tool in communicating her ideas.

Turning Points and New Beginnings

“I had an epiphany moment that I wanted to be in transportation.”

Prior to co-founding LawKo and working in the world of transportation, Mayuga was in the field of journalism. She recalls carpooling with a colleague who was a full-time mother for two years. According to Mayuga, her workmate had many instances where traffic congestion prevented her from seeing her son, as she would often get home so late that her son would be sleeping already, and leave too early to even see him awake.

“It’s really not humane for people to have to wake up so early and get home so late because of the way we travel.”

Fiercely tenacious, Mayuga started to set a personal goal and dream of the impossible – to get people home in under 30 minutes. Mayuga realized that traffic jams are one of the transportation issues that many Filipinos were facing, some with even worse situations than others, and she was continuously determined to mold accessible transportation and solve traffic in the process. Fueled by her goal, she switched careers and started looking for jobs in the transportation industry. She ended up working for UP Bike Share, the first and longest-running bike sharing system in the Philippines, which is a project funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

On Creating a Difference

Early in the pandemic, strict lockdown measures compelled officials to suspend public utility vehicles, making it difficult for people without private transport to commute. Mayuga then founded Life Cycles PH, a bike donation drive that lent bikes to frontliners and those who need them for daily commute. It also served as a platform to advocate for better mobility in the Philippine capital.

In a country where there is an evident lack of basic legal knowledge among its citizens, Mayuga knew that making the law digestible for the general public is necessary. She worked with LawKo with her best friend Alex Austria, who is currently studying law. LawKo is a social media initiative that aims to make legal processes more understandable for the Filipino people and functions as a Facebook-based artificial intelligence chatbot. LawKo won Rappler’s #HackSociety in September 2017 and was a startup track finalist in UNDP’S Youth Co:Lab Summit in March 2018.

Unraveling Inequality, Widening Possibilities

“Having more women in the workplace really helps with the visibility and the authority of a woman.”

Mayuga believes in increasing the number of women across all jobs and fields. She talks about how even transportation has a gender gap, and how the benchmark in other countries for safer roads is the number of women biking on the road. When she’s out on her bike, Mayuga says she can probably only see only one or even no other girl biking beside herself. On the contrary, she’ll see about ten to twelve men. 

“One of the biggest factors for women to not pursue whatever fields they are in is the issue of safety.”

In addition, Mayuga recalled a time when she worked in UP Bike Share, where all of her coworkers and even her boss were all men. She found herself fortunate enough to be working with progressive and liberal people who believed in her capabilities, as compared to other women who experienced being belittled or treated like a secretary.

“We need to understand the issues of women more so that we can make it safer and we can make opportunities equal for women.”

Mayuga believes in the importance of understanding women’s perspectives in leveling the playing field. The progress of women’s representation in historically male-dominated areas is a cause for hope and celebration; however, in a world in which gender is constantly in flux, much effort remains to strengthen workforce diversity across various industries. With women like Mayuga and many others, we are one step further toward achieving equal opportunities that remain elusive.

WRITTEN BY LIV LICARDO
EDITED BY BEATRICE BRINGAS
GRAPHICS BY THEA DOMINIQUE

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