THIMPHU, June 26 (Xinhua) — It was almost 9:30 p.m. when Wangmo reached home after dropping off her last passenger of the day. Her children were already off to bed as she reached home.
This is the daily routine for Wangmo, a 37-year-old mother of three, who has been driving taxi in Bhutan for four years. She is a professional driver, holding PD-license. She is one of the less than 30 women cabbies of Bhutan among thousands of male cabbies.
For a woman, taking up such profession is not just uncommon in the small society that is heavily influenced by principals of Buddhism and traditional conservative culture. Due to various reasons, women cabbies were often viewed skeptically or stigmatized as unfit in the society.
But for Wangmo, nothing stops her from driving a cab, indeed it has become a sole source of livelihood. In a small district of Wangdue, among 250 male cabbies, she is the only female cabbie.
“My parents were humble farmers from eastern Bhutan. They were too poor and could not afford to send us to school,” Wangmo told Xinhua. “Since we were six siblings, our parents had to go through enormous hardship to raise us.”
She was married early and became mother of three children. When the children were young, her husband’s earning was enough for the family of five, as schooling and health care was free. But as they grow older, they have to study in private colleges, and subsequently all expenses increased rapidly.
“I had no choice but to do something, and driving was one thing that I enjoy to the fullest,” Wangmo said.
Like many female cabbies, Wangmo said she was also bullied and criticized by male drivers and neighbors all the time, but she never let it hurt her pride. “Many passengers asked me why are you driving taxi, it’s a job of male. But I slammed their question with big smile,” she said.
“It might not be a decent job or a high earning profession, but our earning is enough to pay a house rent, children’s education fee and meet other household expenses,” said Jamyang, another female cabbie who requested to use an assumed name. “I started driving after my husband left me with two children.
She said they face many challenges, unlike male cabbies. The most fretting was to hear news of passengers stabbing and even killing taxi drivers on various occasions.
“We try not to express our fear but we always have fear inside,” Jamyang told Xinhua. “Life is not easy, but it is far better than depending on other’s income.”
Jamyang said forget about neighbors, she was criticized by her family members, who flatly suggested her to leave the job. “It hurts, but I fight back,” she told Xinhua. “What they don’t understand is that I am compelled by the situation.”
Female cabbies said despite rise in competition with increasing number of cabbies in the country, male cabbies are becoming more understanding of their situation and treating them as co-workers unlike earlier.
“I don’t see any thing wrong in driving taxi,” said a male driver, who is a committee member for taxi-drivers. It is true that there are only few female drivers among thousands of male cabbies but they are working and earning for their families.
The world is developing, so is Bhutan, where things are changing faster than flashlights, he said. Thimphu has many women doing odd jobs than driving taxi.
He said women in Bhutan are increasingly taking jobs that were traditionally male domain, like driving taxi. From pilot to police constables and entrepreneur to politics, women of the small developing nation are emerging, although sluggishly but breaking taboos.
Meanwhile, Wangmo said she has become tired especially with bad road and having to travel across the country, driving continues for days.
She wishes to give up driving cab after helping her children get through colleges. “I have plans to return to my village in Mongar and help my old parents with their field,” she said