Suraj Gurung and Sonam Dema | Interns 

Leki Wangmo from Zhemgang has broken down gender roles by becoming one of Bhutan’s few female cab drivers, overcoming several obstacles and challenging traditional standards.

Leki Wangmo had a keen interest in driving from a young age. As she grew older and learned the fundamentals of driving from her former husband, her resolve deepened. Fueled by an unwavering belief in her abilities, Leki felt an inner calling to pursue a career in driving.

However, Leki’s journey as a taxi driver was not without challenges. She was forced into the profession when her marriage broke down. She was not actively involved in the profession as her husband provided the necessary financial support. All her days were spent caring for the children. 

Leki and her children experienced major changes as a result of the eventual divorce. Leki fought for the right to keep her children with her, determined to shield her family from the cycle of abuse. She enlisted the aid of law enforcement officials in her effort. She accepted the difficulties of being a single parent and embarked on a new adventure, marking a turning point in her life.

As a single parent, Leki’s emotional health suffered under the stress. To cope with the trauma of her failed marriage, she turned to alcohol as an escape, further plunging into darkness.

However, the love and concern of her two children compelled her to find the strength to fight for a better life. Just as Leki was beginning to rebuild her life, she received a devastating diagnosis of cervical cancer. Undeterred by this new challenge, she resolved to confront it head-on with unwavering determination. Enduring immense physical and emotional pain, Leki fought the disease. 

The turning point came when Leki’s two children, witnessing the impact of her alcohol addiction, made a heartfelt plea for her to stop drinking. Their words touched her deeply, reinforcing her commitment to transforming her life and providing a safe and nurturing environment for them. Their love became the catalyst for Leki’s transformation and renewed sense of purpose.

Leki Wangmo stands alongside several other women in her field, all determined to challenge prevailing stereotypes. She has faced difficult situations, including passengers who refuse to pay, and she recounts a scene where she said, “I’d rather drive off” for her safety. Leki emphasises the risks that women in her profession face and the importance of being aware of them. Uncomfortable questions, unwelcome advances, and even instances of inappropriate behavior from monks are shared experiences among female taxi drivers. 

Among the 1,799 registered female taxi drivers in Bhutan, many fear societal judgment and encounter challenges within the profession. However, Leki Wangmo is proud of her achievements. She firmly believes that as the society evolves, women must adapt and progress alongside it.