The first-ever female city bus drivers are undergoing route-familiarisation training in Thimphu currently.
These women, as they take turns driving the City Bus, are calm and focused. They are aware of where the road is narrow and where it gets difficult to see the road ahead.
Seven women, who previously worked as bus conductors, underwent an eight-month training at Technical Training Institute at Wangdue last year to qualify as city bus drivers.
The drivers take turns driving. They drive from Babesa to Dechencholing until 5pm on weekdays.
Lobzang Dema, 33, from Mongar, said that driving a city bus is a wonderful opportunity for her to support her children.
She said, “I initially thought I might not be able to drive a bus. But after receiving the training, my confidence grew. I realised through this experience that women can do anything.”
Ugyen Lhaden, 27, from Trashiyangtse, said that it was challenging to learn the theory and practical aspects of driving at Wangdue after a long time since dropping out of school.
Some of them left school ten years ago. So, it was difficult to get used to studying, she said.
Ugyen Lhaden said that it is important for women to keep up with the changing times. “It is right for us to come forth and give our best at anything and not be defeated by the social construction of gender inequality.”
The female drivers drove a truck, DCM truck, and coaster bus during their training. They drove to Bumthang, Trongsa, Paro, and Haa as part of their training.
Tshering Choden, 32, from Paro, said that she never thought she would drive a bus. “I find it easier to drive a bus than a light vehicle. I feel proud of being able to drive a bus.”
Tshering said that people doubt their skills because they are women. “Like any driver, we are aware of the risks while driving and ensure efficient city bus service.”
City Bus manager, Pasang Tshering, said that he is happy that the bus service would have women drivers. “I am confident about their driving skills.”
Pasang said that the training was aimed to have educated drivers who can keep up with the evolving technology and allow the bus conductors who were let go after the City Bus service introduced the Smart Card system.
He said that the drivers are given a certificate which allows them to drive city buses for three years. After three years, they would get a professional driving licence after sitting for tests.
The women drivers completed National Certificate Level II from Samthang, Wangdue.
Pasang said that the drivers would be kept on route familiarisation for at least three months. “We will ensure they are used to traffic in the city and know the routes before they take passengers.”