The first woman councilor of the erstwhile Royal Advisory Council (RAC), Leki Pemo passed away on March 21 at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) in Thimphu. She was 62.

The former councilor from Dagana was admitted at the JDWNRH after she complained of fever and cough. She was suffering from pneumonia, which damaged her lungs. “She passed away two days after she was admitted in the hospital,” Leki Pemo’s eldest daughter, Dorji Lham, who rushed to Thimphu from Canada on March 23, said.

Her cremation will be held today in Thimphu.

Born on January 1, 1957 in Pangna, Drujegang, Leki Pemo was the first woman councilor of RAC and the second woman chimi (people’s representative) in the National Assembly.  The first woman chimi in the country was believed to be Hiranyamayee Lama from Changmari, Samtse. She was elected as people’s representative in June 1979.

Leki Pemo was unanimously elected as the first woman chimi in Dagana during the 52nd session of the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogchung in October 1995.

She was the force behind the amendment of the Marriage Act in 1996. “I wanted the Marriage Act to be amended so that women could be protected,” she told Kuensel when she was serving her first term as chimi. She had said that women must be well represented to protect them from pressures of marriage, ill treatment, and illegitimate children.

After serving as chimi for six years ago, Leki Pemo became the first elected woman councilor when the RAC elections were held at the National Assembly on June 28, 2001. She served for five years as councilor representing the southwestern region.

His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo established the RAC in 1965 to advise the Druk Gyalpo and ministers and to supervise the implementation of programmes and policies enacted by the National Assembly. RAC’s representatives were elected by the monastic bodies and the National Assembly.

In 1989, the council’s membership included a representative of the government, two representatives of the monasteries, six regional representatives, and a chairperson, all for five-year terms. The chairperson and the government representative were appointed by the Druk Gyalpo and the two monks represented the central and district monastic bodies. The NA elected the regional representatives.

Leki Pemo, who studied Dzongkha literature from her grandfather, was known for being an independent woman and highly respected by the people of Dagana. She was living in Paro by herself, according to Dorji Lham adding that when she visited Thimphu, she lived with her second daughter, who works with the agriculture ministry.

She is survived by four children. Dorji Lham and her brother are working in Canada while the youngest brother is studying in the USA.

Rinzin Wangchuk