Lhakpa Quendren

Panbang  – While most students are enjoying their well-deserved winter break, a group of five dynamic schoolgirls in Panbang, Zhemgang, are turning their vacation into a real-world learning experience by running their own roadside businesses.

Aged between 11 and 12, these spirited children are students of Panbang Primary School. Their journey into the world of entrepreneurship begins the day after completing their annual examinations, a tradition they have involved for several years now.

With infectious excitement, they set up their stalls near the Panbang bridge, kicking off their workdays around 8am and continuing until 4pm or 5pm, depending on when they successfully sell out their items. Their parents and close relatives drop them off at their business location and pick them up in the evening, supporting their enterprising spirit.

Meet Pema Kuenzang Yeshi Choden, an 11-year-old fourth-grader from Yumthang. She says, “I earn between Nu 1,000 and Nu 2,000 a day. This income helps me cover school shopping and other expenses.”

The youngest of four siblings, Pema lives with her aunt in Toongkudenba, about two and a half kilometers from Panbang town. “My uncle helps me with transportation,” she adds, with a gleam of independence.

Sangay Yeshi Wangmo, a 12-year-old fifth-grader, expresses satisfaction with their roadside business, saying, “I earn a daily income ranging from Nu 1,000 to Nu 2,900. Both locals and passersby stop for tea and momo (dumplings).” Sometimes, her sister helps her with the business when she is taking a break. “Doing this small business will reduce the financial burden on our parents.”

Their stalls boast a menu that includes popular homemade delights such as momo, porridge, and singara. They offer tea, juice, mandarin oranges, biscuits, noodles, and more, catering to the diverse tastes of their customers.

For 11-year-old Choney Dema, engaging in temporary business not only provides financial independence but also becomes a social space for lively interactions. Despite her young age, she brings laughter to customers with her jokes, creating a vibrant atmosphere. “It has been over a week that we have been coming here every day,” she says, with radiant smile.

When one stall becomes crowded with customers, these entrepreneurial girls showcase collaboration at its best. They seamlessly help each other in packing and serving, turning their business venture into a cooperative and friendly endeavour.

Residents and travellers alike commend these young entrepreneurs, acknowledging that they have not only achieved financial independence during their winter break but have also become a source of inspiration for others.

A resident notes, “They venture into temporary business every winter.”

These girls are not just running stalls; they are weaving a tale of resilience, camaraderie, and success on the roadsides of Panbang.