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Employment: Not many Bhutanese visit the popular international tourist destination in southwest India, Goa, but those who do must visit ‘The Leela’ hotel to feel at home.

Among the locals working in the five star hotel, Bhutanese women, in their early 20s provide services from the front desk to the kitchen.

With small white side bags, notepads and pens in hand, the women run around asking visitors for the services they require.

Having Bhutanese guests, the women say, makes them happy. “We have a few guests from Bhutan. It gives us immense joy to interact with Bhutanese guests,” one of the women said.

There are 15 Bhutanese women working in the hotel. The labour ministry sent them seven months ago as a part of the overseas employment programme. The women were trained in Delhi before they arrived in Goa.

Sonam Choden, 20, from Lhuentse works in the food and beverage section of the hotel. She said she has been working there for four months. She received training for two months in Delhi before joining the hotel.

“I will work here for two years, as I signed a contract with the labour ministry for two years,” she said.  She, however, said her contract with Leela Hotel is only for a year. “I will decide where to work after I finish the contract period here.”

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Sonam Choden said she is missing her parents. She also said she misses home when she gets reprimanded. “But I console myself that it is for my own improvement.”

Phub Zam, 22, from Wangdue said she is yet to decide what to do after she completes her contract with the hotel. “I can work with other hotels or continue here,” she said. She took up this profession after completing class 12.

Tshering Pem, 21, is from Thimphu. She said she decided to go back to Delhi and work in one of the five star hotels for a few years. “I will go back to my country after that and start a small restaurant or continue working in some five star hotels,” she said.

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay, during his recent visit to Goa for the BRICS-BIMSTEC outreach summit, met with the women.

Expressing his appreciation to the women, Lyonchoen said he understands the hard times the women may be going through but assured them that their hard work will be paid back. “Those who endure hard times become productive citizens. You all will surely become productive citizens.”

He said he is worried many youth might not endure difficult times.

Lyonchoen also said the women should enhance their knowledge and experiences in the service industry. He said the experiences the women gain from the five star hotel will definitely help them in life. “Our people working in the service industry in India set a good reputation. You all should continue the same trend. Many hotels in India want more Bhutanese to work for them.”

Nima Wangdi | Goa, India

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