Pema Lhamo

“At a young age, my father passed away. In his absence, my mother found it difficult to raise me and my siblings. That’s when my uncle stepped in and enrolled me in school. Later, when my brother grew older and started working, he funded my education. ‘I couldn’t study, so you must at least complete grade 10,’ he said. However, I failed grade 8 and it demotivated me to continue. I decided to quit school and look for a job. I lived with an uncle at Phuntsholing and did computer studies and typewriting in Jaigaon at a training centre. I was a shy and timid person, and looking for a job was no easy task for me. Yet, I tried my best and went for many job interviews. I even knocked on the doors of the RCSC, and shocked officials as I was an 18-year-old then. One of them said that I should continue school rather than work. This same person helped me land a job at a company. Since then, I have worked at two different corporations for 8 years.

I left my job after having my first child. I became a stay-at-home mom to four sons and I was the happiest caring for my family.

In 2016, I was helping my husband with the construction of our house. It was a stressful time for me. It was at that time that I saw an advertisement for the Functional Literacy exam (FLT) on TV. I suddenly had the urge to sit for this exam. I shared this with my husband and he was supportive of my decision. I left for Trongsa Nubi, my hometown, and started preparing for the exam. Back then, I didn’t have any plans to compete in the local government election however, when the villagers knew about my intention to sit for the exam, they began asking if I planned to compete as a Gup or Mangmi? I wasn’t sure how to respond, so it slipped out of me that the post of Gup was too ambitious and I would contest the post of Mangmi.

Despite my nervousness, I submitted my name for the Mangmi’s election and ended up serving as the Mangmi in the second local government. A Mangmi’s job is that of Deputy Gup. During my time, our Gup was the chairperson of the Dzongkhag Tshogdu, and assisting him gave me tremendous experience and exposure. A Mangmi’s job mostly entails settling disputes at the gewog level.

After serving for three years as Mangmi, my husband suddenly fell ill. He was hospitalized in Thimphu and I became his caregiver for a month. When he finally seemed to recover, I returned to work but our trial had not ended. I got a call about his rapid decline in health as soon as I reached my station. I had to return to Thimphu and a few days after, he passed away. I sunk into depression due to the unexpected turn of events. As time passed, I began to accept his loss and tried to be strong for my children.

I took only a month’s leave for mourning as duty came first to me. After my term ended, through my community’s support and encouragement, I decided to contest in the Gup’s election. My opponents were five men and some of them were university graduates. I remember thinking I didn’t stand a chance. However, due to all the training and mentoring by the Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW), I knew that women’s participation was important and necessary even if we didn’t win. When the result was declared, it was a landslide victory for me.

Holding a high position in an office is hard, especially as a single mother. I try my best to balance work and care for my children. I also know that as the first female gup in Trongsa Dzongkhag, I should be an example for future women LG aspirants. I would like to thank Gagar-Karzong Chiwog for electing me in both the second and third local government elections. My only aspiration now is to be a good servant to Nubi Gewog, and serve with full dedication.”

This story is funded by the Journalists’ Association of Bhutan under the Rural Reporting Grant supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.
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