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WOMEN BEHIND THE WHEELS

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DANG, March 7: A night bus heading from Tuslipur of Dang to Rolpa stopped at Ghorai crossroads at around 7 pm on Friday. Passengers were jam-packed in the bus with registration number Na.4.Kha 5283. Standing by the side of the front door was a woman. She would frequent from the front seat to the last time and again. Passengers threw questions on her: “Got no seat?”

The lady only smiled and kept on walking as if she was checking whether everything in the bus was alright. Once the bus moved, she started asking passengers for ticket. It was not hard to guess she was actually the driver’s assistant, who is commonly known as ‘conductor’ in public buses.

It’s been six years since Yam Kumari Giri, 36, has been doing the duty. “I am both the owner and the conductor of this bus,” Giri told Republica. “This field is very exciting and profitable in terms of earning as well,” she added.

The story of Giri, the only woman conductor in the district, goes like this. Her family had come from Khungri village of Rolpa to settle down in Deukhuri some seven years back. As the economic condition of the family was not good, Giri’s husband Buddhi Lal left for job in Qatar.

Soon he was able to send home around Rs 600,000. Giri wanted to invest in something that would give her good return and buying a public bus was what she decided to do. As her husband had no objection to this, she carried on with her plan. “I bought an old bus plying on Dang – Rolpa route. And hired staff for it,” she said.

For a year, she employed staff but as the earning did not satisfy her, she decided to have a close look on the transactions. That meant she herself had to be the bus conductor and Giri was ready to take the challenge. “I used to sit idle at home. It was better to become conductor of my own bus so that I would not have to rely on others for earning,” she said.

Giri’s efforts paid off. Just in 10 months, she could pay back the loan of Rs 800,000. “I had bought the bus for Rs 140,000. Rs 800,000 was loan and it took no more than 10 months to pay the amount,” she informed.

Encouraged by the result, Giri bought a second bus three years ago. The night bus, which used to ply on Dang – Kathmandu route, now runs along the Dang – Rolpa route. According to €Giri, she’s the conductor of both the buses and that’s possible as they don’t have trips on the same day.

“Many people told me that being a conductor in a nigh bus is not a good thing for a woman, but I didn’t take their words seriously. For me, it’s my occupation and I feel I have to be devoted toward my job,” she said.

Not everyone criticizes her. Some even appreciate her bold stand. The words of encouragement, that come from few however, gives a lot of confidence and energy, said Giri.

“Some people are not gender biased. They just look at the work and encourage you. I feel so happy when they tell me I am doing good.”

Giri’s net profit per Dang – Rolpa trip is over Rs 20,000. In a month, her one bus gets 4 trips.

It’s not Giri alone that the transportation sector has empowered. Growing number of women are loving to sit behind the wheels. Unlike Giri, they are limited to small and short route vehicles though.

“I always wanted to make a good earning and that through some interesting work,” said Manju Gurung, an auto-rickshaw driver in Dang. “I’m loving it. It’s a satisfying job,” Gurung added.

Gurung’s husband had opened beauty parlor for her but the business didn’t go well. Then she switched to auto rickshaw. “I learnt to drive it from a driving center.

Now I’m earning pretty good,” she said. She informed that she makes Rs 1,000 to 2,000 in a day from which Rs 500 has to be handed over to the owner.

Bimala BK of western Dang, another auto-rickshaw driver is also quite elated about auto-rickshaw driving, her recent occupation. She gets busy from morning till late evening carrying passengers in her small vehicle. “Some people are good, some disgusting. But I do my job without listening to them,” said BK. BK was referring to good and bad comments people make about her for being a driver.

Guring and BK not only drive but also teach others to driver auto rickshaw as many women in the locality want to learn. “Last Saturday, there were 11 ladies in the class. We teach women every Saturday,” Gurung said.