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Female tuktuk drivers overcome prejudice in Cambodia

Female tuktuk drivers overcome prejudice in Cambodia 2

Female tuktuk drivers overcome prejudice in Cambodia

On her journey to becoming one of the few female tuktuk drivers in Cambodia, Roeung Sorphy, 37, not only had to avoid cars and motorbikes, but also had to overcome ridicule, contempt and prejudice.

Cambodia has introduced many policies and laws to promote gender equality, but many people still maintain a conservative, patriarchal view, believing that women should only stay at home to take care of the family and clean the house, instead of going to work.

Female tuktuk driver Kim Sokleang carries passengers near Bayon temple in the Angkor Wat ruins in Siem Reap province on November 17.

The first time driving on the road with Sorphy was extremely difficult.

`But we persisted,` she said after cleaning up the tuktuk and decorating it with blooming white lotus flowers.

Sorphy started the job after borrowing $3,000 to buy a tuktuk, a two-wheeled vehicle pulled by a motorbike.

`We can’t just rely on our husbands,` said a woman whose husband works as a tuktuk driver, urging women to join this job.

She charges 15 USD for each passenger in the car to visit the Angkor Wat temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

`We have won their hearts. They no longer discriminate against us,` she said.

The US Agency for International Development’s 2020 report shows that women are facing barriers of low wages, poor working conditions, lack of child care services and limited access to finance and training.

Female tuktuk drivers overcome prejudice in Cambodia

A team of female tuktuk drivers wait for customers near the elephant yard in the Angkor temple complex on November 17.

To help Cambodian women in a male-dominated field, famous driver Kim Sokleang, also known as Lady Tuktuk, founded the Siem Reap Rickshaw Drivers Association.

`Discrimination against Cambodian women still exists,` Kim said while waiting for guests at Bayon temple.

After her divorce in 2013, she started driving an autorickshaw in the capital Phnom Penh to raise her two sons.

Realizing that this profession is difficult to find customers in Phnom Penh, the 39-year-old woman moved to Siem Reap in 2015 to carry tourists.

`They think that women are weak, can’t drive and don’t have the strength to work like men,` Kim said.

Now Kim’s perseverance has paid off.

Stine Solheim, a Norwegian tourist and friend, said she felt `safe` when Kim drove and was impressed with her efforts to fight for women.

`They’re really passionate about their work, interested and proud,` Solheim said.

Female tuktuk drivers overcome prejudice in Cambodia

Drivers transport passengers in the area near Bayon temple on November 17.

Tuktuk is one of the most popular forms of transportation in Cambodia.

`As a woman, at first it was very difficult to accept myself as a tuktuk driver. I never thought I could do it,` Sieng Meng, 36 years old, said.

Kim believes that if there is support from the government, work will go more smoothly.

Kim wants more and more women to join this profession.

`I was really successful as a tuktuk driver,` she said.

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