Tshering Choki

Bhutan’s first female river guide is passionate about her job and wants more women to join

After overcoming water phobia, Tshering Choki, 27, is making a splash as the first woman river guide in Bhutan. She is the lone woman river guide among other 7 men river guides in Panbang, Zhemgang.

She is happy with her profession which she took up in 2017 and was fully certified in 2018, and she looks forward to more women’s participation in her field of work.

Tshering Choki is high school graduate. She said, “At first, I wasn’t that interested to be a river guide as I felt that it is a job of a man. I thought it would be risky and challenging but I got to prove that wrong because that is actually not. I started to like after few rafting sessions. It is indeed fun now.”

She said the encouragement from her fellow men river guides and full support from her family have helped her change her own perception held earlier that a river guide is a man’s job.

“It is wrong to have the perception that it is something got to do with just man. If a man can do then why can’t a woman?” she questioned. She also said being a river guide provides enough room to learn, experience and prove the world that there is nothing a woman can’t do.  

|“We used to earn good before the pandemic with 3 to 4 times rafting in a day. The pandemic, however, has impacted our business. We hardly get any guest at the moment. Given the situation, I went to become a DeSuup. I am hoping for better business in future,” she said.

She said that she has not faced any major challenges at work due to her gender, as all the men in the group are supportive and have a huge respect for her and do not over burden her.

Rescuing people who have fallen into the river isn’t challenging as they have certain techniques to rescue them with safety. Nevertheless, she shared a story of a time when she fell into the river herself. “At one point of time, I thought I lost my life to rafting. I fell into the river after my training in Yangbari and that was one moment I thought I made a mistake taking up the profession,” she recounted.

For now, she said that she will want to be a river guide throughout her life if the rafting business goes well in the country, and she is hoping to get better training opportunities so that she will have the capacity to teach female river guides in the future.

“Rafting is not something we woman cannot do. What matters is passion and dedication. If I can do it, why not other women?” she asked.

This story is supported by Global Environment Facility- UNDP Bhutan Ecotourism Project under the Department of Tourism, Bhutan and Journalists’ Association of Bhutan.

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