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First Female Moto-Taxi Driver Shines in Male-Dominated Field


The world of moto-taxi driving in Cambodia has traditionally been dominated by males. But one woman is bucking the trend, in a society where most women stay at home while their husbands go out to work to support the family. Thirty-seven-year-old Um Chanthon became a motodop driver nine years ago, after she divorced her husband in 2003.

She started working in the male-dominated field to support her family, including her mother, her two sons and a nephew. Each morning before work, Chanthon plays with her children and takes her son and nephew to school.

Um Chanthon: "Each morning I get up early to clean my motorbike and prepare the gears for my daily work."

Her mother helps her look after the children, and with work around the home, so that Chanthon can go out to work. Motodop is one of the most popular forms of transport in Phnom Penh, as the city does not have a bus service or fast trains.

There are taxis and Tuk Tuks, however motodop is the most popular form of transport because it is cheap and takes customers directly to their destination. With no care of men talking about her being the only female motodop driver in town, Chanthon concentrates on doing her job, taking her customers from place to place. But it's not without its challenges.

Um Chanthon: "Although I can do this work like a man, I sometimes get tired and bored from the sun's heat. I have no other job to do so I have to strive on," added Chanthon.

Her male colleagues praise her for doing what is considered in Cambodia to be men's work.

Chan Ti: "She is more courageous than us that she can do our work. I praise her heart that she can do this work to support her family after being separated from her husband."

Chanthon gets more female customers than her male counterparts, as they trust her driving skills and want to help her. They also choose her over others because she's friendly.

Von Sreyneang: "She is stronger than me because she can take more than one person, while I cannot even drive just myself properly," said one of Chanthon's customers. Some foreigners travel by moto-dop, especially those who work for NGOs in Phnom Penh, because it is easier to go from place to place and to avoid traffic jams.

Chanthon has some foreigner customers, who pay more than the locals, because she understands English.

Jim McLaughlin: "She is a very safe driver, she is very careful driver and she is very reliable and now Chanthon speaks English and so it is easy to communicate with her.”

She gets around six customers a day, which allows her to earn around 40000 riles a day ($10 U.S. dollar) on average. Her rented house on the outskirts of the city costs her $40 U.S. dollar a month. She says she's feeling the impact of the global financial crisis, as less tourists, a lucrative source of income, are visiting Cambodia.

She says there were more customers before July 2008 but there are a lot less afterward due to the world financial crisis, especially tourists. Chanthon has no plans to change her job now, but says she will when she gets older.

Information for this report was provided by APTN.