Female archer Dorji Dema goes for the bull’s-eye

Breaking stereotypes, 35-year-old Dorji Dema has become the first woman to compete with men in national-level archery tournament.

Dorji Dema was the first woman to participate in the Paro open archery tournament last year in Paro. She was the only woman competing with men – among180 archers in 36 teams in the 145m range.

Usually women play 50m-70m range in the Olympics.

Dorji Dema used to play archery from her school days in Drukgyel High School since the archery federation started archery coaching in the school. She studied up to grade VIII and stopped education to pursue her passion-archery.

Now, it has been 10 years and she is going strong as a national level archer.

Dorji Dema is from Gangju, Lamgong, Paro. She has three children-two daughters and a son. Her husband is a tour guide.

“I competed with men and my team was knocked out from the quarter finals,” she says, adding that she did not feel strange competing with men.

“Instead, I felt that this will encourage other women who want to take up the sports, which is largely male-dominated,” she adds.

Dorji Dema joined the archery federation of Bhutan in 2001. She has also participated in many international archery tournaments including the Olympic and Asian archery championships between 2001-18. She also participated at the national-level of Bhutan Archery Federation’s International Style Compound Archery Competition and the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Tournament.

So far, she has received seven silver medals and two bronze medals.

She used to play the Olympic-style bow called ‘recurve’ bow and from 2016, she started playing with the compound bow.

But in 2008, she had to resign from the national team because there was no one to take care of her mother.

At present, she plays archery as and when she can allow herself the opportunity as she cannot be a full-time archer.

Dorji Dema also runs a farm house for tourists in Paro. Her sources of support are her husband and mother. “Though archery equipments are extremely expensive, my husband encourages me to buy them,” she said.

She said though the community appreciates her skills, there are some from the old school of thought who believe that women should not venture into male domains such as archery.

“I do face challenges to pursue my passion actively. Between managing business and family, I hardly get time to practice,” she said.

However, she wants to keep practicing archery and take part in international events.

“I plan to form a women’s team and take part in a national-level tournament,” she adds.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu