Bhutanese Royalty inspires a new generation of women leaders

Date: Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thimphu — Her Royal Highness, Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck came together with prominent women leaders in Thimphu to encourage young Bhutanese girls to join politics. Gracing the launch of the project, “Inspiring Bhutanese Girls: Creating A New Generation of Leaders,” Her Royal Highness stressed the need for more women in the mainstream.

A first of its kind in Bhutan, the project will inspire young women to engage in the public sphere, and lead to an increase in women at the policy-making level.

“Bhutan is a unique country with a small population of 700,000 people. Women enjoy many rights, such as access to education, inheritance and protection against violence. However, there still exists a line that constraints women,” says Anne Stenhammer, Regional Programme Representative, UN Women South Asia.

Currently, Bhutanese women have 14 percent  representation in Parliament and 2 percent at the local government level. Though numerous women occupy government cadre jobs, very few occupy positions of influence. The gap is now being addressed through a special project by the United Nations.

“Our advocacy efforts include three components: a documentary film; a series of regional workshops aimed at high school girls who are the next generation of leaders; as well as a website forum to activate discussions,” explains Angela Ison, UN Women Gender Specialist.

Nangi Aums to Go-thrips

The film, “Nangi Aums to Go-thrips” examines how, in an empowered nation, such as Bhutan, where over 50 percent of its population is female, women still remain gravely under-represented at all tiers of the government and parliament, and in positions of decision-making elsewhere.

The film has been broadcasted on national television and distributed to institutions and schools. That along with educational programmes and awareness building measures have made a difference.

Special workshops for students

Since the launch of the project, more than 600 participants, including 420 high-school girls from 33 schools have participated in four workshops in Thimphu, Bumthang, Trashigang and Tsirang. During the workshops, the students interact with accomplished leaders who share their personal experiences with the students. They also receive information on how they can play a more active role in governance.

Since these workshops were a first, all the Principals, teachers and participants have requested that they be continued to sustain the momentum. Even elected women candidates found these workshops to be very educational.

The success of the workshops can be attributed to the presence of eminent speakers who include important women working in the civil service, civil society, Members of Parliament and local government leaders.

One such leader is Aum Yangdey, Executive Director, Bhutan’s Youth Development Fund. As a civil servant and a mother of three children, she speaks of her own experiences to young girls: “I see that people are happy when we do something for the public, so that actually kept me going (in my career). It was a big motivation for me to continue (in my job). I also have a very supportive family at home and it definitely helped maintain the balance.”

People are already interacting closely on an Online Forum to exchange views, experiences and concerns. For more information, visit the Facebook Page: Inspiring Bhutanese Women and the website www.women.bt to read inspiring stories of Bhutanese women role models.