Conference on Women in Governance, Leadership & Politics in Bhutan

“The 2nd National Conference on Women in Governance, Leadership and Politics in Bhutan with a regional dimension is a continuation of the first national conference that was held in 2014. The main purpose of this conference is in line with the 20% quota, for women in politics, pledged by the current ruling government. The NCWC and BNEW find it important to consult with all the stakeholders to find out where we stand, what the views currently on women in politics are and how to go forward.”

Kunzang Lhamu, Director, National Commission for Women & Children, Bhutan.

by Chimi Wangmo,

Photos & Video by Namgay Wangchuk DJ

The 2nd National Conference on Women in Governance, Leadership and Politics in Bhutan, with a regional panel representation, was organized by National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) and Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW) in close collaboration with Women Child & Youth Committee of National Assembly, Department of Local Governance and Election Commission of Bhutan-Bhutan Democracy Dialogue from 8th – 10th March at Terma Linca Resort and Spa.

The conference started with the celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March as graced by Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck and continued for the following two days with presentations and panel discussions on the status of women in governance and leadership in Bhutan, also reviewing, understanding and strategizing advancement of women in politics in Bhutan. The conference saw an assembly of delegates from Denmark, Myanmar and Nepal as panelists and audience. The #He4She Campaign was also set up by RENEW-UNWOMEN team on the first day and civic education material on democracy developed by BCMD  supported by DIPD was launched on the 2nd day. On the last day, ‘Thimphu Declaration’ encompassing the localized mission and vision of the international goal of planet 50-50 by 2030 was declared.

“As Bhutanese, we are very fortunate. Our benevolent visionary leaders have ensured equal rights and opportunities for Bhutanese women which is now even enshrined in the constitution of Bhutan. Bhutanese women that way enjoy equal rights and opportunities. But having said that, there are wide gender gaps in all spheres especially in terms of participation in politics. The fact is that there is no country where there is gender equality, and Bhutan is no exception to this. It’s very important to encourage women’s participation because if we leave out the potential and talent of half the population of the country it will really be a lost opportunity for the nation.”

Lily Wangchuk, President of Druk Chirwang Tshogpa

“I am very happy to be here and I am very impressed by the progress towards democracy in Bhutan. But a real democracy is one which is inclusive of both men and women. So there is a lot of work to be done on women’s under representation. I come from an old democracy – men created the political system before women had the right to vote. But here in Bhutan you are a new democracy. And as a new democracy you have the chance to be very inclusive. There are too few women candidates. But those who are there get the same amount of votes on an average that the men do. So the women are doing fine. The political parties should look up seriously for women.”

Professor Drude Dahlerup

“As the popular saying goes, women hold half the sky. They make half the population and they should have a say in what happens in governance. So women’s views are exceedingly important whether or not you hold a position in governance, leadership & politics. I think it’s really important that we debunk stereotype that women are just objects, that women can only look good, that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Those are important but just as important as the fact that they can be leaders in politics and governance. I think ultimately women in Bhutan have always been leaders at least at home and a woman’s common sense can make a big difference. It’s important that we continue to create a space for that kind of common sense in governance.”

Pek Dorji, Executive Director, Bhutan Centre for Media & Democracy

“I think it’s very important that a woman be more relaxed. That is the big difference between men & women in Denmark and I am sure it’s the same in Bhutan that men feel more confident in themselves and are generally very ambitious. Very often, women feel that they have to be and give a 100%. So I think women need to loosen up a bit and say ‘I am good as I am’ because that’s the way men do it and sometimes it’s good to look at men and see how they are managing.”

 Gitte Seeberg CSR Director/Advisor.

“The world population hasn’t potentialized their resources because half of the world’s population are women and their capacities haven’t been materialized. So to develop a new world order women empowerment is very necessary. So while empowering them there are few ground work we have to do to have women politically elected in governance, leadership and politics. Conservative ideas and practices have hindered women for an open competitive world to compete with each other and with men. State can paly a vital role to wipe out the social stigmas thus equal opportunities can be given for men and women for economic progress and for society to move ahead.”

Arjun Thapa Social Worker, Nepal

“There’s no explicit direct discrimination in Bhutan. Discrimination arise because parents are more protective of their daughters out of love and care. So it kindsl of creates a disparity. If you step back, you will be behind. You have to come forward. ”

Lyonpo Dorji Choden, Minister for Works & Human Settlement

“I am not sure if women empowerment should be directed to women only, but more to the husbands, fathers, brothers – the men I guess. Empower the men to actually encourage the women… Eventually the peace of the world itself will depend on women leading a country.”

Karma Loday, ECM, BKP

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