Gender inequality – the greatest obstacle to women’s equality and empowerment

It is emphasized that more works need to be done for women’s equality and empowerment

While a lot is being done to empower women and narrow down the gender inequality gap both within Bhutan and globally, more emphasis and efforts have been called for women’s equality and empowerment during the launch of the State of the World Population Report 2019 at the UN House in Thimphu on Wednesday.

Congratulating the health ministry and UNFPA for the successful launch of the State of the World Population Report 2019, the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Bhutan, Gerald Daly emphasized on gender inequality, in his statement, which has been highlighted as the greatest obstacle in the report.

He said gender inequality is the foundation of so many obstacles to the rights and choices of women and girls. “Child marriage means a lack of schooling, greater likelihood of gender-based violence and fewer choices in life,” he said.

The Resident Coordinator then delved on gender equality in the case of Bhutan, which the first comprehensive ‘National Survey Report on Violence Against Women and Girls’ launched during the International Women’s Day this year revealed that two out of every three of women agreed that there is gender equality in Bhutan.

The report also stated that almost one in three, which constitutes, 30%, experienced violence like physical, sexual, psychological or economic in the past 12 months.

The report also found that half or all Bhutanese women agreed that it is okay that a man hits his wife under some circumstances, such as when he finds out she is unfaithful or does not take care of the children.

The report further showed that the lifetime prevalence of physical violence by husband or partners was highest among the age group between 30 to 34 years, followed by the women aged 50-60 years. The highest current prevalence of physical violence was among women aged 25 to 29 years followed by women aged 30 to 34 years.

To address gender-based violence of all forms, Gerald Daly said the UN launched the “Bhutan Pilot Project: Addressing Violence Against Women and Children”.

 “This initiative is a testimony of our commitment to address gender-based violence at the local level. The project will provide the resources to test a comprehensive pilot to demonstrate how the rules and regulations for the Domestic Violence Prevention Act of Bhutan can be put into practice in a well-coordinated way to effectively deliver results at the community level,” he explained.

And while the fifth Sustainable Development Goal mentions about achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, Gerald Daly asked whether enough is being done.

“However, the question that we must all ask is, are we doing enough, both at our own individual level and at the executive levels within our ministries and parliament? What more can we all do to achieve this common and important goal to achieve gender equality; not just in papers and in statistics, but in practicality?” he asked.

He added that how we follow through on women’s empowerment and equity may be one of the most essential aspects of Gross National Happiness.

Gerald Daly reiterated that more works need to be done for women’s equality and empowerment. “The work we are doing is equipping the next generation of women to outdo us in every field because this is the legacy we wish to leave behind,” he added.

Meanwhile, the State of the World Population Report 2019 tracks barriers that women and girls have faced all over the world in the past 50 years- since UNFPA was established. The report also showed how governments, CSO’s and international agencies work together to help overcome the barriers.

Namkhai Norbu from Thimphu