Lone woman NC candidate from Mongar to promote women as agents of change

Thirty-one year old Sonam Pelzom from Drangmaling, Tsamang gewog under Mongar Dzongkhag is the only woman aspiring National Council (NC) candidate from Mongar

Being the only woman candidate from Mongar, she has a heightened sense of determination and responsibility.

“I will be the only one representing the whole dzongkhag’s women so I have to strengthen the visibility and voice of women but I do not feel any inferior to my male counterparts,” she said.

Sonam Pelzon graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Dzongkha and Geography from Sherubtse College in 2011 and has served as a voluntary English instructor at the National Institute for Zorig Chusum and also as a teacher in Druk School and foreign English teacher in Thailand.

Born and brought up in her village, Sonam Pelzom shares a strong bond and has a lot in common with the people of her community. “I can easily understand their needs, expectations and be approached.”

She said that the strong connection she shares with her people is her biggest strength and she believes she can strengthen the voice of women as agents of change. She hopes to build greater acceptance of women leadership, empower women and advance gender equality.

Her interest in contesting for NC is mainly based on its role and legislative functions.

“It is an apolitical platform to pass, amend or review legislation in further achieving gender equality while protecting sovereignty and security,” she said.

According to the 31-year-old, many government agencies and civil society organizations in the country encourage women’s participation yet many women fail to take part in the elections.

“My greatest expectation is that by coming forward as an aspiring NC candidate, I would be able to inspire other women to actively participate in decision making governance and leadership.”

Sonam Pelzom’s immediate inspiration is her sister who is presently serving as Chiwog Tshogpa. “Her literacy is limited to only non-formal education and we never thought that she would be able to take up such a role in the society but having been given an opportunity and platform I am really inspired by the way she serves others and proves her capability,” she said proudly.

Sonam Pelzom feels that gender stereotype and bias in the society used to be the greatest challenges for women candidates but she is glad that gender disparities in the community have reduced to a large extent. “People now go for intellect and capability despite gender. That would fulfill the gender egalitarian norms of a GNH society thereby ensuring a successful democracy,” she said.

Her concern is that women need equal representation in the house. “Not having a single woman representative in the house would lead to one-sided decision making,” she said.

If elected, firstly she would improve female visibility and voice in the country and she will also focus on building a sustainable, green and holistically sound community.

“I am hoping to stress on the importance of our indigenous products, cultural heritage sites and traditional practices without compromising our pristine environment,” she said.

Expansion of rural economy while ensuring environmental integrity is another important thing she wants to focus on.

“It is sad that our unique tradition and cultural practices are losing their significance in the dawn of globalization. So it is timely to intervene and restore those values. It can also be a great source of income for the people,” she said.

Mongar Dzongkhag being ranked third highest in poverty with 12.6% as per the Bhutan Poverty Analyze Report (PAR) 2017, Sonam Pelzom aspires to initiate a program that would empower the livelihood of people through sustainable enterprises.

Though Mongar has the second highest number of aspiring candidates, she feels it is good to offer people a wide array of choice and opportunities to elect the best ones. “It also indicates that our democracy has evolved and progressed,” said Sonam Pelzom, “If I am elected, my real battle begins as it is time not only to rejoice and glory but to work even harder for the people and nation.”

Pema Seldon from Thimphu