Sherubtse Initiative for Gender Learning and Research (SIGLR) conducted a two-day international conference from December 21-22 at the Royal University of Bhutan.
This is SIGLR’s first international conference.
SIGLR, formed by a group of lecturers of Sherubste College, Kanglung in February last year, focuses on bringing gender-related issues and challenges to the forefront.
The conference provided an open platform for academicians, policy makers and civil society activists to come together to discuss gender-related issues in Bhutan.
Talking to Business Bhutan, Sangay Tshechu, coordinator of SIGLR said: “One of the mandates of SIGLR is to create awareness about the concept of gender as it is usually misinterpreted as women empowerment but it also includes men and LGBTQ.”
“Gender research has to be promoted by including everyone in the society if we really want to achieve gender parity in Bhutan,” she added.
Tashi Chophel, a lecturer of Sherubtse College under the Department of Social Sciences, also a member to SIGLR said that the conference aimed to understand gender from the South Asian perspective and to promote intra-dialogue among South Asian academicians, researchers and gender enthusiasts.
He also mentioned that the concept of gender is relatively new in Bhutan. “Challenges and opportunities associated with gender issues are distinct even within South Asian region. Policy makers should hear out the issues, take part in advocacy and bring change in legislature and also in the academic curriculum.”
One of the presenters, Dr Ritu Verma, currently working with Tarayana Center for Social Research and Development said that gender is a serious issue in South Asia, although it is a diverse place.
“The degrees of issues also vary. In Bhutan, though there is personal freedom among women there is poor political representation which is even worse than Afghanistan and Bangladesh.”
She also mentioned that with the support of government, Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), a woman should be able to walk her own journey with courage, confidence and self-esteem.
The first national seminar on understanding gender in Bhutan was held at Sherubtse College on October 18, 2016. The seminar was organized SIGLR. It was funded by the Government of India through Project Tied Assistance under the 11th Five Year Plan.
Chencho Dema from Thimphu