Strengthening women’s participation in leadership

Ensuring gender equality is a priority of the government and one of the sustainable development goals.

With the launch of Bhutan Women Parliamentary caucus (BWPC) on August 14, the initiative would ensure gender equality in elected offices and leadership by facilitating and organizing support for women to succeed thereby multiplying the number of women role models in the society.

Gracing the event, the Chairperson of National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) and foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji said the article 7 and 9 of the state constitution mandates not only to uphold the fundamental rights but also to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.

 “Historically, we have always have been proud of ourselves on the role of women both in family and in community,” he said.

The foreign minister said women have additional family responsibilities. “People think women are less experienced to take up positions and voters hesitate to vote for women. There is also lack of situational support like providing security during travel and childcare facilities.”

Bhutan Network for Empowering Women, Executive Director, Phuntshok Choden said the political will to create enabling policy and legal environment for women continues to be expressed time and again.

Additionally, there are initiatives to set up crèches, childcare facilities, and separate toilets for women, granting six months maternity leave among others, however, this targeted temporary measures to address women representation and relevant investments are not just delivering the outcome at the pace desired, she said.

“The time has really arrived indeed to set up a dedicated caucus which help all girls network similar to all boys network,” said Phuntshok Choden.

Moreover, the caucus would be an agent of change in expanding and growing women participation as elected leaders.

“In return, this will influence and transform the patriarchal mindset and attitude in society that hesitate and often deny, refuse, to accept, endorse, acknowledge, and support women leadership,” said Phuntshok Choden.

Health minister, Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo shared on 3 E’s, Enable, Encourage and Empower. She thanked National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) for making enabling environment for women to grow spearheading the legislation and gender mainstream policies, planning and designing interventions to promote gender equality.

Moreover Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW), a civil society organization (CSO) encourages women to participate in government and politics.

Both the agencies aim at empowering women to make informed decisions and representation at highest level, health minister said.

This Caucus is initiated to contribute towards achieving the National Key Result Area 10, “Gender Equality Promoted, Women, and Girls Empowered” of the 12th Five Year Plan and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, “Gender equality and empower all women and girls”.

The main goal of the BWPC is to provide an inclusive platform for strengthening women leadership by bringing together women in politics, civil service, Judiciary, CSOs, the private sector, and media at the national level.

BWPC will bring members together on a regular basis to raise awareness and advocate for a more comprehensive, inclusive and an enabling environment to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment in Bhutan.

It will also facilitate and ensure regular dialogues between women leaders with different stakeholders outside the Parliament to contribute towards strengthening the gender perspectives in the formulation, review and reporting on legislation, policies, plans, programs, and budgets.

BWPC is a joint initiative of the BNEW and the NCWC for promoting Gender Equality in the country.

At present, women to men ratio in leadership stands at 15% to 85% in parliament, 12% to 88% in local governance, 10% to 90% in cabinet, zero percent in government secretary level, 5% to 95% in case of Dzongdag level, 9% to 19% in Judiciary, and 35% to 65% in the constitutional posts.

In 2008, women’s representation in parliament was 11.1%, in 2013 at 8.3%. Currently, there are two female Gups, 24 Mangmis, and 7 Members of Parliament, four National Council members (two elected and two nominated).

This year, Inter-Parliamentary Union ranked Bhutan at 136 out of 193 countries while the latest gender gap report by the World Economic Forum placed at 138 out of 149 countries.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu