At the Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW) Annual General Meeting in Thimphu, Bhutan, 183 women gathered to share their experiences of being women in politics.
When Dendup Dema contested for Shongphu gewog’s mangmi position in Trashigang in 2011, she lost to her opponent by a single vote. In the 2016 local government elections, she re-contested and won. She had two male opponents then. She said that people in her community supported her during the last election and there is no gender bias. “My husband encouraged me to participate, saying we would share the household work.”
Dendup’s story is, however, one of the few success stories shared of 183 women who had gathered at the three-day meeting. Many shared stories of discrimination, lack of family support, gender inequality and lack of trust for female candidates.
A former tshogpa from Paro, Sangay Lham, who contested for a gup’s position in the 2016 election, said people are reluctant to vote for women. “People in my village encouraged me to contest for the gup’s post but people from other villagers did not vote for me.”
The participants stated that to pave the way forward, elected women should be counselled to be role models in the society, which would encourage people to vote for women. They suggested BNEW to continue its advocacy programmes in rural areas.
BNEW’s executive director, Phuntshok Chhoden, said BNEW has focused on building the capacity of women in local government and on keeping potential candidates prepared to participate in the third local government elections. “We need to work on the third parliamentary elections,” she said. “A competition was also held to develop advocacy materials to raise awareness in the third parliamentary elections to promote women in leadership.”
BNEW is a network for current and aspiring women in politics at both national and local level in Bhutan. The network was established with the support of DIPD following the first ever national meeting of women elected at local and national level in Paro in March 2012 in collaboration with the National Commission of Women and Children (NCWC), the Department of Local Governance (DLG) and UN Women.
Read more about the DIPD partnership with BNEW here
Contact BNEW Coordinator Phuntshok Chhoden Tshering: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact project coordinator at DIPD, Bo Karlsen: email@example.com