Empowering Service Providers: BCMD’s Initiative for Inclusive Service Delivery

….in Bhutan, the situation is dire, with only Nu 3 million allocated to mental health services and just five psychiatrists serving the entire country



The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) hosted a pivotal workshop on 31 May, themed “Empowering Service Providers: Advocating for Inclusive Service Delivery.”

The event primarily focused on addressing the needs of people with disabilities, empowering women, and supporting individuals with mental health issues. The workshop drew a diverse group of participants, emphasizing the community’s commitment to inclusivity.

Dechen Tshomo, an occupational therapist at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, delivered a compelling presentation on the medical challenges faced by people with special needs.

She highlighted malnutrition as a significant cause of disabilities, accounting for 20 percent of cases. Tshomo’s insights provided a critical medical perspective, emphasizing the need for comprehensive healthcare strategies to address and mitigate the causes of disabilities.

Dasho Dechen Wangmo, Head of the PEMA Secretariat, shared her expertise on mental health services in Bhutan. She revealed a staggering mental health service gap of 96 percent in Southeast Asian countries.

In Bhutan, the situation is dire, with only Nu 3 million allocated to mental health services and just five psychiatrists serving the entire country. Despite these challenges, Dechen Wangmo assured that the PEMA is committed to enhancing mental health support. She announced the imminent launch of the PEMA system, which will screen children for mental health issues, aiming for early detection and intervention.

Representatives from the Ability Bhutan Society (ABS) and the Disabled People’s Organization of Bhutan (DPOB) also participated, sharing their insights on the needs and support mechanisms for people with disabilities.

They highlighted the importance of inclusive education, citing data from the 2017 Population and Housing Census. According to the census, 2.1 percent of Bhutan’s population comprises individuals with special needs.

However, only 15 percent of these individuals are enrolled in school, with the remaining 85 percent staying at home. This statistic shows a significant gap in the education system. The representatives further expressed concern that children with special needs are often forced to leave school after the age of 16, limiting their opportunities for continued education and personal development.

Phensem Parents Support Group, Bhutan’s first registered Parent Support Group, shared poignant stories of the challenges faced by parents of children with disabilities.

Founded on July 31, 2020, by three women, Phensem has become a crucial support system for families.

Representatives spoke of the sacrifices parents make, often having to quit their jobs to provide full-time care for their children. Their testimonies highlighted the need for better support systems and resources to assist families in balancing care and economic stability.

Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women (RENEW), an organization dedicated to supporting women and children, also presented their work at the workshop. They detailed various initiatives aimed at empowering women and ensuring the safety and well-being of children.

The Bank of Bhutan contributed by outlining its efforts to deliver inclusive services, showcasing how financial institutions can play a role in supporting vulnerable groups.

Dema, a lecturer at the Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law, provided an insightful talk on legal access for vulnerable groups. She emphasized the importance of legal frameworks that protect the rights of individuals with special needs, women, and those facing mental health challenges.

Her presentation emphasized the role of the law in creating an inclusive society where every individual has access to justice and equitable treatment.

The workshop highlighted several critical issues and provided a platform for stakeholders to discuss and advocate for better service delivery. The collaboration among medical professionals, civil society organizations, government representatives, and financial institutions punctuated a collective commitment to inclusivity.

Moving forward, it is clear that addressing the needs of people with disabilities, mental health issues, and women’s empowerment requires a multifaceted approach. Strengthening healthcare services, improving educational access, enhancing legal protections, and providing robust support systems for families are essential steps toward an inclusive society.

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