Youth Embrace Productive Endeavours over Drugs

YANGCHEN LHAMO
Thimphu

In a remarkable turn of events, youths are increasingly engaging in productive endeavors, distancing themselves from drugs.

The latest findings from the 2024 Youth Development Report shed light on this positive trend, showcasing the impact of concerted efforts by the government, communities, and the resilience of the youth themselves.

The Ministry of Health observed a significant decline in drug abuse among the youth over recent years. This transformation relates to a surge in participation in educational programs, vocational training, and entrepreneurial ventures, indicating a broader culture shift towards meaningful engagement.

Central to this transformation has been the comprehensive fix of the educational system. The Ministry of Education & Skills Development has implemented a curriculum that prioritizes practical skills and vocational training, addressing the gap between education and employment.

Vocational training centers have been established nationwide, offering courses in diverse fields such as traditional arts, modern technology, and business management.

One such success story is that of Ngawang Choden, a 23-year-old girl from Paro. ‘‘The vocational training program has been a game-changer for me. I have acquired skills that are directly relevant to the job market, which has not only boosted my employability but also my self-esteem. The thought of using drugs never crossed my mind because I was too focused on building my future.”

Communities have played a crucial role in supporting this positive shift. Elders, parents, and organizations have been actively involved in raising awareness about the dangers of drug abuse and the benefits of leading a productive life.

Rehabilitation programs for those struggling with addiction have been strengthened, offering comprehensive support for recovery and reintegration into society.

Jigme Wangchuk, a community leader from Thimphu, emphasized the importance of collective effort. ‘‘Our community initiatives have been instrumental in guiding our youth towards a better path. Regular workshops, counseling sessions, and recreational activities keep them engaged and informed. The sense of belonging and support they feel within the community acts as a strong deterrent against drug use’’.

The government has been at the forefront of this transformation, implementing policies aimed at reducing youth unemployment and providing alternatives to drug use. The government’s emphasis on job creation, through both public and private sector collaboration, has created numerous opportunities for the youth.

The former Health Minister Dechen Wangmo remarked on the success of these policies. ‘‘Our multifaceted approach, which includes preventive education, job creation, and robust rehabilitation programs, has yielded positive results. We remain committed to sustaining these efforts to ensure that our youth have the opportunities and support they need to lead healthy, productive lives’’.

Entrepreneurship has emerged as a vibrant avenue for Bhutanese youth, bolstered by various government and non-governmental initiatives that provide seed funding, mentorship, and business training.

Young entrepreneurs are venturing into diverse fields, including agriculture, technology, and eco-tourism, contributing to the nation’s economy while steering clear of negative influences.

Sonam Tashi, a 26-year-old tech entrepreneur, shared his journey. ‘‘Starting my own business was challenging, but the support from the government and my community was invaluable. I am focused on growing my business and providing employment to others. Drugs have no place in my life; my vision is too clear and my goals are too important’’.

Educational institutions are encouraged to integrate life skills and mental health education into their curricula to better equip students to make informed choices. Law enforcement agencies are urged to intensify their efforts to reduce the availability of drugs in the country.

Interviews with several young Bhutanese underscore the impact of these changes. Kinley Wangmo, a recent graduate and now a small business owner, shared her perspective.

‘‘I feel a strong sense of purpose and responsibility running my business. The skills I have acquired during my college and training have been pivotal.

The shift of Bhutanese youth towards productive work and away from drugs is a multifaceted success story, reflecting the synergy of effective government policies, community support, and the resilience of the youth.

This trend signifies a promising future for both the individuals involved and the nation, laying the foundation for a prosperous and healthy Bhutan.

It reflects a significant culture shift, ensuring long-term benefits that will contribute to the overall development and well-being of the country.

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