Bhutan commemorates International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

At the commemoration, Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck’s initiative which emphasizes the empowerment of the Lunap community in particular women and girls was also launched

SONAM PENJOR | Thimphu

Bhutan joined the global community in observing the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW) on 25 November 2022.

Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the Royal Patron for Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) and UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador graced the event at the Royal Textile Academy in Thimphu.

While the global theme for this year is “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls,” the commemoration in Bhutan focused on the importance of partnering with men and boys to end violence against women and girls and economic empowerment of women and girls.

Executive Director for RENEW, Tshering Dolkar said economic empowerment is an intervention that will be able to break the social stigma.

She said that Her Majesty the Gyalyum’s leadership, guidance and support towards economic empowerment through promotion of livelihood skills have brought financial independence and given women new wings of life.

Through the various income generating initiatives such as microfinance, livelihood skills training, promotion of enterprises, Tshering Dolkar said they are now beginning to see positive change in the life of women and their families.

The press release from RENEW states that Sexual and Gender Based Violence including domestic violence among women remains a public health and social issue in Bhutan.

“Gender-based violence against women and girls is a significant social issue in Bhutan as anywhere else in the world impacting communities, nations and societies, posing threat to public well-being, health and safety, and affecting adolescents’ education and their productivity and overall human development,” it states.

It further states that a rape survivor must have access to emergency medical care, a woman facing domestic violence must have a place to go with her children for safety, a survivor of violence must have access to justice and the perpetrator must be held accountable.

“This collective effort for responsibility needs to be taken forward at all times.  It is time for action!” the report states.

A study on violence against women conducted in 2017 by National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) reported the prevalence of physical violence accounts for 32.9 percent, sexual violence 10.5 percent, and psychological violence 23.2 percent by an intimate partner.

As per the study conducted by RENEW on Gender Norms on Sexual and Gender based Violence among men in Bhutan suggests there is limited evidence on men’s perception around issues of SGBV and how they could be engaged in prevention efforts.

Meanwhile, at the commemoration, Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck’s initiative which emphasizes the empowerment of the Lunap community in particular women and girls was also launched.

The initiative was conceived following Her Majesty the Gyalyum’s recent visit to Lunana and aims to address the key challenges faced by the Lunaps.

The initiative also observed a sensitization program for the highlanders who will be in Punakha during the winter. Among others, the Lunaps will receive a holistic package of services that include health, education and social well-being, and partnership between key service providers.

In addition, a movie titled “Gencha-The Soulful Gem” which depicts the importance of women’s economic empowerment was screened. Further, a gender assessment report to understand the nature and extent of gender-specific issues and challenges faced by women working in the hydropower, road, and construction sites was also launched.

According to the release, the commemoration marks the start of 16 days of activism during which a series of programmes was initiated starting Friday across the country.

The event saw the engagement of the Multi Sectoral Task Force (MSTF) and Community Based Support System (CBSS) network and Taxi Association in collaboration with Bhutan Telecom to advocate for a collective responsibility in eliminating violence of all forms against women and girls.

Further, RENEW in partnership with the NCWC with support from UNFPA and UNDP began a series of social media campaigns and messaging during the 16-day activism campaign.

Awareness messages on city buses and taxis were also collaborated and would be carried out across the 20 Dzongkhags to prevent violence against women and encourage all citizens to stand in solidarity with women and their rights.

Simultaneously, social media campaigns and discussions on “Partnering with Men and Boys” was also carried out by RENEW and its partners.