SONAM PENJOR | Thimphu
As the country gears up for the upcoming National Council (NC) elections this year, five aspiring women candidates have declared their intent to contest.
The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) said that the NC elections for the fourth Parliament will be conducted in early 2023.
Samten Zangmo, 39, has fielded her candidature from Tsirang Dzongkhag. She has a Diploma in News Media and bachelor’s degree in Language and Literature Dzongkha.
Having worked for 12 years in a media consulting firm and tourism, she said gender disparity in our democracy is an eyesore for the international organizations liaising with Bhutan.
“The concern is growing due to the dwindling number of women aspirants in every election with a record low of only five this time. Therefore, I have decided to contest and paint a better image of our country to the world outside,” Samten said.
She also said that unless women dare to come forward and prove their capabilities, there will never be time to realize their full potential. “Thus, I encourage more women to come forward.”
Though women are heavily burdened with family obligations, Samten said after becoming a mother, it is even more difficult for them to come out of obligations like babysitting, feeding and home keeping.
However, for more women to come forward, she said we need a women focussed social support system so that women are as free as men to participate in democratic elections.
Another, 39-year-old, Tshering Tshomo is an aspiring candidate from Zhemgang Dzongkhag. She retired from her teaching profession after serving for more than 11 years and later worked in a travel company.
Tshering Tshomo said that since she was brought up in her dzongkhag, she knew the hardship of the public of her Dzongkhag. She intends to contest for the NC election since NC members have equal and important responsibilities towards bringing developmental activities in their Dzongkhags.
Another aspiring candidate is Dorji Wangmo, 46, from Mongar Dzongkhag. She worked in Natural Resources Development Corporation (NRDCL) for more than 21 years in various capacities including HR, Administration, Company Secretary and lastly as General Manager.
She said the world, including Bhutan, is sailing through rough seas. “We are rising from the ashes of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our economy has been severely affected and we have started the transformation process.”
Dorji Wangmo said that at such a juncture, it becomes the fundamental duty of every citizen who thinks that they can do something positive and contribute towards nation building to come forward.
“As the House of Review, the NC has a very significant role to play as we move forward. I am confident that with experience garnered over a period of almost 22 years, serving in various capacities of governance, I can contribute positively,” the NC aspirant who is from Gongdue said.
She added that while women in Bhutan have scaled all heights that men have done, in the political arena, there is a huge gap. That is why I resigned from a promising career in the corporate sector. Dorji Wangmo hopes to inspire more women to step forward as candidates and participate in the elections.
“I am a woman and a mother of two daughters. I strongly feel that I should lead by example and inspire our daughters and capable women out there to come forward,” she said, adding that she is humbled by the fact that some women are already thinking about it after seeing her decide to contest for the NC.
While equal opportunity is given to women, she believes there are several factors holding them back. It could be the perceived notion that politics is for men only and that the roles of women are primarily to take care of homes.
These and other social and cultural barriers have not yet been broken in 15 years of democracy. However, she firmly believes, just like everyone else does, that Bhutanese women are as capable as men. Give them the opportunity and they can deliver.
Dorji Wangmo said, “If we look at the voter turnout percentage of the NC and NA elections, the voter participation at the NC elections is low. Therefore, it is necessary to reach out the messages to every eligible voter on the importance of voting in all forms of elections and exercising one’s duty and right in choosing their representative or leader.”
Similarly, Dechen Lhaden, 43, is another aspiring candidate from Sarpang Dzongkhag with a working experience of more than 20 years.
She said, “If I don’t participate now, it would set a bad precedent for other women who would aspire to lead the country.”
Meanwhile, Namgay Pem, 39, is also an aspiring candidate from Sarpang Dzongkhag with a bachelor’s in business administration (BBA) from Tamil Nadu, India.
She was the human resources (HR) manager, advertising manager, and marketing manager in a corporate office before deciding to become an entrepreneur.