The Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW) is coaching, mentoring and nurturing women to build leadership capacity and skills as the next general election in 2018 draws near.
BNEW has conducted Leadership Workshops for elected women in local government. The fourth workshop, which is yet to be completed, gathered 160 women from different gewogs.
BNEW was established as an outcome of the first ever National Consultation of elected women representatives in March 2012 by the Department of Local Government, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs and National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC).
The Executive Director of BNEW, Phuntshok Chhoden, said BNEW was originally conceived to be Bhutan Network for Elected Women but due to concern that the word elected excludes wide range of other groups or categories of women such as those interested, aspiring, potential and unsuccessful in politics, it is now called as Bhutan Network for Empowering Women.
“But the goal of getting more women inspired to participate in politics at local government and national level still remains,” she said.
Since 2008, when Bhutan held its first election, the performance of women in election has been very low with only 10 per cent of women elected in parliament mainly due to low support from their parties and other voters.
“During 2013 elections, we expected more women to participate but instead, the number of women participation came come down to 8.3 percent even after including two of His Majesty’s nominees to the Council,” she added.
“Once we are done with local government, we shall conduct similar workshop and advocacy at national level. There is need for civic education that goes beyond campaign period to change people’s mindset including that of women themselves that women can make good leader,” she said.
There is also a plan to conduct similar workshops for women journalists in Bhutan by October with assistance from the Journalist Association of Bhutan.