Is Bhutan ready for a woman Prime Minister? This remains a question as less than 14% of women represent Parliament, and with the first ever local government elections held in June, 2011, less than 5% of the newly elected local leaders are women.
To encourage women in active participation in politics, decision making and governing, a documentary titled “La! Aum Lyonchen’ (‘Yes! Madam Prime Minister’) will be released by KCD production, supported by the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD).
Featuring female politicians from Denmark– which is like Bhutan both a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy – the film seeks to inspire and support the political aspirations of the women of Bhutan.
Denmark has seen noticeable progress ever since women were granted the right to vote in 1915 and especially in 2011, when the first female Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, was elected.
With the 2013 National Assembly elections around the corner, the title, “La, Aum Lyonchen” was coined to involve interest and open up the possibility that Bhutan may be ready to think of women as leaders in the highest positions.
According to KCD production’s Kesang Chuki Dorjee, the main objective behind the project is getting policy makers and the public to realize that the vast potential of this population is still untapped. Another is to show the value of having more women decision makers to improve the quality of life in Bhutan, she added.
Everybody agrees that women are the cornerstones of the family. So what’s good for the family is good for the nation, she said. “I believe Bhutan is ready to have more women leaders; if there is a capable woman candidate interested to run, why shouldn’t she aspire to become the next Prime Minister?”
Kesang Chuki Dorjee said that cultural and social perceptions seem to be a major hurdle for women’s participation and “this is something we are trying to address through our work”.
“Why not?” asked the Opposition Leader, Tshering Tobgay, “Our people should choose leaders based on their ability to understand and fulfill their aspirations, and not based on the age, ethnicity, religion, wealth or gender of the candidate so by this measure, women should enjoy as much opportunity as men to assume positions of political leadership, and that includes the post of prime minister.”
He added that the political landscape is already dominated by men. The longer women hesitate, the more difficult it will become for women to enter and succeed in politics in the future adding “It’s already late”, so capable women should not hesitate to take part in active politics and assume leadership positions in the Bhutanese democracy.
Also in favor of a woman Prime Minister is the Head of Community Outreach Unit of Respect Educate and Empower Women (RENEW), Meenakshi Rai who said, “We are looking forward to a woman Prime Minister; we never had one and in fact we want to try it once”.
“Personally, given an opportunity I think women are capable and there is no right or wrong time but it depends on public decision,” said member of National Council Pema Lhamo. Member of Parliament Tshering Tenzin called it a “fantastic idea”.
“But she should have the capacity to earn people’s trust and confidence and experiences within and outside the country in governance.” But there are those who do not agree. Director of Royal Institue of Health Sciences (RIHS), Dr Chencho Dorji, said that Bhutan is too young a democracy to have a woman prime minister and “we don’t even have any woman capable enough to take up the responsibilty”.
Meanwhile, ‘La! Aum Lyonchen” is in progress. The crew will be traveling to Denmark along with a Member of the National Council and National Assembly, to talk to women leaders there. The project is expected to be complete by August and will be broadcast on national television.