Tshering Tshomo NC Elect, Zhemgang

‘Its only me in the NC:’ Lone woman NC from Zhemgang supports quota for women

Women’s participation in politics has been a popular topic for debate globally and here in Bhutan too. Although women’s participation is encouraged, there are still lesser number of women participating in politics. Currently, out of the 20 elected candidates for the National Council, only one female candidate has been elected this time.

During the 2018 to 2023 term, there are only two elected Members of Parliament in the National Council, Lhaki Dolma from Punakha and Sonam Pelzom from Mongar. This year, in 2023 elections, there is only one elected female, Tshering Tshomo from Zhemgang.

Since its initial round, out of the 124 participants in the National Council election for 2023, there were only 9 female participants. This amounts to a 7.26% participation of female participants out of which only 5 reached the final round of 89 candidates with only 1 winning the election.

Sonam Pelzom shared that currently, with only one female elected and two eminent female members, National Council has limited female representation.

She said that there is a need for more female representation in the country’s politics. “Women in politics helps advance gender equality and affects both the range of policy issues that get considered and the types of solutions that are proposed. Whether a legislator is male or female, it has a distinct impact on their policy priorities. There is also strong evidence that as more are elected, there is a corollary increase in policy making that emphasizes quality of life and reflects the life of families and women.”

The lone female elect from Zhemgang, Tshering Tshomo, shared that there is not enough female representation in the country. “We don’t have enough elected women representatives. Its only me in the National Council out of 20 elected candidates. The numbers are extremely less and now I have a big responsibility to be the lone voice for women.”

Highly debated around the world, the topic of reservation or women’s quotas come into play with less female participants and lesser elected female candidates.

Gender quota is a tool used by countries and parties to increase women’s representation in legislature. 25.8% of women account for representation in the politics globally and as of 2021, 132 countries have adopted the gender quota in some form or the other.

This highly debated topic was also discussed in the country however, these discussions were concluded with the reservation being deemed unnecessary.

Tshering Tshomo shares that there should be some quota. “There should be some quota for female candidates. Policies and acts related to women are mostly answered by the male representatives and if this trend of less women participation continues, I believe its time to come up with a women quota at the parliamentary level.”

When the discussions on quota were happening in the past, the biggest argument was on the capability of women. It was argued that women are capable beings and that the development process will ensure a larger number of women in politics.

“The results of the election were evidentiary that the public does not trust women political leaders and their capabilities. There’s no support from the public and women do not trust women political leaders,” Tshering added.

Eminent member Kesang Chuki Dorjee, said that regarding the quota reservation, it is too early to jump to conclusions. “During the discussion on quotas, all the different stakeholders including women felt that intervention was not as necessary at least at the national level, but it was felt more useful at the local government level. We have seen the increase in the number of female participations in the local government without the quota and with the National Council elections, there were fewer female participants from the beginning itself. So, at this juncture, it’s too early to jump to conclusions.”

The NA MP Tshewang Lhamo from Bongo Chapcha shared that there should be healthy competition and peoples’ choice should be respected. “I stand neutral on the reservation part however; I feel that there should be a healthy competition between men and women without any advantages. Women are capable on their own and our country offers equal opportunities to all. In the end, it’s the people who elects and whether it be male or female, we should respect it. There should not be any sympathy votes or unfair advantages.”

She also added working hard and serving with humility and being able to inspire others will create female aspirants and whether it be male or female candidates, there should be equity and fair opportunity.

The National Assembly has 7 women MPs out of the total 47 MPs.

Several advocacy groups around the world have supported women’s quota in politics with the main argument being that the social, cultural and even political bias is so deeply ingrained against women, including in women themselves, that the quota is not an advantage but to only provide a level playing field for adequate representation.

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