Lumang gewog’s five women candidates for the upcoming local government elections are beginning to have a change of heart as election day draws closer.
No final election dates have been announced yet but three of the candidates say they are not ready and two say they do not feel confident.
All five passed the Functional Literacy test conducted by Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) and also received training from Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW), which was focused on increasing women participation in local government.
Family members, community and local leaders identified and encouraged the five candidates because they had the potential to shoulder responsibilities of local government.
“But I am not prepared to contest because I did not get adequate time to prepare myself for public responsibilities,” said Tashi Zangmo, 28, one of the five aspiring candidates. “My parents are optimistic about the outcome but my husband is not convinced of my competency,” she said adding that various trainings had improved her public speaking, campaigning and leadership skills. “But there are still so many things to learn and I also need to be physically and mentally prepared to stand the election.” Tashi Wangmo said her husband suggests she observe and learn from those elected to get positive results in the next election.
Yegay Lhamo from Kurichelo village is also not ready to participate this time. “Stepping into politics requires lot of public relations and demonstration of skills to prove capability,” said the candidate who completed high school. “I did not get much time to showcase my skills so, I am not confident about the voter support”
She said that women candidates require more training and time to understand local government functioning and responsibilities.
“My family members said that they will support in the next election,” said Yegay Lhamo who works as a Non-Formal Education Instructor in her village. “My profession will allow me to get familiar with the community and I expect to have huge voter support in the next election.”
Pema Zangmo said she is unable to contest this time because of existing family duties and responsibilities. She also said that people believe that young women like her are not mature enough to handle political responsibilities.
Meanwhile, aspiring candidate Tsheten Lhamo said she will contest even though she does not feel fully prepared. “People in the village haven’t seen a lot of female leaders, so they think that women are not capable and are vulnerable to violence in the society,” said Tsheten Lhamo. “So I feel less confident and uncertain about voter support.”
Aspiring candidate Tshewang Dema also feels that men enjoy more comfort, freedom and confidence for local government posts.
She said that this time more women showed up for FLT and a high number got through. But, like her, they lack confidence and encouragement. “Women still need more training and encouragement,” Tshewang Dema said.
This story was made possible with fund support from Bhutan Media Foundation and SDC under the Local Government election grant.