A three-day multi- sectoral task force (MSTF-MoH) and community based support system (CBSS-RENEW) partnership meeting, ‘Reaching Out Together’ was conducted by Ministry of Health and Respect Educate Nurture Empower Women (RENEW) Secretariat, with a total of 90 participants from the 20 dzongkhags to discuss social issues at the local level. The meeting was conducted under the direction of Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck on the need to improve coordination within sectors, communities and volunteers to holistically address social issues.
The meeting brought together two dzongkhag level networks to brainstorm, discuss and agree on a common collaborative work plan. The meeting also generated a lot of deliberations, consultations and discussions as to how to collaborate to reach out together to address social menace in the communities across the nation. The MSTF members and CBSS volunteers from various dzongkhags also shared their views, opinions and expectations from the meeting.
The press release of the meeting states that “HIV/AIDS not only remains an important public health priority, but also a major social issue. By expanding public health programs which for now has been covering only aspects of reproductive health issues, alcohol and substance abuse, pandemic outbreak (like Avian Influenza) to include direct social issues like Domestic Violence (DV) and Gender Based Violence (GBV) will assist communities build better comprehensive consciousness.”
The initiative to address HIV/AIDS through multi-sectoral coordination was first introduced through a pilot project in Chhukha under the patronage of Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador. The effort to establish MSTF begun in early 1999 by Ministry of Health and it became full-fledged working network present in all 20 dzongkhags by 2001.
The initiative has made a remarkable progress in awareness and advocacy programs on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in the country. One of the strategies of government in forming MSTF at dzongkhag levels was to integrate health system and health care programs with other governmental mandates.
It was under Her Majesty’s vision that lead to the establishment of RENEW in 2004 to provide unequivocal services to victims and survivors of domestic and gender based violence in the country. Further, to inspire behavioral change at community level, RENEW founded Community Based Support System (CBSS) network in all 20 dzongkhags by 2011 to act as extensions of RENEW who functions as watchdogs on the lookout for all or any incidences of domestic and gender based violence in their communities.
Furthermore, RENEW started experimenting with CBSS in December 2005, as a way to engage enthusiastic community volunteers to join hands with RENEW in raising awareness to reduce and prevent occurrences of DV/GBV and Violence Against Women (VAW).
The Director General of Department of Public Health, Dr Dorji Wangchuk presented a way forward reached in the meeting to Her Majesty. The participants recognized the impact made by the communities in the dzongkhag by MSTF and CBSS since 1999 and 2005 respectively as envisioned and desired by Her Majesty.
All the participants were awarded with certificates by Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck. The event was jointly organized by Ministry of Health (MSTF) and RENEW (CBSS) with support from UNFPA.