With the theme, ‘Empowering Women,’ the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) held its National Women’s Convention to celebrate and encourage women to come forward and take part in politics for an inclusive decision making process.
The convention saw a huge women turnout, so unanticipated that the organizers ran out of seats and accommodated some of the women on the stage and even the floor. The turnout was estimated at more than a 1,000 women.
The PDP President, Lyonchhen Dasho Tshering Tobgay, said that women’s support to the party has always been affirmative and that the party is grateful to all women in the country. “It’s quite unnerving to see such an overwhelming number of women turn up for the convention because I’m not really sure whether you’re here to support us or solicit explanations for our failure. So, what’s your purpose of coming here today?” quipped the party president.
In a positive affirmation, the women responded cheerfully that they showed up to support and thank the party for its services so far. Lyonchhen highlighted that although he travelled to all 20 dzongkhags, he never took the opportunity to personally thank the party supporters and coordinators around the country.
“I am sure the party supporters and coordinators must feel frustrated and hurt as the party did not even express our gratitude and provided any favor during your times of need. But despite all this, it really surprises me that you still have so much of faith and loyalty to the party, and still continue to shower your support. However, it does not mean that we don’t value our supporters but the party believes in equality and just treatment of every citizen in the country without any differentiation- that is in keeping up with His Majesty’s vision for Bhutan,” clarified the Lyonchhen.
The women supporters filled the hall with loud applauses even before the Lyonchhen could finish his sentence of PDP delivering its pledges despite the odds.
Lyonchhen said that during the 10th FYP, only 3000 Boleros were purchased whereas during the 11th FYP about 8000 Boleros had been purchased.
“There are many success stories of the party which includes establishment of numerous ECCDs around the country, improved internet connectivity, 99 percent of the households have been electrified, numerous Dzongs are being renovated under the Royal initiative, electric fencing carried out on a major scale, loans at a lower rate by REDCL, reduction in the interest rates on loans by the financial institutions, resolved rupee crisis, built many hospitals, but amongst all these success stories, we must take greatest pride in the improved road connectivity around the country.”
The party president then gave full credit to the woman leadership exemplified in Lyonpo Dorji Choden of the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement. Lyonchhen said no one would have imagined the complete fruition of the works for Northern East-West Highway from Semtokha to Wangdue Bridge.
“There were criticisms from general public and media during the cutting of the enormous hill and several other similar issues, and I also started having skepticism, but it was Lyonpo Dorji Choden who stood firm and positive that the desired results would ensue, and it finally did. What is even more surprising is that fact that out of 205 Gewogs, 180 Gewog Center roads have already been blacktopped with few others in the process. We are now ready to blacktop rest of the gewog centre roads and all the credit goes to Lyonpo Dorji Choden.”
Lyonchhen also said that women participation is very minimal in the Parliament because women tend to put their own needs and ambition on hold so as to prioritize the need of the family. He said women feel that they have so much at stake than men do if they lose. “Secondly, it’s my personal opinion that since our parents focused more on the education of the boys in the olden day, there are fewer women holding position and power today. And thirdly, it is our traditional norms whereby men are always treated superior than women,” said Lyonchhen.
Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said, “We must preserve our traditions but those traditions that suppress women, limit their opportunities, and undermine women’s capabilities must change.”
The Education Minister Norbu Wangchuk also presented on the fulfillment of the party’s pledges so far, and the developmental activities that are underway.
Some of the women that attended the convention said that they received information on the women’s convention through their respective party supporters and coordinators either through group chats or through phone calls. They said the highlight of the convention was meeting and interacting with the Prime Minister.
Lyonpo Dorji Choden also interacted and solicited views from the women on the issues affecting them and encouraged them to come forward and participate in politics to promote a healthy democratic process.
On the sidelines of the conference Lyonpo Dorji Choden talking to a few girls who work in Drayangs said, “Never be discouraged by what others think or talk of you. You are pursuing a profession and you are providing for yourself and your family.”
Interacting with other women she said, “What a man can do, a woman can do. Where a man can reach, a woman can reach. Women have the same capabilities.”
Lyonpo encouraged all women of Bhutan to come forward and take part in the democratic process. She said that the women of Bhutan have come of age.
Apart from Lyonchhen, the main highlight of the women’s convention was Lyonpo Dorji Choden who was cited as an example of what women leadership is capable of.
Lyonpo is the first woman cabinet minister in Bhutan’s history. In addition to successfully running what is effectively the government’s biggest ministry as per budget expenditure she has also been a strong advocate of maternity leave and women’s issues in the cabinet.
Insiders say that the minister has enjoyed strong support from the Prime Minister on such issues.