Thrimshing gewog’s only women candidate contesting for the post of Tshogpa was disqualified from contesting due to her age and the gewog will now have all men as their representatives.
Sonam Zangmo, a class X drop out from Tsangpo village who intended to contest in one of the LG seats was disqualified as she will be 25 only in five months time.
Sonam Zangmo said that she was interested to contest for the post of Tshogpa as women’s representation in local government is significantly lower than male counterparts and local governments remain a male dominated world.
However she said that to be disqualified from contesting not only sadden her but also her supporters especially women in the village. So far without women representatives in the gewog Sonam Zangmo said that the issues faced by women in the communities are not made fully aware or addressed.
She said that women in Thrimshing Gewog are not interested in joining politics because most women lack confidence and it is still the norm for women to undertake the bulk of childcare and other household responsibilities.
She shared that she genuinely wanted to participate this time thinking that women in Bhutan are underrepresented in leadership positions and it’s high time that women had their fair share of representation in both local government and parliaments.
“I will not give up but participate in the next election with more knowledge and build community relationships,” she said.
According to Thrimshing Gup Ngawang Dorji, the gewog expected few women to take part this time but sadly there are no woman representatives this time too.
He said that in order to have more women in the upcoming LG election, women from the gewog were asked to get training and was also encouraged to attend workshops that offer a platform to recognize their hidden talents.
“Only few turned up for such trainings, most remained absent” Thrimshing Gup Ngawang Dorji said.
Sharing his experience for five long years as a Gup, Ngawang Dorji said that having more women in local government will only lead to the creation of more gender sensitive programmes and legislations as well as empowering other women in local communities.
The Gup further shared that the villagers were looking for a potential women candidate for the post of Gup as the community had decided to vote for women candidates this time for a change.
Ngawang Dorji shared that the community and Gewog worked together with potential women in the village to ensure women have an opportunity to represent the community this time.
He said that he decided not to re-contest since he wanted to give opportunity to women candidates aspiring to become a gewog gup.
However he said that no women came forward and this has compelled him to re-contest in the second round of local government election.
The gup said that it is important to have equal representation from men and women where democracy is just beginning to flourish in Bhutan.
The Gup added that having equal representation can only mean addressing issues faced by women in the communities effectively and also women becoming more involved in decision making and policy development will enhance women’s political and socio-economic status.
Sharing some of the reason why women turn down such opportunities, Gup said that generally women lack the confidences even if they have good leadership quality, because they do not feel confident enough and so they easily shy away.
Also he added that lack of public support; gender discrimination; violence and intimidation are also some of the factors holding women back from participating in politics.
When asked about what needs to be done to have women representatives in the future, the gup shared that it is important to develop specific gender training activities to strengthen their self esteem and provide them with the necessary skills to be able to understand the importance of having equal representation to enhance democratic legitimacy.
He said that there are cultural barriers for women to become politically active in the community and so more advocacy programs that facilitate space for discussion and awareness at the community level on the importance of women participation in politics and gender equity should be carried out.
He is also opined that there is an urgent need to stress and educate more rural populace about the whole election process as well as woo in as many aspiring and eligible candidates particularly women to participate in politics to make it to the decision-making arena.
This story was made possible with fund support by Bhutan Media Foundation and SDC under the Rural election grant.