of adults are illiterate 4
have no electricity 2
live a half-day's walk from the nearest road 3
lack Internet access 1
In developing South Asia, Bhutan is often seen as an anomaly: as a country that measures success in terms of Gross National Happiness, it is often overlooked by NGOs. Yet poor educational attainment, access to resources and a lack of opportunity are still very real issues here. Bhutan has one of the lowest literacy rates in Asia – 41% of adults can’t read - and before READ established its first community library and resource center there, Bhutan had only one public lending library in the entire country.1 With two thirds of the population living in rural areas with rugged terrain and a poor infrastructure, access to resources and information is very limited. About half of Bhutanese people live a half-day’s walk from the nearest road. Bhutan was closed off from the rest of the modern world until the 1960s, and while it has since begun the process of modernization, most of the population still lack access to information technologies. In 1999, the King of Bhutan lifted a ban on television and the Internet, making Bhutan the last nation in the world to be introduced to television. Today, 67% still lack access to the Internet, and 39% have no electricity.1
READ began working in Bhutan in 2008 with the goal of transforming rural communities by creating access to knowledge and opportunities. With the help of our partner communities, we have built the first rural community libraries in the country. We want rural farmers in Bhutan to have access to not only books and computers, but also to resources and programs that will empower them to work towards a brighter future. From a center focused entirely on women's empowerment, to center outreach programs for kids, to sustaining enterprises like a tractor rental that help entire communities earn a living, READ Bhutan is helping create vibrant places to live and thrive in Bhutan.
Read inspiring stories of empowerment from the field in Bhutan. To learn even more about READ's work in Bhutan, check out some great short clips on our Videos page, including "A First Ray of READ in Bhutan".