Empowering Bhutan’s Rural Women

Woman using sewing machine

When rural women don’t have access to livelihood skills, they miss out on opportunities like earning income, providing for themselves and their families, and becoming more respected in their communities.

This is why READ Bhutan conceived and implemented Rural Livelihood – Empowering Bhutanese Women. Through this project, READ Bhutan has trained nearly 100 women in stitching in the three communities of Changjiji, Chuzagang and Khotakpa.

Almost all of these women are learning to stitch for the first time in their lives. During one of the first trainings, the participants could hardly contain their excitement – their smiles as they participated in something new were an incredible sight! Some women even purchased their own sewing machines before their month-long training was complete so that they could start tailoring at home.

“My husband and other family members are very supportive of me,” said Pema, mother of 3. “Now I am planning to buy my own machine.”

“Learning to operate and maneuver sewing machines for the first time was a great experience,” said Sonam Wangmo, one of the participants from Changjiji community. “We will now be able to use our skills for personal and commercial purposes.”

To outsiders, READ Bhutan’s women’s empowerment program may appear to be a mere one-month basic tailoring training. But for these rural women, these skills will change their lives. When a woman can make contributions to her family’s income for the first time in her life, she not only gains confidence and fulfillment, she gains decision-making power in her home. Working in the trainings with other women also creates a tightknit community, giving them a support network to lean on when tackling future challenges. One of the biggest testimonies of success to our program comes from an art shop in Thimphu, which has been placing orders for items that our participants have created.

These trainings are funded by the Australian High Commission through its Direct Aid Program. We would like to thank the Australian government for helping us build the capacities of our rural women!

Class participants

About the authors:

Karma and Ngawang

Ngawang Phuntsho and Karma Lhazom

Prior to joining READ Bhutan as Development Officer in 2012, Ngawang Phuntsho worked at the Head Office of the Bank of Bhutan as the PR & Media Officer. He blogs regularly on social issues and frequently contributes columns to the local newspapers. He has a Bachelors Degree in English Literature from Sherubste College, Kanglung, via Delhi University.

Karma joined READ Bhutan as the Country Director in November of 2014 after spending over a decade in various positions with the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources in Bhutan. Most recently, she served as Deputy Chief Programme Officer, Head of the Vocational & Training Division at the Ministry, where she supervised a team of several officers managing eight vocational training institutes throughout Bhutan. Karma is fluent in Dzongkha, English, and Nepali and knows basic Hindi, Spanish and Korean.

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