Editor’s Note: This post was originally posted on Nawang P. Phuntsho’s blog. Nawang is the Development Officer for the Thimphu READ Center.
Women’s empowerment is a recent phenomenon in Bhutan. And unfortunately, many of us today have narrowed it down to having more women contest elections. Although it is true that empowered women are more likely to take part in the elections, empowering women is more than that.
As elections can – as of now – only have so many women contestants, we have approximately 72 women becoming elected as members of the parliaments, 205 gups, mangmi, and over 1,000 female tshogpas. But what about women who are not a part of the political process?
It is imperative that we invest in educating our women and girls. At READ Bhutan, we believe education is the most critical component of women’s empowerment. All of our efforts are targeted at providing opportunities for women to learn and work hard to educate them on all spheres of life. Possessing literacy skills is another crucial element for women if they are to contest elections in Bhutan. In our country, aspiring candidates must pass Functional Literacy Tests (FLT) to stand as candidates for local government elections. Therefore, it is important that we provide literacy training for women who have not yet had the opportunities to go to school from a younger age. That way, they do not only pass FLTs, but also do well once they are elected.
Contesting in elections also requires confident candidates with great public speaking skills. So, we need to groom and nurture aspiring women candidates. We must organize regular confidence building workshops and conferences.
READ Bhutan conducts confidence building and public speaking workshops for our women and girls in rural areas and the impact is easily seen, especially by those who have undergone these programs. Empowerment must happen early on, and not be delayed until they have reached adulthood.
To that end, we acknowledge and convey our gratitude to BNEW for its excellent initiative of providing women with this important skill during the recent LG elections. We need more organizations to do this. An empowered woman does not necessarily have to take part in elections – she may do anything from running a successful business to being a well-educated mother.
Let’s push women’s empowerment beyond elections!
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