Bhutan Women Parliamentary Caucus Launched To Promote Gender Equality
It is expected to address the need for women role models at leadership and decision-making levels in Bhutan.
By Tashi Dema | Kuensel
The National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) and Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW) launched a joint initiative for gender equality on 14 Aug 2019 in Thimphu.
Called the Bhutan Women Parliamentary Caucus (BWPC), it is expected to address the need for women role models at leadership and decision-making levels by facilitating and supporting women leaders to be competent enough to gain society’s trust and confidence in their leadership.
What is the Bhutan Women Parliamentary Caucus?
It is a platform which is focused on showcasing women leadership. It will help to promote the voice and visibility of women, to gain the trust and confidence of society in the leadership of women, thereby increasing their chances of getting elected.
It is also a platform to ensure that women’s rights, gender equality, children’s rights and social agendas remain central in the work of the Parliament.
“Through this caucus, it will unite women in Parliament and outside to speak as one strong voice,” Phuntshok Choden said.
It will also provide capacity building for the elected, non-elected and potential women leaders. “It is not just for women and the parliament but inclusive.”
BWPC will also create a multi-stakeholders caucus to empower women MPs to be strong gender advocates within their parties, parliamentary committees and in the Parliament.
Aims of the Bhutan Women Parliamentary Caucus
BWPC will be a visible and inclusive platform for women political actors, aspirants and supporters to come together, network, dialogue, advocate and inspire each other to further the goal of gender equality in elected offices and leadership in all spheres.
It is also expected to enhance the voice and visibility of women in order to nurture a society where women in leadership is a norm rather than an exception.
Encouraging more women in Bhutan to participate in elections or take up leadership positions
NCWC’s Director, Kunzang Lhamu and BNEW’s Executive Director, Phuntshok Choden highlighted that Bhutanese women, despite being competent, face great challenges to participate in elections or be in leadership positions.
The number of women participating in parliamentary elections is decreasing, indicating a lack of interest. With few women representation in elections, reaching a critical mass of 33 percent remains a distant dream.
The percentage of women elected in Parliament decreased from 13.8 in 2008 to 8.3 in 2013. However, the figure increased to 15.3 percent in 2018. At the local government (LG) level, there was a slight improvement from 7.8 percent in 2011 to 11.3 percent in 2016.
According to Kunzang Lhamu, the institution of a temporary special measure was featured as a crucial recommendation from the CEDAW expert committee during their periodic report presentations.
The possibilities of temporary special measures were discussed and consultation meetings have been held at various levels since 2013.
“In the current scenario, temporary special measures in the form of quota or reserved seats is highly unlikely, but the need for affirmative action is inevitable to close the gender equality gap.”
Demographically 47.7 percent of the population is female and more than 51 percent of the voters during every elections so far are female.
The Executive Director said that equitable participation of women in politics, governance and leadership are essential for building, sustaining and deepening democracy in Bhutan.
BNEW has worked hard to build the capacity of women in ‘Local Government’ to ensure that they not only safeguard their own re-lection but also pave the way for other women to participate and gain the trust and confidence of society on women leadership.
The Minister of Health, Dechen Wangmo, said that the voices of Bhutanese women are not adequately heard in all spheres.
“It is important to enable, encourage and empower women and NCWC and BNEW are doing a wonderful job.”
Why is it necessary to establish the Bhutan Women Parliamentary Caucus (BWPC)?
Besides implementing informal interventions such as the BNEW caucus and a Whatsapp group, NCWC and BNEW officials claim that there has never been such a network as the BWPC.
Source: Youtube/National Commission for Women and Children
Kunzang Lhamu said that the BWPC is envisaged to guide and shape the strategies and interventions of both organisations and to strengthen collaboration and support towards women.
“It will form a visible and inclusive platform for women actors, aspirants and supporters to help and support women.”
There were events that led the NCWC and BNEW to form the Bhutan Women Parliamentary Caucus. More than 200 women voiced the need for a platform for women to network and support each other during the 3rd national conference on Women in Parliamentary held in 2018.
The NWCW and BNEW signed a MoU for working together on gender equality in elected offices. In the absence of a legislation on quota for women (pledge dropped) in 2016, the BWPC could prove useful to advance Bhutan’s gender agenda.
Bhutan’s position on WIP in the region and the world
Bhutan occupies the 13th position among 103 countries in terms of representation of women in Parliament. In the SAARC region, Bhutan is ranked 7th with the lowest being Pakistan.
In the Global Gender Report 2018 by World Economic Forum, Bhutan is ranked 138 out of 149 countries in the subcategory or index political empowerment of women.
Bhutan’s global gender gap ranking has been sliding since the assessment began, as it fell from 93 in 2013 to 124 in 2017.
This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.