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Celebrating International Women’s Day nationwide, 8 March 2014

Every year on 8 March, the day is earmarked as a day to raise awareness on the plight of women on the face of discrimination, oppression, abuse, violence and injustice. Equality for Women is progress for all” 2014’s theme validates the tremendous achievements women have made in economic, social and political dynamics, when access to education, technology and health care inter alia are provided without prejudice.

All Bhutanese in spirit and action came together on this day to testify their support for holistic growth for women. Across the nation, RENEW through a network of dedicated volunteers observed the day, celebrating the roles women play and/or have played in shaping lives positively; in homes, schools, offices and public spheres.

The main event was held in Haa at Gongzin Ugyen Dorji Higher Secondary School with her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuk’s presence. From Haa, addressing the nation, Her Majesty, the President of RENEW and UNFPA’s Goodwill Ambassador vouched her interminable support to empower women against abuse and violent transgressions.

Joining efforts, across the nation we saw volunteers organize public presentations and talks events in schools and public spaces. Banners were hoisted across thoroughfares and posters were displayed for all to see at public gathering spaces. Stop Domestic Violence stickers were distributed to general public by volunteers. The awareness campaigns were varied, colorful and impactful, all at the same time.

Volunteers from Trashigang together with Sherubste College students & faculty, district government officials, and Jameling Higher Secondary School organized a sensitization walk. Besides that, they also outdid themselves by organizing cultural shows and skits on Gender Based Violence.

In Bumthang, the volunteer’s program extended to having sit-in talks with 22 dancers from 3 drayangs, sensitizing them about HIV/AIDs and STIs.

To commemorate the day, the volunteers in Chhukha observed the day in Chhukha Higher Secondary School. To mark the day extraordinarily, the school’s academic award day function was organized to coincide with the day. Parents of students also participated in the awareness drive.

Chhukha Hydropower project volunteers in collaboration with Wangchhu Middle Secondary School organized an all girls football match to commemorate the day.

To further their commitment to empower women, volunteers in Pemagatshel decided to scientifically celebrate; they set up a free medical camp where almost 200 women were counseled and medically diagnosed. They did an analysis on Women’s Body Mass Index (BMI) and Blood Pressure (BP). 60% of the women who visited the camp were found to have high levels of BMI and BP, much beyond the ideal level. This initiative encouraged women to lead healthier lifestyles.

Enthusiastic Phuentsholing volunteers conducted an awareness meet involving Drayang girls, school students, teachers and general public.

Jointly the team of volunteers in Samtse organized an educational program in Samtse Higher Secondary School. Her Majesty’s statement was read out in the morning assembly and posters/banners were displayed across the school premises.

With the purpose to sensitize our young minds, the volunteers of Sarpang District got together students of Sarpang Lower & Higher Schools, Losal Gatsh, Kuendrup and Pelrithang Higher Secondary Schools. The volunteers spoke about RENEW and its services that render help to Domestic Violence victims.

In Thimphu, the volunteer together with other organisations organized a musical concert with prominent female singers performing in it. Huge crowds gathered in the Coronation Park to show their support for the day. Across Thimphu, schools read out Her Majesty’s statement in morning assemblies.

In Tsirang, the volunteers made presentations and organized sharing of experiences of women violence to the participants. Key speakers were invited to give talks to the audience. New volunteers came forward to commit their effort for violence against women.

An engaging debate on the day’s theme “Equality for women is progress for all” was organized in Bajo Higher Secondary School by Wangdue Volunteers.

In Zhemgang Higher Secondary School, students made pictorial decorations of inspiring women and displayed them on the school bulletin boards. Towards evening, a skit on the theme of the day was played out by students.

Punakha volunteers organized a theme based drama competition in Punakha Higher Secondary school.

These were few of the many creative ways in which RENEW volunteers (both adult and youth) observed the Day. Volunteer’s hard work and undying commitment make it possible for RENEW to spread awareness on violence against women and promote gender equality to all corners of the nation despite limited resources.

Press Release International Women's Day, 2014

International Women's Day - 8 March 2014

Recognizing the efforts of women.

Annually and globally, 8 March is earmarked as a day to raise awareness on the plight of women on the face of discrimination, oppression, abuse, violence and injustice. It is a day when the world asserts attention to the widening gaps underlying the path of progress for women equity. While highlighting the crucial need for action to better the quality of lives for women; it is also a day to recognize their achievements without regard to divisions; whether nationality, ethnic, cultural, economic or political in nature.

All Bhutanese in spirit and action will come together on 8 March, International Women Day, to testify their support for holistic growth for women. Equality for Women is progress for all” 2014’s theme validates the tremendous achievements women have made in economic, social and political dynamics, when access to education, technology and health care inter alia are provided without prejudice.  Across the nation, RENEW through a network of dedicated volunteers will observe the day, celebrating the roles women play and/or have played in shaping lives positively; in homes, schools, offices and public spheres. From Haa, addressing the nation, Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, President of RENEW and UNFPA’s goodwill ambassador will vouch her interminable support to empower women from abuse and violence transgressions.

In her address, Her Majesty talks about the importance of observing the day “International Women Day is a global day to recognize, appreciate and celebrate our women. In almost all the countries, disparities among men and women is still a predominant issue affecting any country’s development.  Observing such a day gives us an opportunity to celebrate the progress made for women's rights, women's empowerment and gender equality.

In the year 2013 alone, RENEW has provided counseling services to as much as 350 women clients; and have since its establishment in 2004 serviced more than 1600 clients. Having to render help to Domestic Violence victims every single day is a concern that will not only cripple our women but will also hamper the long term stability of our nation too. The need for more efforts to advance women empowerment in Bhutan is imperative. It is on global platforms such as these, that issues impeding women progress can be brought up for discussion.

Donor agencies, supporters, organisations, media fraternity, Haa communities, schools were present to witness the international celebration in Gongzin Ugyen Dorji Higher Secondary School, Haa dzonkhag. Presenting her views that validate the theme “Equality for women is progress for all” the UN Women Office of India, Bhutan, Maldives & Sri Lanka Representative, Dr Rebecca Reichmann Tavares during the program said “Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth.  Companies with more women leaders perform better.  Peace agreements that include women are more durable.  Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all”.

Commending the efforts of organisations committed to improving the status of women in Bhutan, Hon’ble Chief Justice of Bhutan, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgay mentioned that women’s well being is pivotal for the advancement of humankind. In his nationwide address on IWD 2014, he said “Necessity to espouse the equality of man and woman supersede any letter of law, faith and customs……I believe that our common dreams of peace and our anguish over violence committed against women must give impetus to the issue, generate practical solutions and empower the victims. Women are and must be supported as social agents, to build social capital that contributes to strengthening the fabric of our societies.

Pledging her support, the Minister of Works & Human Settlement and also the Chairperson of NCWC, Lyonpo Dorji Choden said IWD is all about “Valuing the contributions that women have made in making this world a better place to live in; contributions not only through their work and labor, but also contributions through sufferings borne as a mother, wife, sister and daughter. In recognizing and valuing these contributions, let us all celebrate Womanhood as a Privilege”. Lyonpo Dorji is also the first and the only female minister in Bhutan.

One billion rising 2014: Rising for Justice

RENEW has launched a book entitled “One Billion Rising against violence on women” on 14 February 2014, exactly a year since the campaign was launched in Bhutan. One Billion Rising book is a compilation of pledges, commitments, and opinions, individuals and groups have shared in the one year period.

In the letter of endorsement sent to the One Billion Rising committee last year, Her Majesty the Queen Mother and RENEW’s President said ,“...it is the basic right of every human being to live a life free of abuse, injustice and violence ...and our basic obligation is to ensure this right is enjoyed by everyone including women and girls”.

RENEW led the One Billion Rising in Bhutan and we received overwhelming support from individuals and groups, young and old, far and near. Brig. Kipchu Namgyel, Chief of Police, Royal Bhutan Police said, “…I pledge to end violence against women and children. We must not tolerate any form of violence against women and children. Any such violence against them must be treated as a crime and reported accordingly”. The world praised Bhutanese people in uniform as they were the first one in the world to join the One Billion rising campaign to end violence against women and children.

Ms. Claire Van der Vaeren, then UNRC said in her pledge last year, “...A women violated is a family violated. A family violated is generation violated. A generation violated is a nation violated. Therefore, violence against women and girls is a threat to democracy, a barrier to lasting peace, a burden on national economies, and an appalling human rights violation”.

Ms. Christine A. Jantscher, RC, Austrian Development Corporation strongly emphasized that “Violence against women is a human rights violation and must be met with Zero tolerance”

Ms. Shaheen Nilofer, RC, UNICEF pleads to everyone saying “Let us protect the basic human rights of women and girls to live free from violence. Let us advance humanity”.

Dasho Tshering Dorji, Deputy Chairperson, NC Haa Dzongkhag, in his pledge last year stated that “….. One out of three women on the planet are beaten or raped in her life time. That is over one billion women. That is simply outrageous and unacceptable. They could be in the form of our mothers, sisters, daughters and lovers. So, one billion rising is a call to end violence against girls and women and advocate their justice and equality”. The commitment from our policy maker does make a huge difference in the lives of women and girls.

With the same enthusiasm, RENEW is joining the global campaign to rise for Justice in 2014.  Come snow or sun, we will rise, strike and dance yet again!

RENEW is Rising for Justice!

Finding a new lease of life

Looking forlorn, dispirited, dolefulness written all over her face, my eye catches sight of a middle aged woman sitting cross-legged by a dusty roadside. Woeful as she looked, three bundled infants sat by the woman’s feet; the woman tightly huddles them closer refusing to let go at any cost. Her eyes spoke of endlessness, the wrinkles on her brow said she is fighting a losing battle. As quick as the vehicle moved past, the picture of the mother and the three children quickly engraved itself in my mind. I felt something cold running through my body.

Day in day out, the flashing moment kept playing in my mind more frequently than ever. Unable to stand any longer, one morning, deliberately walking the longer distance, I wandered to the place where I last saw them. But of course I couldn’t find them, it was already a week since then. Like the feeling I had earlier, this time, I had to quell my anxiety. Responding to my questions, a passing Samaritan took me the person I was looking for. Living in a small house, there they were.

Maya, she called herself was in fact the grandmother of the three children I saw her with earlier. Chatty Maya soon opened herself, sharing uninhibitedly her story of how she came to be on the dusty roadside highway. The three children aged between 3-10, were her daughter’s, left in her care after the daughter’s sudden demise. Maya is uncertain of her age, but she jokingly goes around telling people that she is as old as Tashichhodzong. But I conveniently assume her to be as old as my elderly parents, somewhere around mid 50s. Her daughter married a young man, like everyone else, but in her case, her marriage was not to end on a happy note. At first it was just mere shoving and odd slaps; then the frequency increased to weekly groping and beating till it reached unbearably heights of daily torture. I hear the daughter was pushed, kicked, sexually assaulted, humiliated, and beaten within and beyond walls of her home. Traumatized and broken down by her situation, she refused to seek any other help. Sadly, she reached a stage where the extent of abuse reached beyond tolerance; the daughter frustrated and seeing no hope decided to take a drastic step. She jumped into the River, leaving behind 3 wailing children. Her father and Maya’s husband jumped into the river attempting to save her. But sadly, he too was washed away. In just a single day, Maya’s world came collapsing down. Her husband and daughter were both dead. With her remained 3 children, and absolutely no means to look after them. That was how she came to be, on the crossroads, looking desperately for assistance from all directions.

I chanced to be on one of RENEW’s advocacy visit to Paro few months earlier, and it immediately struck me to contact them. When the contact was made, RENEW headquarter staff promptly made arrangements for Maya and her family to come to Thimphu and stay in their shelter home. The family stayed for months in RENEW shelter receiving couselling and medical services. While the children attended school with RENEW support, Maya was kept engaged learning livelihood skills, like basket making. For more than a year, having no place and means of their own, the family stayed with RENEW, responding well to rehabilitation.  After a point, when Maya was confident emotionally and mentally, she was assisted by RENEW to seek employment. Eventually she was able to get a job as a cleaner in a local government office. Once stable, she got herself a house, settled in her 3 grandchildren with her.

Wondering what Maya was doing after the horrific 2010 unfolding, I checked upon her. Now, Maya is no more the shriveled, scared and weary flesh and bones I saw last. She may have grey hairs, but that has not deterred her from clearing the mist in her life. By doing so, she is craving a better future for her grandchildren.

Some facts have been altered/omitted to protect victim(s)

Written for RENEW by a dedicated RENEW volunteer. RENEW acknowledges the efforts of volunteers across Bhutan.

Awareness program in Dagana Dzongkhag

On 4 January 2014, at Goshi Gewog in Dagana District, RENEW together with district volunteers held an awareness meeting. The objective of the program was to increase awareness on Sexual harassment at work places; Domestic/Gender based violence; and Domestic Violence Prevention Act. On the other hand, the meeting also focused on streamlining & strengthening volunteer network by mobilizing volunteer awareness and identifying core coordinators. Present for the program were employees of Dagachu Hydropower Corporation (DHPC), employees of DHPC’s subsidiaries, district government officials, local leaders, district volunteers and communities of Goshi and Tshendagang gewogs.

61 participants attended the awareness program where Dasho Dzongda (District Administrator) was the chief guest.   The chief spoke favorably about RENEW and the work it is doing in field.  He insisted more programs and projects be initiated in remote communities as inhabitants in those areas were the most vulnerable. Volunteers raised concerns regarding lack of funding; without budget availability most of their projects and programs have had to be shelved.  For proper coordination purposes, volunteers requested for streamlining their Terms of Reference with regard to their regional jurisdiction.   It was suggested a district coordinator be nominated for each district and regular coordination meetings be held for follow ups. The same set of volunteers plan to take the forward the workshop to other parts of the districts like Gesarling and Drujaygang Gewogs.


Submitted by:

RENEW Volunteer, Dagana

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