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Multi Sectoral Task Force (MSTF) and Community Based Support System (CBSS), Reaching Out Together, 2014

Reaching Out Together

Multi Sectoral Task Force (MSTF) and Community Based Support System (CBSS) are two grass root social networks in the country propounded under the aegis of Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck. MSTF was formally introduced in all 20 districts by 2001 under Ministry of Health supervision to prevent, raise awareness and carry out advocacy programs on HIV/AIDS and STIs throughout the country. Over the years, MSTF has expanded their services to other communicable and non-communicable disease such as TB, Malaria, Avain Influenza, teenage pregnancy, unsafe abortion, cervical cancer, diabetes, hypertension and other mental health issues. In creating MSTF, Ministry of Health sought to integrate health system and health care programs with other governmental mandates.


RENEW on the other hand founded CBSS network in all 20 dzongkahgs in 2005 to curb the increasing numbers of incidences of violence and abuse against women and girls in the country.  CBSS volunteers engages enthusiastic community members to join hands with RENEW in raising awareness to reduce and prevent occurrences of Domestic and Gender Based Violence (DV/GBV) and Violence against Women (VAW) in their communities. CBSS acts as an immediate interface between communities and RENEW providing long term sustainable approach to curb VAW.


With more than a decade of MSTF and CBSS members conducting programs and activities in communities separately, Ministry of Health and RENEW concluded that it was time for the two networks to come together. On the wake of limited budgetary opportunities, dwindling resources and scarce capacity, the two parent organisations felt that there were several areas where the two networks could come together, thus saving resources and effort. Since MSTF and CBSS both worked closely in communities, many of their activities could be clubbed together to increase impact quotients. Several brainstorming sessions held in this regard lead to a need for a joint national level meeting of the two networks.


Thus, MSTF CBSS Partnership Meeting “Reaching out Together” was conceived to bring together the two Dzongkhag level networks to brainstorm, discuss and agree on a common collaborative work plan. HIV/AIDS not only remains an important public health priority, but also a major social issue. By expanding public health programs which for now has been covering only aspects of reproductive health issues, alcohol, substance abuse and pandemic outbreak to include direct social issues like DV and GBV will assist communities build better comprehensive consciousness. The understanding would also encourage a viable sustainability of both the networks.


With this in mind, from 9-11 June 2014, MSTF member secretaries and CBSS district coordinators from 19 districts gathered to attend a three day extensive meeting in Thimphu organized jointly by Ministry of Health and RENEW. Unfortunately, participants from Gasa were unable to attend the meeting due to road block. The target of the meeting was to i) Have in place better communication and coordination mechanism and ii) Make prudent and maximize the use of limited resources.


The inaugural session was graced by H.E. Lyonpo Damchoe Dorji, Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs on 9 June 2014 morning. To the participants seated, Lyonpo said “The meeting gives us an opportunity to rethink and rededicate efforts to mitigate the epidemic of HIV/AIDS and other social evils”. Thereafter an intensive 3 day session began with a lot of interactions, free way discussions and learning by way of sharing experiences.


All in all, the meeting had three broad group exercises where participants exchanged healthy dialogue among themselves. Challenges, issues, best practices and recommendations were shared and the forum openly discussed solutions to address them. As the days progressed, more suggestions and recommendations for collaboration among the two networks surfaced. Finally on the third day, participants in district wise drafted joint action plans with proper strategy which included timeframe, budgeting and monitoring & evaluation. Due to clear and transparent understanding developed within participants in the first two days of the meeting, drafting individual action plans seamlessly took form on the third day. A conclusion was arrived that district level resources and capacity should be shared; observing global days and events would be done jointly; sensitization/awareness/educational campaign will be done jointly and henceforth both networks would collaborate on joint outreach programs.


Most of issues participants brought forth were common to all districts. Many expressed lack of proper strategy in place to monitor evaluation and impact. This could be solved to an extent by centralizing the authority to district administrator, in this case the Dzongdas. Another issue was of unclear roles and responsibilities of the members. The composition of the members of MSTF at Dzongkhag level includes civil servants of the respective Dzongkhags. Whereas in the case of CBSS, it is purely on voluntary basis, thus the composition is diverse. To solve this problem, an MSTF organogram was deliberated at length. To foster long term sustainability of the networks, it was proposed that concrete district action plans would be presented to the Commission of Secretaries for support and endorsement. By doing so, MSTF CBSS action plans can be embedded as part of district Five year plans, which is yearly monitored and evaluated. Many such issues brought forward were sorted out through communication and sharing responsibility.


Having fully achieved its objectives to bring the two networks together by sorting out differences a Way Forward report was compiled out of the three day proceedings. The Way Forward captures in essence all the communication, issues, grievances, exchanges and discussions transpired during the meeting. All participants endorsed the Way Forward and many looked forward for easier work flow in their districts. During the closing ceremony graced by Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, who is the patron for both networks launched the Way Forward, hence marking the propitious beginning of a new partnership. A summary presentation of the meeting was also presented by Dr. Dorji Wangchuk, Director General, Dept of Public Health, Ministry of Health to Her Majesty and other dignitaries present.

With this, the three day partnership meeting concluded on a high note. Not only did the participants formulate joint action plans, rather these action plans will go towards enhancing community outreach activities by supplementing district annual plans. All action plans looks promising and the implementers have been rejuvenated to do more for their districts, this time however together.

Shelter clients skilled with training on basic Tailoring Course

A three- month basic training course for RENEW’s Shelter clients in Gawailing Happy Home Center which began in December, 2013 successfully got completed on 17 March, 2014. 5 shelter clients and one student participated in the training; additional 2 trainees joined the team in February, 2014. Sadly, due to unavoidable circumstances, only 5 out of the 8 trainees completed the full extensive course. RENEW is hopeful that the trainees who dropped out, will be able join other such training RENEW conducts in future.

The training is part of RENEW’s Sustainable Livelihood wing that ensures victims and survivors of Domestic Violence and other abuses can begin lives that are economically and psycho-socially empowered. This is a “Creative Minds Busy Fingers” project initiative, funded by a Finnish Development Project (FIDA).

At the start of the training, it was extremely difficult of the trainees to learn and the trainer to teach, as most of them had infant babies to care for. However, despite all the challenges the 3 month course was successful. One client upon completion of the course has been employed in a tailoring shop in Trashigang. Four clients who are still at Gawailing Center received favorable feedback from Department of Youth & Sports (DYS), Ministry of Education to sow reusable fannel cloth sanitary pads for rural female students. RENEW’s committed Thimphu volunteers Deki Tshomo and Dolma were instrumental in introducing the girls to DYS.  The clients have already begun sowing the sanitary pads.

On completion of the training, all the clients learning the trade were awarded a certificate of completion on 17 March, 2014.


Opening windows of opportunities for women in Samtse

Upon RENEW’s Creative Minds Busy Fingers Project preliminary meetings with the women in villages in Samtse District, many came forward to express their desire to learn tailoring skills from the Organisation’s Livelihood wing. On further assessment, the visiting team saw an opportunity to empower the women earn additional incomes for themselves and their family by teaching them tailoring skills. When a woman is economically empowered, she has greater understanding of choices and is in a better position to protect herself from discrimination and abuse.  With this mandate, the project funded by a Finnish Development Project (FIDA), penetrates into the deep recesses of the country, empowering women with opportunities to earn income to supplement the already thin resources.

Among all the women the project team met, the women in Yoeseltse were the most forthcoming and enthusiastic to learn tailoring.  Thus, the Yoeseltse was the site chosen for the pilot project. Orders for sewing machines and required materials were placed. Within four weeks since the assessment trip, the project finally got together a trainer, Mr. Dorji Gyeltshen to train the women. Mr. Dorji has years of teaching tailoring in a commercial enterprise. All the purchases had to be made and transported from India itself, this took additional time. 11 women who came forward for the training were mostly beneficiaries of RENEW’s micro finance project. Being members of the MFP meant trainees upon completion of the training could avail loans and begin commercial ventures.

Sonakhar village, the site where the training would be conducted provided the project with free space for the training. The project had to only equip the community hall (Aumtsho tshogpa) with electrical furnishing and few minor maintenance works.  The training commenced from 9 April onwards and will continue till 5 July. The timings were adjustable depending on the preferences of the women trainees, 4-5 hours in a day.

This is the first such pilot project in the area.  The trainees learning the skill are hopeful many windows of opportunities will open for them and their family.

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.

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