To observe International Women’s Day, Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck graced the inaugural of a three-day national conference on women in governance, leadership and politics in Thimphu, yesterday.

The works and human settlement minister and also the chairperson of the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), Dorji Choden, said that the day is a reminder to celebrate what has been achieved so far and to identity where the country is lagging behind.

“With broad participation within the country and from the region, we expect the conference to underline the preference and heighten the significance of marking  women’s day globally,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said.

Lyonpo said that the day is celebrated to recognise the valuable contributions women make to societies which often goes unrecognised, unnoticed and unrealised and many times unaccounted for or under accounted.  “And it seems to be a daily affair but it’s a pity that is why we have to mark and observe such a day to reflect, to remind and to better understand, and to act to achieve gender equality.”

This year’s theme “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030,” cannot be more relevant given the state of the world, Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo added that the world needs women for political stability, a balanced and sustainable economy,  social harmony and most importantly for the wellbeing and happiness of families, societies and nations.  “I believe that wellbeing and happiness is a pre condition for any endeavor to be effective.”

Therefore, if women are crucial for a sound and healthy economy, society and a nation as a whole, then it must be accepted and demanded that societies, communities and nations do more to create a supportive environment where a young girl or woman can grow to their full potential, she said.

Over 250 participants, more than what the organisers had expected, turned up for the first day of the conference at the Terma Linca Resort in Thimphu.

UN Women representative, Dr Rebecca Tavares, said that women can no longer remain in silence whether it’s in politics, business or technology. “We are gathered here today to acknowledge that women are essential partners in the sustainable development of the nation,” Dr Rebecca Tavares said.

Access to jobs and resources, safety in the workplace and recognition are essential if women are to take their rightful place in society, Dr Rebecca Tavares said.

“Equality in the workplace can be achieved only if government, civil society and the private sector work together to expand decent work and employment opportunities and ensure that women participate fully and equally in all decision making.”

Dr Rebecca Tavares said that over the past decade Bhutan has made important and steady progress in gender equality. She said that Bhutanese women and girls do lag behind in political participation, economic empowerment and access to tertiary and technical education.

The UN Women office in Bhutan’s national coordinator, Rinzi Pem, said that this year, the spotlight is on women in the changing world of work. “We are fortunate that in Bhutan there has been tremendous progress under the dynamic leadership of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the President of RENEW and UNFPA Good Will Ambassador,” Rinzi Pem said.

However, improvements are required when it comes to job quality and productivity for women, which would enhance gender equality and promote economic growth, she added. “Let us all together step it up for gender equality towards Planet 50-50 by 2030 by ensuring that the world of work works for all women.”

The three-day conference is expected to take stock of opportunities and challenges for women in governance, leadership and politics in Bhutan, to understand better how the underlying norms and values of gender and patriarchy hinder advancement of women especially in politics and to share and learn from regional experiences, among others.

As part of the celebration, the three winners of the best documentary on women empowerment, gender equality and sexual reproductive health were awarded cash prizes of Nu 35,000 each.

NCWC and the Bhutan Network for Empowering Women organised the second national conference on women in governance, leadership and politics in Bhutan with a regional dimension, with support from the Royal Government, Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy, International IDEA and UN Women.

Dechen Tshomo