Lhakpa Quendren

An initiative named ‘Kick for Equality’ was launched in Gelephu yesterday to address violence against women and girls. The campaign, aligned with global activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), was jointly launched by the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) in Bhutan, the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF), and RENEW (Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women).

The campaign began with an all-women football match between national women’s football and community representatives in Gelephu, aiming to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment through football.

World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative Dr Bhupinder Kaur Aulakh highlighted violence against women as a serious human rights violation and a public health concern. She added, “Achievements for gender equality and women’s empowerment will be negated if we allow violence against women to persist.”

An all-women football match was played between the national women’s team and community representatives in Gelephu

The campaign, leveraging sports, especially football, aims to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN initiative Football for the Goals also supports the SDGs by promoting sustainability, equality, human rights, and climate action.

UN Resident Coordinator, Karla Robin Hershey, emphasized that empowering women and girls is not just a goal but a fundamental necessity for building a sustainable and equitable future. She stated, “In our effort to leave no one behind, we must prioritize women and girls.”

UNFPA Country Director Andrea M Wojnar urged collective efforts for a future where women and girls live without fear, both online and offline.

The campaign will utilise football-related content and engagement to educate about GBV, promote behavioural change, empower young people, showcase female role models, and encourage multisectoral collaboration.

Activities include the “Orange The World” TikTok challenge, and women in sports panel discussions with prominent Bhutanese women in Thimphu. Bhutan will also participate in the global Bodyright campaign to combat online body abuse.

BFF President Ugen Tsechup Dorji said that football has the ability to transcend boundaries, and through this initiative, the goal extends beyond the field to address community hearts.

A 2017 study by the National Commission for Women and Children in collaboration with UNDP found that 30 percent of ever-partnered women and girls experienced violence in the past year, with a higher prevalence among young women.

Cases reported to RENEW increased by 53.5 percent in 2021, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

UNDP Resident Representative Mohammad Younas said that despite concerted efforts and a supportive legal framework, addressing violence against women and girls remains a challenge in Bhutan.

RENEW Executive Director, Tshering Dolkar, said that empowering women is integral to building resilient families and vibrant communities. “By investing in women’s empowerment, we are sculpting the cornerstone of familial health and happiness.”

The 16 Days of Activism against GBV, commencing on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, concludes on December 10, Human Rights Day.