Election to the Children’s parliament  will be held in September this year

Democracy: About 220 student representatives from 135 democracy clubs from schools across the country signed the Constitution of Bhutan Children’s Parliament in the kuenray of the Punakha dzong yesterday.

The signing ceremony coincided with the coronation day of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

Bhutan Children’s Parliament (BCP) was initiated to help students enhance leadership skills and facilitate the formulation of opinions, views, hopes and aspirations in real life situations. “The outcome could also be useful for consideration in the decision-making system and processes of the Parliament of Bhutan,” election officials said.

As per the Constitution of the Bhutan Children’s Parliament, the aim is to encourage students to learn about the roles and responsibilities of citizens in nation building and in sustaining democracy.

“It is also aimed to serve as a platform for democracy clubs to come together and contribute towards policy options regarding children and current issues for consideration by the parliament and government,” states the children’s Constitution.

Pema Tshering Choki, a class-IX student of Khangkhu middle secondary school in Paro, has been a member of democracy club for two years.  “After joining the club, I came to know how the government is elected and the also fundamental rights of citizens in a democratic country,” the 14-year-old said.

Pema said Bhutan Children’s Parliament would not only strengthen children’s understanding about democracy but also educate them in choosing the right leaders, as many would soon be eligible voters.

Sonam Tshoki, a Punakha high school student, said she learnt about democratic procedures when the school used the electronic voting machines to elect the captains in the school.

“I’m optimistic that such an initiative would pull in more women to participate in democracy,” she said.  While a class X student from Sarpang, Yeshey said, “Its important that society give children the right to learn and participate in a democracy.”

Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kuenzang Wangdi said the first democracy club was formed at Bajo higher secondary school in Wangduephodrang on April 2, 2013.

Today there are total of 144 democracy clubs with 3,888 student members across the country.

National Assembly speaker, Jigme Zangpo, who was the chief guest at the event, said, although such signing might seem fun, it was meant to strengthen the future of democracy by making students understand the democratic procedures. “It would also encourage female students to participate in democracy in future,” he said.

He said such an initiative was important, especially because almost 200,000 of the country’s total population are students.

The Bhutan Children’s Parliament will be the apex body of democracy clubs in the country, shall function like a Parliament and discuss pertinent issues.  It will also have two Houses – the National Assembly and the National Council. “Sometime in September, we’ll have the elections for the Bhutan Children’s Parliament,” election officials said.

ECB’s secretary Dawa Tenzin said that, henceforth, the children’s Parliament would hold a children’s session during winter vacation at a new ECB building that is under construction.  The building would have a separate room for the Children’s Parliament session.

Meanwhile, a website for Bhutan Children’s Parliament and a second edition of the democracy club magazine, 2015 was also launched.

The education minister, election commissioners, dzongdags of Wangdue and Punakha, officials, teacher representatives of democracy clubs from across the country, district education officials and students attended the signing ceremony.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Punakha