Giving campaign funds is one of the ways to encourage women to contest elections the participants at the two-day third national conference on women in politics, leadership and governance, over hundred men and women agreed.

“Women should be given additional funding above what would be given to the male contestants,” a group recommended.

This would serve as an incentive and attract them to stand in elections, a former gup candidate from Paro said.

“Most women need to depend on men for funds to stand in elections. If we can be independent with state funding, there will be more coming forward,” she said.

They said that political parties could allocate some percentage of their seats for women.

Strengthening institutions such as Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW) was important, participants said, to prepare more women to contest elections. BNEW could partner with the non-formal education division in the education ministry to create awareness through the programme, he added.

These recommendations would be added to the draft Bhutan’s National Plan of Action to Promote Gender Equality in Elected Office. Further consultations are expected.

Participants said that there was a need to review the present campaign funding of Nu 150,000 a candidate for parliamentary elections.

Women’s representation in elected office has increased in the last 10 years, but given the small society and prevailing conditions, it could be better, the participants said.

That support for women to participate in elections must improve for the society’s own good came out loud and clear during the discussions.

Participants, including members of the Parliament, civil society, media and political parties discussed constraints facing women in elections.

Prejudices, lower self-confidence, literacy levels, stereotypes, and women’s responsibilities in the family were discusses as some of the factors leading to fewer women parricipation in elections.

A representative from Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy, Bo Karlsen, said that Parliament of only men, no matter how qualified or progressive it may be, can never understand the issues of women and their preoccupations.

A member of parliament from Nepal said that joining politics was not as difficult as sustaining in the office once elected.

The second national conference endorsed three goals to ensure 30 women candidature in the 2018 elections, increase the number of women local leaders by 30 percent in the third election in 2020, and increase the number of women executives or leaders in the civil or public service by 25 percent.

In the first parliamentary elections of 2008, eight women candidates were elected. There were only two eminent female members in the National Council after the second elections in 2013. Representation in the National Assembly remained at four female members.

There are 11 women MPs after the third parliamentary elections this year, seven in the National Assembly and four in the National Council, including the two eminent members.

The first LG elections in 2011 saw one out of the 21 contesting women become gup. After the second elections, there are three thromde ngotshabs, nine thromde tshogpas, two gups, 24 mangmis, and 136 women tshogpas in the local governments.

Tshering Palden