NCWC suggests equal nomination for women from the grassroots to participate in the electoral process
Gender: A systematic education is what Bhutan needs right now to transform the mindset and foster greater acceptance of women’s equal social, economic and political status than reservation and quotas.
Major mindset changes should be brought about to acknowledge women’s equal political rights as being important.
Electoral processes such as the conduct of Functional Literacy Test for Local Government Elections will have to be made more accessible to women, by having the test centers in every gewog and not in dzongkhag headquarters, as was the case today.
This is the way forward in bridging the gap between demand and supply of women in politics, according to participants at the first electoral forum on ‘Women in Politics’ held in Thimphu yesterday.
Chief Election Commissioner, Chogyal Dago Rigzin said despite more women voters in Bhutan, women participants were least supported. This trend, he said is affecting democracy from moving forward.
“Amending the Election Act would not improve women participation in politics but political parties could change their rules of procedures to give 30 percent candidature to women,” he said. “A small change in the political party’s polices would really increase women in politics,” he said.
Here, he said they were not only looking at women in politics but at women in electoral offices as well.
With Local Government election around the corner, these changes could be implemented sooner, he urged.
The last general election witnessed a drop in women representation to 6.9 percent from 13.9 percent in 2008. It wasn’t any different in 2011 local government elections. Of the more than 1,000 seats for various posts, 165 women contested but only less than half were elected, including a lone female gup.
In a study conducted by the Election Commission of Bhutan in 2014 to find the determinants of voter’s choice, and ways to facilitate women’s participation in elective offices, about 51 percent of the voters had said educating women was the best reform to enhance women participation in the electoral process.
However, participants at yesterday’s forum were skeptic if Bhutan was hurrying in bringing gender equality in politics when about 73 countries across the world have less than 15 percent of women participation even after working towards it for decades.
Responding to a similar query, a political advocacy expert from International IDEA, Rubidzai Kandawasvika Nhudu said Bhutan has opportunities aplenty when works in bringing gender equality in politics is at a formative stage.
A new development in the debate of ‘women in politics’ recently has been the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) submitting the draft National Plan of Action for promotion of gender equality in elected offices to the Cabinet for approval.
Executive Director of NCWC Kunzang Lhamu said one of the key recommendations is the need for such a policy, which will mainstream gender and not have reservation and quota.
“The policy identifies ways and means to create a demand for women’s participation at nomination level of at least 33 percent,” she said.
She added that another aspect of the policy ensures that an adequate number of women contest the elections by creating awareness, building capacities, monitoring and creating a level playing field.
“Quota is not reserving seats for women as most understands it but about having equal nomination for women from the grassroots,” Kunzang Lhamu said.