By the end of this year, adolescent girls with disabilities in Changangkha and Khuruthang schools would have separate toilets to manage menstrual hygiene.

The inclusive toilets, which would benefit 139 children with disabilities, would help children with disabilities learn in an inclusive education setting.

An inclusive environment is a foundation of the fundamental human right to education for all, which was declared in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The noble initiative also helps the country fulfil an important mandate of the United Nations Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities that specifies the need to undertake measures to fulfil the rights of persons with disabilities to quality inclusive education.

Since the establishment of the first special school for children with visual impairment in 1970 in Muenselling, Khaling, the education ministry has already made tremendous progress in inclusive education by initiating special education needs (SEN) in schools.

Today, about 865 students with disabilities are enrolled in 33 schools with SEN programme and two special institutes in Muenselling and Wangsel in Drugyel, Paro.

The inclusive toilets should not just be replicated in three schools, but in all other schools with SEN programme and special institutes. Every public place needs such inclusive and gender-neutral toilets.

The population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB) 2017 reported 2.1 percent of the population, which is about 15,567 people living with disabilities.

Although Bhutan, as a country emphasising Gross National Happiness, has more reasons to have an inclusive system so that every child or person meets their full potential, children with disabilities have to endure many challenges.

The 2018 Knowledge, Attitude and Practices Study on menstrual health management of adolescent school girls and nuns found that teachers advised parents to keep their children with disabilities at home during menstruation because schools did not have the facilities.

Persons with disabilities in the country do not have proper access to public infrastructure. There is also a lack of public awareness of the importance of inclusiveness. Forget other towns, our capital city does not have proper sidewalks that are convenient for disabled people.

Some sidewalks are even dangerous for people without disabilities. There are many stories of how organisations turn down people with disabilities seeking employment.

Let us not forget that the SEN unit was established under the education ministry in 2000 to initiate child-friendly school practices. We also have a policy on SEN and a national policy for persons with disabilities.

The Education for Gross National Happiness reform was launched in 2010. We also became a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since then.

We are also almost in the last year of implementing the 12th Plan that mandates no child is left behind irrespective of circumstances such as disabilities, remoteness and economic disadvantage.