Sherab Lhamo

To address pressing issues related to adolescent sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR), gender-based violence (GBV), and mental health among young people, while promoting gender equity and social change, the Gender Equity, Diversity and Inclusion event took place at the Royal University of Bhutan from August 29 to August 31.

The primary objective was to facilitate collaboration between policymakers and young adolescents to address challenges concerning SRHR. Additionally, the event aimed to disseminate advocacy materials through various platforms, including social media.

During the youth conclave programme, students from Arura Academy, the Faculty of Nursing and Public Health, the Faculty of Traditional Medicine, and Drukgyel Central School presented advocacy materials.

Arura Academy students raised awareness about the increasing mental health challenges faced by adolescents, GBV, SRHR, and teenage pregnancy through compelling posters and musical dramatisations.

The event sought to provide a platform for young people to voice their opinions, establish networks, develop solidarity for collective action, and, importantly, see themselves as key stakeholders in the decision-making process for their own needs, according to an official from RENEW.

Y-PEER members from the Faculty of Nursing and Public Health addressed LGBTQ+ concerns, including different gender identities, through a Pride Parade and Pantomime, which highlighted the experiences of navigating a world that reinforces binary gender roles. They also used posters to raise awareness about the impact of GBV on mental health.

The Faculty of Traditional Medicine discussed the rising issue of depression among adolescents and proposed solutions through local healing methods, based on the Sowa-Rigpa approach.

Drukgyel Central School contributed to the awareness campaign by showcasing a comic book on GBV, a short film on mental health, and a musical drama on adolescent SRHR.

Various activities, such as pantomime, poster exhibitions, dramatic performances, and flash mobs, were organised around different thematic areas related to SRHR, GBV, and mental health. Panel discussions and open debates further enriched the event.

The event aimed to equip young people with decision-making skills, establish long-term partnerships with schools, and create an enabling environment for youth advocacy.

The event attracted a diverse range of participants, including students aged 16 and above from various schools in Thimphu, Paro, and Wangdue, Queer Voices, PRIDE Bhutan, Y-PEER, Traditional Medicine students, Arura Academy, Druk Adolescents Initiative on Sexual Awareness Network members, Humans of Thimphu, and representatives from the Faculty of Nursing and Public Health.

The event, organised by RENEW, was made possible through collaborative efforts from Helvetas, Australian Aid, IPPF, Nyamdrel, the European Union, the Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Samuh, and MAVA (Men Against Violence and Abuse).