Choki Wangmo | Tsirang
Most of the young people at the first youth summit in Tsirang called for an integrated youth service centre in Damphu Town.
According to them, a safe space like a youth centre would help empower youth by providing services such as a library, counselling, sports facilities, child protection, and access to the internet.
“Tsirang dzongkhag doesn’t have a youth centre and as a result, many young people are loitering around coming into conflict with the law,” said Kusal Gajmer, a student of Damphu CS.
A total of 32 students from Tsirangtoed, Damphu, and Mendrelgang Central schools attended this year’s five-day youth summit that ended yesterday. The summit was themed: “Actualising Youth.”
The young children interacted with stakeholders such as local government (LG) leaders of three gewogs, officials from the dzongkhag administration, gewog administrative officers, and teachers, among others, to develop child-friendly local governance through youth engagement.
There is a vast gap between the LGs and youths, said Kusal Gajmer. “Such programmes brought younger people closer to our elected leaders. In the decision-making process, voices of youths are often left out as we are considered underage.”
“Young children are able and passionate. Currently, there is a huge information gap and a lack of youth engagement.
We need child-friendly LG to address such issues,” said another.
The participants were also introduced to tools—mapping tools to map safety issues in town, public service analysis rating tools focused on equity and affordability of services, and participation of young people in schools and homes.
With the help of mapping tools, the participants identified services in their communities that should be more youth-friendly. For example, a karaoke in Damphu Town was marked unsafe for the youths.
Tsirangtoed Gup Nandalal Kharel said that the training helped him gain new insights.
“In the gewog dzomdus, we won’t allow children below 18 years of age to attend the gewog meetings.” But the inclusion of youths in the decision-making process is important, he said.
Tsirang Planning Officer Karma Wangmo said that the plans and development activities within the dzongkhag did not achieve 99 percent of what the young children in the dzongkhag wanted.
“If young children want a youth centre, the administration should carry out a needs analysis and then seek funding support,” she said.
Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) Executive Director, Chencho Lhamu (PhD), said that the youth summit helped empower and prepare young people to engage with LG leaders for a child-friendly LG.
BCMD initiated the youth summit in 2015 to engage youths during the summer vacation to supplement efforts to nurture a socially-conscious citizenry inspired to bring about positive change in society.
The summit was funded by UNICEF.