Many question the role of the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) whenever they see and hear of women and children in difficult circumstances.
Those, who work closely with the commission, understand how far it has come from being an institution that only focused on policies and plans to a service provider in recent years. There are many more activities it could still do to improve and uplift the condition of women and children in the country.
Women and children issues in the country draw attention. It is an issue that is close to policy makers and many others. However, going by the commitments, especially budget, it sounds more like lip service.
With only Nu 150,000 allocated annually to provide services to women and children in emergencies, there is nothing much the commission can do but grumble. To add salt to the wound, its budget was also slashed last year when cases increased by more than 90 percent.
Provisions of three Acts -Domestic Violence Prevention Act, Child Care and Protection Act, and Child Adoption Act- mandate the government to provide an adequate budget for the commission to develop and implement programmes and activities for survivors of gender-based violence and children in difficult circumstances and children in conflict with the law.
But the provisions do not translate into action without support from the government and agencies that allocate the budget.
Since its establishment in 2004, officials have taken to forums, workshops and meetings to raise issues of the lack of resources and capacity to provide efficient service delivery, but nothing has changed. Desperate, there were proposals to establish a ministry for women and children.
Hopes were raised when gender equality and women empowerment were incorporated as a National Key Result Area in the 12th Plan. This was not followed up by budget allocation, a key in achieving such visions.
The budget allocation speaks volumes of a lack of seriousness in improving the well being of women and children. Commitments are renewed every year on International Women’s Day and World Children Day, but there is no action to translate the commitments into actions.
Lack of funds is not an acceptable excuse. We spend millions on hospitality and entertainment. Nu 150,000 is not even 10 percent of a minister’s hospitality and entertainment budget for a year. Where is the priority?
If we are serious about women and child issues, we should change. The government and agencies should reprioritise and re-appropriate budget to ensure that services like shelter homes and reintegration programmes are in place. Effective child protection systems are necessary to prevent increasing cases of violence against children.
It’s not practical to have protection, probation and child welfare officers in every dzongkhag, but one dedicated officer, who is committed to the profession, is a must, for instance.
Let us not frame laws that gather dust on shelves and have leaders, who only claim they support women and children at official gatherings. Let the commitments and rhetoric translate into action if we really care about the welfare of our women and children.