In what will be a significant change in its efforts to promote gender equality in the country, the government will mainstream gender into the policies, plans and programs of all agencies.

Promotion of gender equality and women empowerment is one of the 17 National Key Result Areas (NKRAs) of the 12th Plan, which is aimed at promoting and strengthening women’s participation in leadership and the decision-making process.

The government plans to implement women-oriented support measures that would enable them to own and operate business through targeted entrepreneurship support programmes and financial incentives.

As part of its women empowerment policy, the government aims to explore funds for providing allowances for women in rural areas during initial months of childbirth and free sanitary napkins to all girl-students.

“Gender friendly working environment will also be strengthened. This will be done by promoting gender equality by creating adequate support and enabling facilities for women and girls,” the 12th Plan document states.

Accordingly, establishment of new crèches and nursing rooms in work places will be pursued and gender friendly toilets in work places and public areas have been prioritised.

The government’s spokesperson and foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji said a discussion was already held with the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) on gender empowerment in the 12th Plan. He said issues like politics being dominated by men existed and that issues on how to go about would be looked at.

However, Dr Tandi Dorji, said, there has been no discussion on reservation for women and that it was not the only way forward. “I personally feel that reservation is not the way forward,” he said.

Chairwoman of the National Assembly’s women, children and youth committee, Tshering Choden, said that although the Parliament could not deliberate every thing on gender empowerment, the committee assumed that most of the plans and strategies were satisfactory.

“We are satisfied in terms of what has been included in the 12th Plan for support of women and children,” said MP Tshering Choden.

The government aims to keep women’s representation in Parliament at a minimum of 15 percent during the plan period. This target is slightly below the current level of women representation, which is 15.27 percent.

The government has made 2013 data as the baseline when there were only six MPs in the Parliament, which was 8.3 percent.

Today, there are 11 women MPs in parliament, four at the National Council and seven in the National Assembly.

The government also aims to increase women’s representation in local governments to 15 percent from 11.3 percent in 2016. One of the strategies is to increase women’s attendance and completion of non-formal education programmes.

Mainstreaming of gender in government policies has been identified as a way to increase the proportion of female in leadership positions in state owned companies, civil society organisations and private sector.

The government also aims to increase women representation at the Chief Executive Officer and General Manager levels in state-owned enterprises as well as the private sector. Target has not been defined as the National Commission of Women and Children (NCWC) is in the process of collecting relevant data.

The target is to increase number of women on the board of State Owned Enterprises to 20 percent. The women representation in 2016 (baseline) was 15 percent, according to the 12th Plan document. The intent is to ensure women’s participation in corporate governance at the highest level and also for the companies to draw on their unique set of skills and experience.

The number of females at the executive level in Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) is expected to increase to 30 percent by the end of the 12th Plan from 23 percent in 2016 (baseline).

One of the key challenges according to the document, is achieving gender parity in tertiary education where female participation continues to be lower than male with 85 girls for every 100 boys within Bhutan.

According to the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) annual report 2017-18, from the 276 civil servants who are at the executive and specialists category (ESC), only 33 (11.9 percent) are women as of June 2018.

ESC provides leadership to the bureaucracy, according to the report. There are 10,681 female civil servants, which accounts for about 37 percent, in the country.

MB Subba