The government has dropped its pledge to introduce a 20 percent quota in elected offices for women.
This is the right move. Offices or posts should be held based on the capabilities and skills of a person.
There are arguments for and against quotas for women representation. However, most of the problems raised by those in support of introducing a quota, can still be solved without a quota in place.
Undoubtedly, there is a perception among Bhutanese men and women that the former make more capable leaders. This is an entrenched mindset that will take time to change. By introducing a quota, we may increase women representation overnight, but we would not change mindsets, instead we risk disgruntlement and the reinforcing of such beliefs. We risk reinforcing of such beliefs because we would be electing leaders based on gender and not entirely on their capabilities.
The way forward is already underway. We have agencies like the National Commission for Women and Children and the Bhutan Network for Empowering Women that are doing a fantastic job in convincing women about the importance of participating and representing their gender.
In the last local government elections, the reporters of this newspaper came across many women who had been inspired and encouraged as a result of training sessions conducted by such organisations.
A total of 159 women were elected to various positions, including two for the post of gup, in the last local government election, compared to 76 in 2011. While the total number of women in the local government is still small (1,264 men were elected), the doubling in the number elected must be acknowledged.
A transition is underway and going by experience, we should expect more women participating as candidates in future elections.
What is now important is that we begin debunking the belief that gender plays a part in able leadership. This has to begin from the schools. From a young age, we must be able to identify what qualities make a leader, and that these qualities are not the exclusive domain of men.
Gradually, this will lead to the electing of more women leaders.
We must achieve the goal of having more women leaders through education, training, and ensuring women have access to flexible maternity leave.