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As part of the International Women’s Day celebration and to streamline and enhance the existing services for women and children, Her Royal Highness Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck launched four guidelines, yesterday in Thimphu.

The four guidelines are Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) on case Management for Women and Children in Difficult Circumstances, Guidelines for Accreditation and Management of Shelters Homes for Women and Children in Difficult Circumstances, Guidelines for Accreditation of Service Providers 2017 and Media Guidelines for Reporting on Women and Children.

Chief programme officer of women’s division with the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), Ugyen Tshomo, said the guidelines would help in the implementation of Acts related to women and children.

Executive director of RENEW, Tandin Wangmo said that the existence of domestic violence in a society is an indication of gender inequality.

She said that of the 420 clients RENEW received last year, 94 percent were women. “On the positive note, these 395 women had chosen to do something about the violence in their families. Not to accept abuse or to stay silent.”

Works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden said that in a democratic system, the ready access to legal aid and legal advice for justice and protection of rights is necessary to capacitate women.  “Investing in women’s economic empowerment will be key to poverty reduction, inclusive growth and achieving gender equality,” she said.

The SOP contains integral roles and responsibilities of stakeholders involved in dealing with women and children in difficult circumstances, and provide provisions on a range of care and support services from the registration of a case to its closure and post care services.

Media Guidelines for Reporting on Women and Children sets a minimum parameter for reporting, provides guidance to media, strengthens implementation of the existing legal and policy framework and role of media. It also aims to sensitise the coverage on women and children and to strengthen the existing codes of ethics in promoting and protecting the rights of women and children in Bhutan.

Ugyen Tshomo said that the guidelines are for all implementers.  “If there are no guidelines to implement the acts, there are chances of duplications during implementation.”

She added that apart from the stakeholders, NCWC through gender focal persons in every ministry and dzongkhags would also do the monitoring.

Respect Educate Nurture Empower Women (RENEW) also launched the Consensus Building Workshop Facilitator’s Handbook.

UN resident coordinator Gerald Daly said that compared to other south Asian societies, Bhutanese women have more advantage. “However, women account for 60 percent of the unemployed. Today, in rural Bhutan agricultural sector is largely maintained by women employing about 110,000 as compared to only 70,000 men,” he said. “Traditional believes that women must inherit land to take the responsibility to care for aging parents has limited social and economic choices.”

He said that how Bhutan follows through on women empowerment and equality maybe one of the most essential aspect of Gross National Happiness. “The time is now to act for a future that is more equal, time is now to transform what we have been doing at policy level into actions to empower women in all aspects of life.”

Karma Cheki

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