Because the youth are the future of the nation

Advocacy: Increasing cases of HIV infection, the high suicide rate, mental health, teenage pregnancy, reproductive health, substance abuse, and physical and sexual abuse, were some of the main topics of discussion during a two-day visit by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck to Tsirang.

During the high-level advocacy and sensitisation visit, Her Majesty who is also the UNFPA goodwill ambassador, met students, teachers, the public, civil servants, business community and local leaders.

Speaking to the public, Her Majesty said that one of her biggest concerns is the increasing number of HIV/AIDS cases. The increase is occurring despite various measures being put in place two decades ago to prevent HIV transmissions. Going by the current trend, Her Majesty said that it seems people are not taking the preventive measures seriously.

The increasing cases of HIV infections is a reminder that there is a need to work cautiously, Her Majesty said. “You have to understand that preventing or spreading HIV infection is not just the government’s responsibility but each citizen’s of the country.”

For that, Her Majesty urged everyone to know their status and for stakeholders to further strengthen their awareness programmes. Her Majesty also highlighted that another pressing issue in the country is substance abuse and the increasing number of suicides, which is most common among youth.

Speaking with the students of Damphu Central School, Her Majesty said that with improvement of the health system in the country, 94 percent of the population has access to health care services today. Diseases such as malaria, measles and polio which were serious public health issues in the past are no more a concern.

However recent statistics indicate that youth are connected with substance abuse, and physical and sexual abuse. A wide range of health issues, such as HIV/AIDS and reproductive health being the most significant among them. Young girls are most disadvantaged and vulnerable to reproductive health issues. An unhealthy trend in the form of suicide is also being witnessed, Her Majesty said.

Royal Bhutan Police records show an average of 73 suicide deaths annually.

“I’m extremely concerned as these problems are growing in large scale every year destroying the lives of many young people in our country,” Her Majesty said. “The rising challenge will affect the ability of our boys and girls to achieve their full potential to complete school, get employed and become responsible adults.”

Her Majesty reminded the students that His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo and His Majesty The King have always considered the youth as the nation’s greatest asset. Her Majesty added that the government has also invested considerable resources to ensure all young people are provided with the opportunity to grow into capable, responsible and productive citizens.

“I urge you to seek accurate information on the dangers associated with early sexual contact, substance abuse, personal and interpersonal violence, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,” Her Majesty said.

Her Majesty also reminded the students that each of them are special and they play a vital role in advancement and development of the nation. As the future of the country, they must make parents, community and the nation proud. “To achieve this it is paramount that every student here make a personal commitment to stay safe and healthy.”

In a separate meeting with teachers, principals and counsellors of Tsirang, Her Majesty highlighted the important role teachers play in shaping the future of students and the bigger roles they play in inculcating values.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang