…as the country marks 30 years of signing and ratifying the CRC   

Younten Tshedup 

To observe the World Children’s Day and to mark 30 years of Bhutan signing and ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child, His Holiness the Je Khenpo today, called on everyone to ensure the wellbeing of the children for all times to come.

His Holiness said, “Bhutan’s efforts towards children’s wellbeing and happiness is commendable. I urge all to continue the efforts and work together to build a society fit for our children, one that cares for the happiness and best interests of our children at all times.”

Highlighting the importance of considering the views of children in decisions pertaining to them, His Holiness called on policymakers, parents, religious leaders and the individuals to value, take care and to listen to children. “Their involvement in decisions that impact them is critical in ensuring their wellbeing. We must ensure that every child everywhere is safe, healthy, learning, heard and happy.”

Echoing a similar concern, a first-year student of the Royal Thimphu College, Chimmi Lhamo, at a “dialogue with the minister” session, questioned the Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji if the government was considering more child participation in decision making for children.

Lyonpo said he was aware that children’s voices were often not heard especially when it concerned major decisions, mostly at policy level. He said that the children’s parliament established in the past was a good forum introduced to address this challenge.

“I however, share your concern and feel that there needs to be more platforms from where children’s voices are heard. I’m willing to take this suggestion and see how we can better partner and listen to each other.”

To celebrate the day, the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) in partnership with the Dratshang Lhentshog secretariat, education ministry and UNICEF Bhutan organised a dialogue between the minister, the Chairperson of NCWC and children on issues concerning children especially during the pandemic.

During the dialogue, Lyonpo interacted and responded to questions from children on education, health and child protection issues.

Dawa Zangmo, 16, from Sherab Choling Nunnery in Hongtsho, Thimphu asked the minister if the government could send an English teacher to the nunnery. The last English teacher who was on contract left the nunnery last year, she said.

“A De-Suup sister is presently teaching us. I would like to request the government to send us a permanent English teacher because in this age, English is very important, even for us in the monasteries.”

Lyonpo said the government was considering subjects such as maths and information technology to be taught in monastic schools besides English. He added that they are discussing to send university graduates as teachers in the monasteries.

Lyonpo acknowledged other issues pertaining to education, ictization, child safety, and smart-school which the children asked and said that he would take it up with relevant agencies.

Drawing the attention to the day, Lyonpo said that the World Children’s Day was not only a time to celebrate but also to remind all, especially decision and policy makers on the commitments they have made, to abide by them and for children to demand action as many are doing the world over.

“Despite the good work undertaken by the government and many civil society groups, there is still much to be done to ensure the rights of our children and to enable them to fully participate in the society.”

He said that as a small and least developed country, Bhutan, continues to face a number of constraints in terms of resources, capacity and infrastructure. “There are many competing priorities of the government especially during this pandemic with limited resources and disruptions to the economy. However, Bhutan stands firm in its efforts to uphold and implement the principles and provisions of this convention.”

Lyonpo also said that it was important to commit and remember those who are not heard, referring to children who are in need of special care and protection. “Let us work hard for a brighter and better future, especially for our children in the post Covid era,” he said.

To mark the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, November 20 is celebrated globally as World Children’s Day. Organisers said that this year was extra special for Bhutan as the nation celebrated 30 years of signing and ratifying the Convention. Bhutan was among the first countries to sign the Convention on June 4, 1990 and ratify it on August 1 the same year.

UNICEF Bhutan Representative, Dr Will Parks, said that the World Children’s Day this year was taking place during one of the most challenging times. “The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the deep inequalities in our societies and impacted all of us, especially children,” he said. “UNICEF Bhutan remains committed to support the efforts of the government to reimagine a more equal, just and sustainable society for our children.”

As the occasion also coincided with the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, a thousand butter lamps were lit at the Kuenray of the Trashichhodzong this morning.