Local women in Tsirang take up the responsibility of addressing gender-based problems

Sonam Pem Tshoki

Last July, RENEW conducted a workshop in Tsirang for RENEW microfinance members to create awareness on social rights and   sexual hygiene.

The members were expected to go out, spread the message and create a difference. Members today claim the awareness campaign is working.

Their claim is based on the fact that there is a growing awareness among women about sexual and reproductive health rights and the importance of addressing gender based violence.

Pema Wangmo, 37, is a member of the advocacy group who studied till eighth standard and her dream to pursue her education ended when the responsibility to look after her mute-aphasic sister fell on her.

Pema Wangmo is currently serving as a tshogpa in Patsheling and never fails to grab the stage in any meetings held at the gewog office.

She said, “Whenever there is a meeting organised by the gewog office, we request the officials to give us some stage time to talk on topics like Teenage Pregnancy, Domestic Violence and good touch, bad touch”

She added that she lives in a remote village where women being subjected to domestic violence was  common. “Continuous awareness programmes and activities have made a difference.”

Yangzom, 34,  is another participant at advocacy workshop. She too had to discontinue her education after Class 10 due to financial constraints.

She said that she conducted numerous advocacy programmes after participating in the workshop. “We talked about domestic and gender based violence. The women in the community are much aware and alert now,” she said.

The participants of the workshop all hail from different villages so they have formed groups to efficiently create mass awareness.

Meena Maya Gurugai, 45, said advocacy programmes are educational and talking about it changes the lives of women. “In my community, everyone knows everyone so sometimes it gets tricky and embarrassing when I talk about domestic violence, marital rape, and husbands treating women like property. It is important to talk because if we don’t  address it then no one will understand the cause of the problem”

But the women have also faced harsh challenges and their programmes have raised eyebrows in the community.

Due to the location, Pema Wangmo has to travel a lot to get to the gewog office and sometimes when she can’t catch a ride, she has to walk for hours.

Meena’s problem is different.

“Men have verbally attacked me saying that I’m trying to preach women’s superiority and trying to brainwash women into believing we are above men. But I tell them that RENEW also helps men who have been victims of domestic and gender based violence,” she said.

Apart from Gender Based Violence and Sexual Health and Reproductive Health rights, these women also talk about issues like marital rape and gender stereotypes.