Seven women gups, including three university graduates elected

Dechen Dolkar

With the third local government (LG) election over, women’s representation at the highest decision making at the local governance level  increased drastically.

From a lone woman gup, which represented 0.5 percent in the first LG elections to two women gups, which was 0.98 percent in the second LG elections, the third elected seven women gups, making it 3.41 percent.

Women’s participation has also increased compared with to the past two LG elections in terms of contesting as well as being elected.

In the first LG elections in 2011, 165 women contested for various posts. In the second LG elections, more than 200 contested. This year’s election saw about 491women contest for various LG posts.

Spokesperson of Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB), Phub Dorji, said the commission, along with other relevant stakeholders, encouraged more women to participate in the election as candidates and voters.

He said that given  the importance of LG, women realised that they can equally perform like a man in terms of decision-making. “Now the environment is more conducive for women. They don’t have to walk and sleep in the middle of the forest. With road and mobile network, they can connect with people easily.”

The executive director of Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW), Phuntshok Chhoden, said that they feel  humbled and grateful to finally see some shift in the mindset of communities. “The higher number of women gups is an indicator of support for and acceptance of women leadership that is slowly taking root in the communities.”

She said that the credit can be given to the impact of regular sensitisation, advocacy and awareness campaigns for promotion of women leadership by them and other women related agencies. “I want to credit the women role models who showcased women leadership and demonstrated the importance and impact of having women where it matters both in the LGs and in the parliament.”

The seven gewogs that elected women gups are Chang gewog in Thimphu, Shaba and Hungrel gewog sin Paro, Nubi gewog in Trongsa, Dewathang gewog in Samdrupjongkhar, Ngatshang and Narang gewogs in Mongar.

There were 27 women gup candidates.

Gup Sonam zangmo, 39, of Chang gewog feels that she has been elected because of her experiences.

The class 10 graduate served as mangmi in the second LG term and tshogpa in the first LG term.

She said that people have trust in her.

Chang gewog of Thimphu is one of the gewogs in “Wang-tsho-che-gay” (Eight gewogs of Thimphu and Punakha) with a highly deeply ingrained patriarchal ritual during Puna-Domchen which has always barred women from taking the post of gup.

Phuntshok Choden said that they had some equally strong women contesting in the other gewogs belonging to this exclusive club but none of them succeeded.

“So it’s highly commendable that Chang gewog elected Sonam Zangmo as their gup and gave her a landslide win. This is not to undermine the other six women gup elect but since the famous Puna Domchen has always stood in our way, I felt the need to highlight it,” she said.

Hungrel gup Sherub Lham, 41, has also served as mangmi during the second LG term and as tshogpa for first LG term.

She is also a class 10 graduate.

She said that people have supported her because of her experiences and the way she served in her  previous terms.

Shaba gup Sangay Lhamo, 44, also served as a tshogpa in the first LG term and contested as gup in the second LG elections, but did not win.

She said that as a tshogpa, she has brought many changes in the village and people have trusted and supported her.

Dewathang gup, Karma Dema, 31, is a university graduate.

She was working with the Samdrupjonkhar Initiative as a programme officer. She also contested in the second LG elections.

“People have more expectations. They want change,” she said.

Similarly, Ngatshang gup, Ugyen Yangzom, 30, is also a university graduate. She with a school as an administration officer.

The Narang gup, Dechen Zangmo, 32, is also a university graduate. She was the lone candidate.

She worked in a private company before deciding to contest in the LG elections.

She said that people have voted for her because of her qualifications. “People believe that for the development activities to happen, it requires qualified candidates.”

Nubi gup Pema Lhamo, 47, also served as gewog mangmi in the second LG term.

The mother of four is known in the locality for her hardwork, dedication and providing immediate service to the people.

The recent election also saw 57 women contesting for the post of mangmi, but only 22 got elected. In the second LG election, 78 women contested, but only 23 got elected.

For the post of tshogpa, about 400 women candidates contested and 149 got elected this year.