Sherab Lhamo

Yesterday, Bhutan commemorated International Women’s Day under the theme “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.”

The event, held at Gyelpozhing College of Information Technology (GCIT) in Thimphu, brought together leaders and advocates to celebrate achievements in women’s empowerment, explore the intersection of technology and gender equality, and chart a course for the future.

Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, Royal Patron of RENEW and Goodwill Ambassador of UNFPA, graced the occasion, underscoring the importance of investing in women to drive societal advancement.

In her address, Her Majesty emphasised the timeliness of this year’s theme, particularly as Bhutan embarks on transformative initiatives guided by His Majesty the King’s visionary leadership.

With the nation poised for a new government term, the commencement of a fresh five-year plan, and the prospect of graduating from the least developed countries list, the call to action to invest in women takes on heightened significance.

It signifies a commitment to leveraging the full potential of Bhutanese women as catalysts for progress and agents of change in the journey towards a brighter future.

Her Majesty emphasised that investing in women is not just a theoretical concept but also a vital strategy with tangible benefits. She said, “It is essential to empower women not only as beneficiaries of change but as active contributors in determining their own futures.”

The Executive Director of RENEW, Tshering Dolkar, highlighted that Bhutan was ranked 103rd out of 146 countries worldwide in the Global Gender Gap Index for the year 2023.

The event also commemorated the 20th anniversary of Respect, Educate, Nurture, Empower Women (RENEW) and the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC).

RENEW revealed their anniversary logos and launched a coffee table book that encapsulated two decades of commitment to empowering Bhutanese women.

In the afternoon, a roundtable discussion was held to explore strategies for increasing the representation of women in decision-making positions. The session was attended by female executives from government, private sector, and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

This initiative was spearheaded by the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC).

This year also commemorates Her Majesty’s 35th year serving as the UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador.

Officials from NCWC and RENEW underscored the significance of investing in women as a fundamental catalyst for societal advancement. With a particular focus on technology, they emphasised its role as a potent instrument for women’s economic empowerment.

Technology offers new avenues for income generation, employment opportunities, and facilitates access to knowledge and skills, thus fostering greater gender equality and socioeconomic development.

Tshering Dolkar highlighted that collaborating with GCIT represents another significant milestone in the efforts to educate women and girls, enabling them to access opportunities for income empowerment and safeguarding them from cyberviolence.

Recently on 29 February, RENEW and GCIT conducted a program and trained female entrepreneurs of RENEW on using Artificial Intelligence (AI) like Gemini AI, Sora AI, capcut and others to create designs and using them for their business.

The evolving technological landscape requires focus on preparing the next generation while safeguarding women from technology-facilitated gender-based violence, said the officials.

The officials added that the fight for complete equality still continues as the deep-rooted societal norms and discrimination still hinder the progress of marginalised women and girls, including those with disabilities and those from the LGBTQIA+ community.

Despite progress in reducing violence against women, nearly half of Bhutanese women have experienced intimate partner violence, as in 2023, RENEW received 778 cases.