Although there are enough policies, laws, acts, and programmes in place to address issues related to sexual reproductive health (SRH), gender based violence (GBV) and teenage pregnancy, people do not avail the services due to lack of implementation and understanding.

This was discussed at the stakeholder’s workshop on sexual reproductive health and gender based violence, which began on March 5 in Thimphu.

Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) together with the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) and Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) conducted the workshop as part of celebrating International Women’s day. The day is themed “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives.”

The workshop aims to update knowledge on SRH and GBV issues, identify the strength of each agency in addressing SRH issues such as sexual violence, teenage pregnancy, and cervical cancer, identify issues and challenges around SRH and GBV, and come up with action plans to address them.

Director of community outreach department with RENEW, Meenakshi Rai (PhD), said the actions should be doable. “If we can help in the community, it will help the country”

She said that although all support services such as Pap smear, contraceptives, family planning programmes, post abortion care and infertility are in place, many are unable to access these services. “We need to inform and create awareness among people. But just informing will not work and each individual should take action and understand.”

Programme officer of reproductive maternal and newborn health programme with the health ministry, Pema Lethro, said that although awareness is created, most forget the challenges people come across while availing the services. “When service providers go to the communities, they go as visitors. We hardly know their culture.”

He said that service providers should listen to the people to know how best they could reach the services. “Unless the local leaders know the importance of Pap smear screening, family planning, or how to prevent cervical cancer, it would be difficult for us to keep telling the people what they should be doing.”

Forensic Medicine Specialist with JDWNRH Dr Norbu added that challenges such as healthcare providers not being able to recognise the issue and deal appropriately as they are not trained on GBV, limited resources, GBV being associated with guilt, shame and stigma, and lack of coordination among the service providers also hinder people from availing the services.

The three day workshop ends today.

Karma Cheki