20 out of 46 local leaders are women

Yangyel Lhaden

Remote Dakarla gewog sprung a big surprise in the third local government (LG) elections this year. They re-elected former gup Gado, who had been their gup for two decades. But apart from the gup, the mangmi and five tshogpas are all women.

Gup-elect Gado said he was overwhelmed with the choice of voters in his gewog.  “I have served the people well and was sure I would get elected this time, but I did not expect the other results,” he said, referring to the five women tshogpa and the mangmi getting elected.

Dago Pema is the first female mangmi from Darkarla. She served as the tshogpa in the last LG term. She said that after gaining experience as a tshogpa, she was confident to contest as a mangmi. “I encouraged other women to contest as tshogpa and today all of them have been elected.”

Dago Pema said that as a tshogpa, she was only able to serve at chiwog level.  “As a mangmi, I will be able to solve problems at the gewog level.  People of Darkarla have given me hope from this election that they will support women leaders,” she said, declaring herself as a gup candidate in the next LG election.

Election results in Dakarla’s neighbouring gewog, Chang, had bigger surprises. The gewog is dominated by women leaders. The gup, mangmi, and three of the five tshogpas are all women.

Chang is one of the gewogs of the Wang-Tshochengay (eight great clans of western Bhutan). The gups take part in the great Punakha Dromchhoe where the eight gups done red robes, temporarily transforming into monks until the end of Dromchhoe as the Dromchhoe reenact the war scenes from the times of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.

The dromchhoe is not a concern for Sonam Zangmo. The gup-elect said that she had served as an officiating gup for two years and during the Dromchhoe, her male relatives represented her at the Punakha Dromchhoe. “There was no issue.  Hereafter also my family members will represent me during the Dromchhoe,” she said.

Soe’s gup election is scheduled on January 6. Gup aspirant Kencho Dorjeee is likely to face a similar fate as Darkarla gewog, The gewog has elected female mangmi Tshering Yangzom and two female tshogpas.

Thimphu dzongkhag has one female gup elect, four female mangmis from Soe, Lingzhi, Chang, Darkarla, and 15 female tshogpas from Chang, Ge-Nyen, Maedwang, Soe, Darkarla, Kawang and Naro gewogs.

Going by the election results, voters in Thimphu voted for candidates who served in their respective gewogs.

Maedwang gewog’s gup elect Tandin Pema was their former gup, Sonam Zangmo served as mangmi. Lingzhi gup Wangdi has been serving as gup for the last 10 years and even served as a gup and a Chimi for six years in the past. Ge-Nyen gup elect Kencho served as chairman for Wangbama Phama group for three years.

Most mangmi-elects previously served as tshogpas. Mangmi-elect Jamyang Lhamo is a former tshogpa of Yoeselpang chiwog, and Lingzhi’s mangmi-elect Dechen Tshomo was also a tshogpa in Chakphu chiwog.

Gup-elect Dawa Tshering re-contested from Kawang gewog. He contested for gup in 2016 but lost to former gup Thupten Wangchuk.

Four former gups of Thimphu re-contested, out of which former gup Chencho Tenzin of Maedwang gewog and Ugyen from Chang did not get re-elected.

Naro’s gup-elect is the popular comedian, Gyem Tshering. He said that his career in movies might have made people vote for him. Gyem Tshering was also a Chimi in the then unicameral parliament for three years.

Gyem Tshering said that he contested for gup because he wanted to advocate for the people of Naro about laws and policies of the country. “Naro is a remote gewog and people are still ignorant.”