There is a need for a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) policy, collaboration between the CSOs and the government, an education system with values to address youth issues and equal representation of youth and CSOs in decision and policymaking process of the government.

This was discussed during the platform for preparing women candidates for the third National Assembly (NA) elections 2018, a dialogue between the women NA candidates, CSO members, and youth representatives in Thimphu on July 18.

The forum discussed aspirations, issues and challenges of CSOs and youth, gaps in the current working of the government and how these issues could be addressed. The discussions were followed by reflection from each of the five women NA candidates.

Members of the civil society said lack of funding, human resource, collaboration and coordination with the government and among themselves were the biggest challenge. They expressed the need for a CSO policy and collaboration with the government as part of the solutions.

Executive director of Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW), Phuntshok Chhoden, said that the CSO community was eager to be a part of development activities of the government and to contribute to make Bhutan a better place.

She said that the CSOs were capable of taking responsibilities from the government. “We are more efficient in reach and effectiveness. While the government could focus on more on the maintenance of the hardware such as roads, schools, buildings which requires more resources, maybe CSOs can be interested to take care of the softer side of social agenda.”

The youth representatives also discussed some of the reasons for issues such as youth unemployment, drugs, crime, mental health issues, nepotism, corruption, and teenage pregnancy. They stated high rate of divorce leading to broken families, peer pressure, expectations of parents, teachers and the society, lack of awareness of opportunities and lack of dignity of labour leading to youth preferring white collar jobs were some of the reasons for youth-related issues.

They expressed the need for the education system to be value-based, inclusive of vocational skills at early schooling years, need for research based policies, and involvement of youth in decision making process.

BNEW organised the event in line with its mandate to empower women and strengthen their participation or representation in leadership.

Phuntshok Chhoden said that the apolitical platform which was offered to all the parties as per ECB regulations aimed at strengthening women participation so that women candidates were stronger in their campaigns and in the parliament.

“This is no platform for them to campaign. It is important for women to understand what CSO is all about, what our issues, challenges and concerns are, who are the youth and what are their concerns and challenges,” she said.  “We are also one of the pillars in development where we as civil society want to contribute to making a better Bhutan.”

About 19 youth, 24 CSO representatives from 15 CSOs, and five women candidate from three political parties participated in the daylong event.

Karma Cheki