National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) has developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to ensure systematic and effective protection mechanism for women and children in difficult circumstances.

A total of 37 school guidance counsellors from Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Mongar, Samdrupjongkhar, Lhuntse, Pemagatshel, and Bumthang attended a sensitisation programme on the SOP in Trashigang yesterday.

Participants shared the challenges faced by the counsellors while reporting cases that involved women and children in difficult situations.

“Now with SOP in place, I feel the network of reporting is widened by bringing all the stakeholders on board,” said Nima Tshering, guidance counsellor of Baylling Central School.

Ugyen Tshomo, senior legal officer with NCWC, said the SOP that is yet to be published and made available online, will provide a uniform and prescribed format of reporting to the stakeholders concerned.

“The SOP outlines roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders concerned,” she said, adding that the guiding principle such as best interest, respect, dignity and opportunity of being heard, among others, are also defined in the SOP.

“Since issues related to women and children are cross-cutting issues, it requires multi-sectorial involvement. The SOP is designed to strengthen the coordination mechanism with all stakeholders dealing to women and children in difficult circumstances,” said Ugyen Tshomo.

Nima Tshering said that although there was reference protocol for counsellors while reporting issues regarding women and children, it wasn’t transparent. “Many counsellors had difficulties identifying where, when and whom to report to.”

The SOP provides stakeholders with a clear and transparent networking system, which includes proper reporting protocol, he said. “When it comes to addressing issues related with children and women, we are at the forefront. The SOP will make people aware about our responsibilities.”

This is the first time the NCWC is collaborating with the school guidance counsellors in an effort to address women and children issues.

SOP was drafted in consultation with health, education, labour ministry, police, court, media and CSOs, among others to effectively implement the provisions reflected in the Child Care and Protection Act 2011, Domestic Violence Prevention Act 2013, and Child Adoption Act 2012.

Younten Tshedup