On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the theme this year is ‘Make It Happen’

IWD: Several legal provisions are in place to protect women’s rights, but not many Bhutanese women are aware of it.

As an organisation working towards empowerment of women and girls, especially victims and survivors of domestic violence, this was a major concern for RENEW.

As Bhutan joined the global community to mark International Women’s Day, the theme this year, “Make It Happen” will gear organisations like RENEW and others to work towards encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising roles that women play in society.

Although there are two main legal provisions, the domestic violence prevention Act 2013 and the childcare and protection Act 2011, RENEW’s director for community outreach division, (Dr) Meenakshi Rai, said it was a concern as to how to make everyone aware of it, and implement it successfully.

“To make it happen, support and solidarity in action is must,” she said.

The day was also marked to recognise women’s achievements, irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, and language, cultural, economic or political. “It’s an occasion to look back at struggles and accomplishments made by women, and look forward to the opportunities awaiting women in future,” a RENEW official said.

Speaking at the event, the health minister, Tandin Wangchuk, said that domestic violence was a social menace that had not spared even Bhutanese women.  Besides, Bhutanese women, especially in remote communities, are challenged by a deep-rooted culture of discrimination, poverty and financial instability, and that the inherent culture of considering women inferior to men led to domestic violence and discrimination, although national legal policies don’t permit it.

Despite various awareness programmes conducted by agencies like RENEW, the health minister said many cases still go unreported as a result of cultural norms and social perceptions, where people believe that domestic violence should not be publicly exposed.

The 2012 health survey stated that about 74 percent women accepted domestic violence as justified.  RENEW recorded 4,000 cases of violence against women and children between 2004 and 2013.

“Implementation of domestic violence prevention Act will also help fulfil the millennium development goal, reduce gender equality and empower women,” lyonpo said.

International Women’s Day was celebrated at Bajo higher secondary school in Wangdue, yesterday.  Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck graced the event, organised by RENEW and the dzongkhag, with support from the UN and National Commission for Women and Children.  The works and human settlement minister, health minister, members of Parliament and officials from NCWC and the  UN, teachers and students of Wangdue, besides the local community, also joined the celebrations.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue