Yangyel Lhaden

Tsirang—Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women (RENEW) community service centre, situated in the heart of Damphu town, next to the hospital, serves as a secure refuge for victims of gender-based violence (GBV).

The centre’s infrastructure comprises a single-story building with a spacious compound. Upon entering, visitors are greeted by a child-friendly environment in the first room, equipped with study tables and toys. Parents, especially those in intimate partner relationships, often bring their children along, providing them a space to engage with toys while accessing the services.

Originally established in a space provided by the Tsirang hospital in 2022, the structure for the centre was completed last year, funded through the Tsirang dzongkhag’s budget allocation. UNICEF supports the centre’s operations.

Since its inception in 2022, the centre has reported 112 cases of GBV, including 17 involving children. In 2022, out of 58 violence cases, 11 concerned children—four sexual abuse, one physical abuse, eight emotional violence, and one economic violence. The previous year saw 54 cases, with six involving children—four sexual abuse, one each of physical and emotional violence.

Tsirang’s community service centre is one of 10 centres established by RENEW. The first three centres, including Tsirang, Paro, and Bumthang, were set up in 2022 based on the highest number of reported cases in these dzongkhags.

RENEW’s executive director, Tshering Dolkar, said that the primary objective of establishing community service centres in districts was to ensure everyone has access to RENEW’s services. She emphasised that these centres provide a safe haven, assuring victims that their issues will remain confidential, and their privacy protected.

The centres offer emotional support, information on available services, and empower clients to become productive and emotionally resilient.

Additionally, the centres provide emergency and protection services, livelihood training, advocacy, and sensitization programmess. Successful operation relies on collaboration between local government, dzongkhags, and relevant stakeholders.

Tshering Dolkar stressed the importance of local ownership, citing examples where community service centres operate from unutilised gewog houses or vacant spaces, with support from hospitals, courts, and police. She expressed the need for dzongkhags to take ownership, implement training and advocacy programs, ensuring that resources reach the most unreached members of the community.

Establishing community service centres is part of a broader effort to collaborate closely with local governments and districts, recognising that gender-based violence is a cross-cutting issue requiring the involvement of authorities for effective resolution.

“We aim to establish one community service centre in every dzongkhag in the country,” Tshering Dolkar said.