… the organisation also trained 486 women during the pandemic

Tashi Dema

A year and a half after she lost her daughter to a violent crime, the mother of the eight-year-old girl raped and murdered in Satsam, Paro, is undergoing counselling.

Psychiatrists in the national referral hospital sent her to RENEW two months ago for counselling and support after diagnosing her with severe depression.

The mother, who is undergoing counselling in RENEW’s shelter home in Selekha, Thimphu, said she suffered from headache, anxiety and insomnia for the past five to six months.

“When I went to Paro hospital, I was given some pain relievers and sent home,” she said. “The health assistant in our locality suggested I go and see a psychiatrist.”

She said consulting a psychiatrist and undergoing counselling in RENEW helped her. “I only suffer from headache now. I can sleep well. My anxiety and panic attacks reduced a lot.”

In Gawailing Happy Home, the mother spent the first month helping in the kitchen and doing gardening after her counselling sessions. “Keeping myself engaged helped me.”

Today, she is undergoing a month-long tailoring course and even applied for the advanced tailoring course.

Once the course completes, she wants to return to her home and start a tailoring business if she could afford a sewing machine.

According to the mother, listening to the sufferings of other RENEW beneficiaries helped her accept the reality. “I talk about my problems sometimes and listen to their stories,” she said.

Gawailing Happy Home has many other beneficiaries. In 2020 alone, 327 individuals sought shelter service there, of which 32 are women, 264 girls and 31 boys.

RENEW’s executive director, Tshering Dolkar, said besides counselling and shelter, the Happy Home also provides legal aid, education for children and livelihood training.

She said that 486 vulnerable women availed livelihood training like weaving, tailoring, baking, development of recycling products, hospitality, home care, mushroom cultivation and floriculture since September last year.

“The training is expected to help women generate income for themselves and their families and become independent,” the executive director said. “Women are also provided with entrepreneurship and financial literacy courses to enhance their knowledge and skills.”

Tshering Dolkar said they could provide the training because the labour ministry approved the RENEW Vocational Training Institute last year. “All the training were provided in partnership with labour ministry, UNDP, FIDA and other donor agencies.”

It was learnt some children, who are mostly victims of sexual abuse, attend school and return to Gawailing Happy Home during winter and summer breaks.

According to a press release issued by the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) last year, 372 cases of child rape and molestation were charged to court from 2009 to 2020 of which 41 cases are statutory rape, 286 cases of rape of child above 12 years, 20 cases of gang rape of a child and 25 cases of child molestation.

It also stated that 30 cases of criminal attempt to rape a child were charged to court of which 19 cases are of statutory rape and 11 cases are children above 12 years.

While the rape and murder of the eight-year-old child in Paro is still unresolved, along with murder and suspected rape of a nine-year-old in Dechencholing, in most other child rape cases, perpetrators are those who are in a position of trust with the child.

Police in Paro said they are still investigating the case and gathering information. “Whenever we come across anyone suspicious, we collect blood samples and sent them to the forensic unit in Thimphu,” a source said. “We are also equally concerned about the case and we want to solve it.”

The source said people should share if they have any information. “We already announced reward also.”

It was learnt police compiled a list of more than 900 people, including non-Bhutanese for DNA testing.

Meanwhile, the victim’s mother said she is sick of being accused of not telling the truth and for holding some information. “I have been treated badly and like a perpetrator. That makes me sick.”