YK Poudel

Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the Royal Patron of RENEW (Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women) concluded a two-day advocacy on women and girl’s empowerment, and public health in Tsirang yesterday.  

Over 400 people from 12 gewogs of Tsirang, including local government officials attended the advocacy programme.  

The objective of the advocacy was to create awareness on women and girls empowerment, and public health including sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

Health ministry officials presented public health concerns around communicable, non-communicable diseases, and mental health.

The director of public health, Karma Jamtsho, said that major risk factors are alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. “The public was sensitised on how to live a healthy life and encouraged to seek support from relevant healthcare providers.” 

Her Majesty interacting with the students of Damphu Middle Secondary School and Damphu Central School

Director of the education programme department, Tashi Namgyal said that there are rising concerns over teenage pregnancy, suicides, drug abuse and gender-based violence, and school dropout among the youth.

“As a long-term strategy, Comprehensive Sexuality Education has been integrated into the seven subjects of the national school curriculum since 2021. This has enabled students to access scientifically accurate and age-appropriate information on SRHR, engaging them in conversations on gender equality, relationships and consent.

This effort, he said, is displaying positive impacts on their behaviours. The education ministry is also currently working on having health and well-being focal in all schools, mentor-mentee programme, school parenting programme and e-counselling services, among others. 

Her Majesty the Gyalyum inaugurated the RENEW’s new community service center on August 13, which is the first service center initiated by a dzongkhag administration, achieving a milestone towards enhancing access to gender-based violence services in the community. 

RENEW reported 80 cases related to gender-based violence in Tsirang over the past year. A total of 48 cases of emotional abuse, 16 physical abuse cases, five sexual abuse and four economic abuse cases were reported. 

According to the press release from RENEW, the most affected population included adolescent girls, divorced women, single women, and social orphans. “The contributing factors for GBV including technology-facilitated GBV were adolescent relationship issues, extra-marital affairs, and alcohol and substance abuse.”

RENEW has been providing services from the temporary space in the hospital from April 2022 until February 2023. 

Her Majesty the Gyalyum also interacted with over 800 students and 141 staff of Damphu Middle Secondary School and Damphu Central School including 26 children with disabilities. 

Officials from RENEW, the education and skills development and health ministries conducted interactive sessions with the students on public health, and Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), where concepts on gender, gender-based violence, SRHR, cultures and values, were discussed in detail. 

Her Majesty the Gyalyum had an audience with the members of multi-sectoral task force members – community volunteers (MSTF-CBSS) and DAISAN networks to strengthen their partnership to ensure strengthened service across the country. Operational guidelines for CBSS and DAISAN networks were presented by RENEW during the meeting. 

Her Majesty the Gyalyum also visited the Tsirang dzongkhag hospital and interacted with around 90 health staff, the mother and child health unit and the inpatient ward. 

Her Majesty the Gyalyum has been UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador since 1999 and has been championing the rights of women and girls.  

Her Majesty the Gyalyum was accompanied by officials from MoESD, MoH, RENEW, UNFPA, and UNICEF.