It’s 2:35pm. The lecture theatre at Sherubtse College is filled to its capacity. The International Day of the Girl Child is observed at the college this year.

Chairperson of the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) Lyonpo Dorji Choden enters the theatre. No sooner did the guests settle down, a student gets up and starts reciting.

Another student follows him from the far end. In the next few minutes, some 15 students have stood up and delivered a sentence each highlighting the importance of empowering women.

A panel discussion on the theme, empower girls: emergency response and resilience planning was also held. Lyonpo Dorji Choden was joined by representatives from RENEW, health and the college.

“Empowerment for me is, when a girl/women is able to grow to her full potential,” lyonpo said. The minister said that the country today has inclusive policies and legal frameworks that provide equal opportunities to both men and women.

However, the issue, she said was in how the two genders capitalised on the opportunities provided.

The panellists also discussed various efforts made towards addressing the issues faced by girls across the world and the initiatives taken to continuously respond to their needs and help them develop their full potential.

One of the highlights of the programme was when Kinley Wangmo, a second year student recited an emotion-packed musical poetry highlighting the role of women in the society and the need to empower them.

A first year student, Sangay Tshomo, said, that gender discrimination still exists in the country today. “The rate at which our country is growing is unprecedented. Development has come not just in the socioeconomic field but also in the way people think these days,” she said. “However, in subtle ways, people still have that stereotypical notion of men being superior to women.”

She said that without means and measures to emphasise that women have equal importance in the society, gender-based discriminations would be never addressed.

Another student, Tashi Dorji, said that it is not necessary to empower women because they are already empowered. “Maybe in the olden days this concept existed where men and women were discriminated based on their gender,” he said. “But today, men and women get equal opportunities in any field.”

He said that when people keep emphasising on the idea “women empowerment” it inflicts the idea upon people and make them believe in something that doesn’t exist. “I could say at least in Bhutan that there is no discrimination based on gender. It is like Much Ado About Nothing,” he said.

In the morning, NCWC conducted a sensitisation session on its mandate, The Child Care and Protection Act, 2011, The Child Adoption Act, 2012 and The Domestic Violence Prevention Act, 2013 and related rules and regulations.

The programme was organised by NCWC in collaboration with Sherubtse College with support from UNICEF.

Younten Tshedup |  Trashigang