Jigmi Wangdi 

Students of four Thimphu schools walked from the Mother and Child Hospital to the clock tower square to raise awareness and advocate for cervical cancer yesterday. 

Students talked with residents, shopkeepers, and pedestrians, distributing pamphlets about cervical cancer. 

A youth representative from YHSS, Athmaja said that she learnt a lot about the cancer and pledged to ensure her family members and she receive the vaccinations on time. She also enjoyed interacting with people during the walk, answering their questions and informing them about cervical cancer prevention.

A fourth-grade student from Druk school, Ayaan felt a sense of pride as he explained the importance of cervical cancer awareness and vaccination. He believes that the knowledge shared during the walk would empower people to take preventive measures against the disease. 

Cervical cancer is a prevalent concern among Bhutanese women, and it ranks as one of the leading causes of death for them. Between 2014 and 2018, Bhutan witnessed over 300 cases of cervical cancer. Early detection is crucial for successful treatment, but unfortunately, around 30 percent of cases are identified at advanced stages.

In response to this pressing health issue, Bhutan initiated the Cervical Cancer Screening Programme in 2006. Subsequently, the country began vaccinating young girls against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in 2010, achieving a commendable 97 percent vaccination rate for all adolescent girls by 2017. Bhutan furthered its efforts in 2020 by becoming the first country in the South-East Asia Region to vaccinate young boys against HPV.

The Walk the Talk event was organised by the Bhutan Youth Development Fund, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation. This event aimed to highlight a critical public health concern in the country each year. Leveraging their network of Young Volunteers-in-Action (Y-VIA), Bhutan YDF trained young volunteers across all dzongkhags to advocate for health screening within their communities. Simultaneously, young volunteers in every dzongkhag organised events in their respective communities to emphasise the importance of health screening.