Election: Wanting to set an example and to inspire others, Sonam Choden from Zobel gewog has decided to re-contest in the upcoming local government election. She will be contesting for the same post.
She is the only female mangmi in Pemagatshel.
The decision wasn’t easy for her. She was on the verge of quitting.
But after attending various trainings on women’s participation in governance, she changed her mind.
“My age doesn’t allow me to be in offices but it would be a waste if I don’t participate in the election after attending so many trainings conducted by NGOs and the government,” she said. “When they are doing everything to motivate women we can at least give a try to do more than just being in the kitchen or behind a hand loom.”
Sonam Choden said people’s encouragement and trust in her also boosted her confidence.
On why she is not thinking of running for gup, Sonam Choden said it is important to study the political environment and make decisions because Bhutanese society is still at a stage where men are considered superior. She however added that the word in the village is that the same gup would be reelected.
“But this doesn’t mean I am compromising my ability to serve as a gup, I am sure I can take the same responsibility but when we already have a capable gup, I decided to stick with the same post,” she said. “Maybe the challenge for a woman would be when there is an issue in a far village and they call us at night or past midnight,” she said. “It would be quite difficult to attend to such a situation and especially those that require settling cases when there is a conflict.”
Sonam Choden, who studied till class V also served as Chimi in 1999.
Although, there are no other women vying for the post of mangmi, she said, she has been encouraging other women to come forward and a few have decided to contest for tshogpa.
Sonam said she is ready to contest against her male counterparts.
“I’m taking part again also because of my family and husband who has been always supportive. In fact it was him who did all the documentation without my knowledge in the first election and today I am here because of him.”
It is the same story for 32-year old mangmi Tashi Zangmo from Pemathang gewog in Samdrupjongkhar. She is also the only female mangmi in the dzongkhag.
Tashi Zangmo, a class X dropout and divorcee, said she has more experience as mangmi and is confident she can continue to do well.
Based on feedback she decided to re-contest for mangmi instead of gup.
“There are people who encourage me to contest for gup but I’ve to also study the environment in the gewog and for now, I know mangmi is the best option I should try for,” she said. “Over the last five years I have really gained confidence to come in front of people and interacting with people has become my favourite part and I love the job.”
“I want to give other women an impression that we can also become what we want,” she added.
Sharing the same challenges as Sonam Choden, she added there is nothing that woman can’t take up and people should discard preconceptions that women cannot implement developmental activities, understand about the budget or plan activities.
“As for now, I won’t change my mind and let’s see what happens on poll day,” she said.
Yangchen C Rinzin | Pemagatshel