YK Poudel

Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the Royal Patron of RENEW (Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women) will inaugurate the first RENEW Community Service Center (CSC) in Tsirang tomorrow.

Her Majesty, the Goodwill Ambassador of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is on her visit to advocate and create awareness on women and girl’s empowerment, and their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). 

The centre will actively engage in delivering comprehensive sexuality education, prevention of violence and abuse, sexual and reproductive health and rights programmes. 

 UNICEF Bhutan representative, Andrea James said that the establishment of the community service centre is a result of the strong partnership with the government and RENEW towards addressing gender-based violence. “The centre is a commendable example of how communities can respond to gaps in available services and facilitate women and girls’ access to gender-based violence (GBV) services,” she said. 

 Sonam, Tsirang Dzongdag, said that it is essential to recognise the importance of empowering women, girls, and children to reach their full potential. “We hope that this model will serve as an inspiration for similar initiatives in other dzongkhags across Bhutan.”

“This pioneering initiative showcases the successful collaboration between the dzongkhag administration, civil society organisations, and development partners in addressing critical social issues,” he said. 

Executive Director of RENEW, Tshering Dolkar, said that a  service centre in the community is the need of the hour across all 20 dzongkhags. “Several needs assessment and analysis have been conducted to understand the situation with strong recommendations to address the social issues.”

She said: “The National Commission for Women and Children, UNFPA, and UNICEF Bhutan provided technical support to ensure that the design and management of the safe spaces was responsive to survivor’s needs. It is important to gear up with more effective mechanisms to bring the services closer to the community for easy accessibility.”

According to the press release from RENEW, Her Majesty will lead an advocacy programme for the communities of Tsirang on public health and social priorities. Her Majesty will interact with the students and staff of Damphu Middle Secondary School and Damphu Central School including 26 children with disabilities. 

Officials from the education and skills development ministry, health ministry, UNFPA, and RENEW will also be conducting interactive sessions with the students on SRHR, GBV, and Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE). 

Moreover, Her Majesty will also visit the hospital and interact with the health staff and meet with the 38 multi-sectoral task force members, community volunteers (CBSS) and local leaders.  

According to the UNFPA country office, Her Majesty The Gyalyum has been championing for the rights of women and girls for more than two decades. “The unwavering efforts of Her Majesty The Gyalyum continue to empower women and girls and bring a positive transformation in the society’s attitudes and behaviours towards them. “ 

The RENEW community service centre is initiated by the dzongkhag in achieving a milestone towards enhancing access to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) services in the community. 

The centre will also provide livelihood skills training as a part of economic empowerment to women and girls. 

Located next to Tsirang hospital, the CSC construction was completed in March with a total budget of Nu 4.1 million from the government. 

The press release states that GBV and DV remains a significant issue in Bhutan as two out of every five women in the country have experienced one or more forms of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Additionally, 6.9 percent reported being sexually abused as children. 

RENEW saw 1,154 cases between 2022 to June 2023 of which 1,000 were female and 154 male. 

The statistics revealed that between April 2022 and June 2023, a total of 80  clients sought assistance for various forms of abuse. The most reported cases were related to emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and economic abuse. 

Over 3,145 community members were sensitised on the issues, covering all 12 gewogs in Tsirang.