Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

With the non-governmental organization, RENEW, establishing a community service centre in Tsirang, access to services is expected to improve for survivors of violence and gender-based violence (GBV) in the dzongkhag.

The centre manager, Sonam Choetsho, said the centre would be used for service delivery, including GBV case management and referrals to specialised services as it is located within the hospital premise.

“We will provide psychosocial support and recreational activities, skills development and livelihood activities, and information and awareness-raising platform for survivors,” she said.

She said the centre would use survivor-centric approach and cater to male survivors.

Since the opening of the centre last month, eight cases of domestic violence, mostly women sought service from the centre.

Sonam Choetsho said the present cases are walk-in, referrals, and reported by the court and police.

The dzongkhag’s RENEW focal, Tshering Lhamo, said although domestic violence and GBV cases are decreasing with increased awareness, most victims suffer in silence because of cultural acceptance. “In the culture here, wife loses her right to return to her parental home once she is married. They tolerate violence in her husband’s home.”

A RENEW volunteer for the past nine years, she said that most of the cases are marital issues.

Tshering Lhamo volunteers to provide awareness to people in the villages with other community-based volunteers. “Although most of the victims are women, there are men who suffer in silence due to societal stigmatisation.”

She said that the awareness programmes encouraged victims who come forward to report the cases. “However, the work is not easy. People think we separate married couples and community resents us.”

Citing few examples, she said there were instances where people scorned her work while handling cases. “If we were not trained, it would have been difficult.”

There are 14 community-based volunteers in the dzongkhag who are involved in giving general awareness and social behavioural work.

Meanwhile, the centre was established with support from UNICEF and National Commission for Women and Children. A shelter to house survivors would be constructed soon.