Chhimi Dema    

Bhutan is more accommodating and safer for women compared to the neighbouring countries but there is a need to do a lot more, according to a panel of young women.

She Leads Here panel brought three young Bhutanese women to share their experiences on gender and their work in private and civil service organisations. The panel was organised by the Journalists’ Association of Bhutan in partnership with the Embassy of Canada to Bhutan in New Delhi.

“Just because I am a young woman, my credibility is always questioned. But a man would not be questioned. A man would exude confidence to others,” said a panellist at the She Leads Here panel yesterday.

Regita Gurung, a youth advocate for sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics, said that the panel with young women was revolutionary.

One usually sees “manel”, a panel of experts or participants that consists of men only from privileged positions, in such fora, she said.  “While they are credible, the issues they often talk about such as youth, gender equality or climate does not affect them as much as it would to other identities.”

Regita Gurung said that this points to the importance of having representation in any discussion. “Otherwise, the narrative becomes androcentric and counter-intuitive to the whole purpose of gender equality.”

Bhutan ranks 130 out of 156 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, which uses indicators of political empowerment, health and survival, educational attainment, and economic participation and opportunity to assess the extent of gender parity.

As of February 2021, only 14.9 percent of seats in parliament were held by women in the country, according to UN Women.

UN Women is the UN organisation delivering programmes, policies and standards that uphold women’s human rights and ensure that every woman and girl lives up to her full potential.

In 2018, 8.6 percent of women aged 15 to 49 years reported that they had been subject to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months.

UN Women also reports that women and girls aged above 15 spend 15 percent of their time on unpaid care and domestic work, compared to 5.9 percent spent by men.

Human resource management creating a gender-equal workspace and the media being gender-sensitive are some ways to work towards gender equality, Regita Gurung said.

The panel held discussions on the impacts of climate change on women and their livelihoods, how to bring people who are gender-insensitive to the discussion, and the importance of confidence in women to stand for themselves among others.