Advocacy: At a time when youth are being blamed for alcohol-related problems, seven youth have initiated an awareness programme targeting the source of alcohol.

Go Youth Go is on, what they call, a pleading campaign, where they visit bars in the capital city and advocate responsible alcohol business and consumption. “Youth are branded as alcoholics and drug abusers in our country, so we want to change this mindset and let them know we’re here for good,” Sangay Thinley, who initiated the programme, said.

The advocacy program is themed “We sell, serve and supply alcohol responsibly”.  The volunteers plead with all bar owners to strictly adhere to the 5-point alcohol service policy to create a harmonious twofold culture of responsible alcohol sale and civilised alcohol transactions between sellers and consumers.

“So far, we’ve been to about 250 bars, and the respondents were receptive and they respect our initiative,” Sangay said.  He added that the programme, being a youth initiative, got support, due to the amicability and friendliness in style of approaching the bar owners. “Had it been some officials from the government offices, I think the response would have been a different one because of the feeling of a possible raid.”

Migma Dorji, a bar owner in central Thimphu town, said that the programme was a good initiative and helpful for the sellers, as it reminded them of the alcohol service policy, which helps them refrain from any illegal business.

While carrying out the programme, volunteers also found out that several general shops and retailers sell alcohol illegally. “The shopkeepers don’t display wine bottles on their shelves, but they do sell alcohol secretly,” Ugyen Tshering, one of the volunteers said. “This hampers the business of licensed bar owners, because they can sell without having to pay tax.”

The volunteers are aiming to make the programme an annual event. “This might be a small initiative, but we believe that we’re doing something to help the society at large” a volunteer, Ugyen said.

The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy, the health ministry and the World Health Organisation supported the advocacy programme.