Her Royal Highness of Bhutan, Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck, joined prominent women leaders in Thimphu earlier this year to encourage young Bhutanese girls to enter politics. She spoke at an event to launch a UN Women-assisted project, “Inspiring Bhutanese Girls: Creating A New Generation of Leaders.”
The project is the first in Bhutan to inspire young women to engage in the public sphere.
“Bhutan is a unique country,” says Anne Stenhammer, Regional Programme Representative for UN Women in South Asia. “Women enjoy many rights, but there still exists a line that constrains them.”
Bhutanese women occupy only 14 percent of parliamentary seats and 2 percent of local government positions. Though numerous women have entered the civil service, few occupy positions of influence.
In its first months, the project has brought together hundreds of high-school girls from 16 districts in workshops to learn how they can play a more active role in governance. They meet accomplished women leaders from the civil service, civil society, Parliament and local government, who share tips and personal experiences.
Aum Yangdey, Executive Director of Bhutan’s Youth Development Fund, is one such leader. As a civil servant and a mother of three children, she told girls at one workshop: “I see that people are happy when we do something for the public, so that actually kept me going [in my career]. I also have a very supportive family at home, and it definitely helped maintain the balance.”