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Updated: 1 hour 24 min ago

Nu 200M town hall for Thimphu city in the pipeline

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 17:05

Thimphu Thromde plans to construct a town hall in Changangkha in Thimphu in the next fiscal year.

Besides housing meetings, the town hall will accomodate the offices of the thrompon, the thromde executive secretary and thromde’s customer care offices.

The construction of the hall is estimated to cost Nu 200M (million).

The thromde’s executive secretary Passang Dorji said that the hall would be constructed in phases. For the initial construction phase, funds will be provided by the Indian government.

The thromde will propose to the government for additional budget to complete the town hall in the 12th plan.

Passang Dorji said that currently the thromde is renting the National Pension and Provident Fund building for its office space and there are congestion problems.

“We have to look for a hall whenever we are to hold a meeting with communities,” Passang Dorji said. “There are no proper parking spaces and there is traffic congestion in the area during the office hours.”

The thromde is in the process of designing the structure.

Passang Dorji said that the Prime Minister suggested the construction of the town hall during the thromde’s 11th Plan mid-term review last year.

Staff reporter

Tshorwa grabs most awards

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 17:04

Four films, Tshorwa, Pot of Gold, Serga Mathang, and Bum Badha Chen-mi Rinzi dominated the 16th annual film awards held recently taking 21 awards out of 31.

Tshorwa, a romantic horror movie by Karma Lhatrul Dorji Rinpoche booked the most number of awards at the 16th Annual Film Festival held recently.

The film revolving around the existence or the non-existence of black magic practitioners in the country grabbed six awards in the best cinematography, lighting, editor, background score, sound design, and female singer categories.

Pot of Gold starring former Member of Parliament from Nyisho-Sephu constituency, Wangdue Gyem Dorji and his son Tashi Penjor Dorji claimed five awards. Director Kelzang P Jigme’s Serga Mathang and director and producer Tshering Dorji’s Bum Badha Chen-mi Rinzi also won five awards each.

Gyem Dorji won the best actor award while his son Tashi Penjor Dorji bagged the best male debutant actor both for the comedy film Pot of Gold. Deki Lhamo, who played the opposite role with Tashi Penjor Dorji booked the best new actor female award.

An emotional Tandin Bidha broke down on stage while receiving the best actress award for her role in Bum Badha Chen-mi Rinzi. She scored two nominations in this category alongside veteran actresses Dorji Wangmo for Pot of Gold, Tshokey Tshomo Karchung for Thrung Thrung Karmo, and Lhaki Dolma for Hum Chewai Zamling.

The first National Film Awards was instituted in May 2001 with partial funding support from the Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC) until 2003. Zimdra Industries provided full financial support to organise the next three annual awards. From 2008, the government provided Nu 1 million to organise the annual event.

The funding support grew this year with the introduction of the Prime Minister’s awards of Nu 3 million, and Nu 2 million from the Department of Culture.

DDC sponsored the award of Nu 50,000 for the Dzongkha language category and the Royal Office for Media provided Nu 50,000 for the youth and education category.

Staff Reporter

Hema Hema wins award at international film festival

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 17:02

Bhutanese film Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait won the Audience Choice Winner award in the Malaysia Golden Global Awards 2017.

Hema Hema was among 18 films included in the international film festival in Kuala Lumpur on March 5.

Other films that were competing with Hema Hema included; ‘the Salesman’, an Iranian film that recently won the 2017 Oscars for best foreign language film, and ‘I, Daniel Blake’, the British film that won the Palm d’ore of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

Hema Hema was also nominated for Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and the big prize of Best Film. Film producer, Pawo Choyning Dorji, said winning such an award is a big achievement for a film that was made by a mostly all-Bhutanese crew and cast.  “The recognition especially goes a long way in inspiring all the artists of Bhutan, who seek the courage to dream,” he said.

The film has been screened in over 25 international film festivals, including prestigious ones like the London BFI, the Busan Film Festival and the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, where Hema Hema secured the second place in competition.

Staff reporter

Reform must achieve integrity

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 17:01

The judiciary has begun undertaking vital review and reforms. What this indicates is that people’s expectations from the institution has evolved. This is a good development.  Administration of justice must evolve to suit the changing times.

The Constitution says that the judiciary shall safeguard, uphold, and administer Justice fairly and independently without fear, favour, or undue delay in accordance with the Rule of Law to inspire trust and confidence and to enhance access to justice. It is a tall mandate that the judiciary must effectively and efficiently achieve. The worse the judiciary can do is lose public trust.

The justice system will have to handle complex problems as we continue to develop. This will demand judicial competency, which will require special institutional arrangements. In this light, reform is of paramount interest for both the judiciary and the public.

Reforms in the judiciary began with the establishment of the specialised benches at Thimphu District Court last year to bring about uniformity, accuracy, precision and predictability of judgement and interpretation of law. What this should lead ultimately to is achieving greater credibility, transparency and integrity of the justice system. At a time when people have started doubting the credibility and professionalism of judges, these initiatives bring so much hope for positive development.

Come Friday, the judiciary will adopt the Judicial Responsibility and Accountability Regulations, a system where judges and court personnel can be held accountable for violation of court rules, policies and codes of conduct or other corrupt and unprofessional behaviour. What this means is the people can now file complaints against judges or court personnel on the grounds of irresponsibility.

Judicial accountability is important to maintain its credibility.

Recognising that improving delivery of judicial services and enhancing user satisfaction is critical, the judiciary is beginning to undertake automation of services with support from G2C office. This is an important development that will facilitate easy access and efficient delivery of judicial service. Poor service delivery can lead to people losing trust in the institution.

The current reforms in the judiciary point to a maturing society. Many more reforms will follow in time. As in the words of His Majesty The King: “There is a need to continue to improve the legal system through timely and appropriate reforms and proactive initiatives.”

Preserving native cereals

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 17:01

A group of farmers in Buli will start cultivating native varieties of cereals starting this year in a bid to ensure their continuity.

Members of the Sonam Nyamsung Detshen have initiated this effort to conserve such cereals in their locality which they say are today endangered species.

Sonam Nyamsung Detshen chairman Phuntsho Dendup, 55, said there are several native cereals which most of the farmers don’t grow anymore such as Zangkar, Kezang Rey, Rey Maap, Kaam Jaa and Golingpa.

He said most of the farmers also don’t cultivate other grains like quinoa, wheat, barley, sweet buckwheat and buckwheat. He pointed out that some species of native maize have also almost vanished.

Phuntsho Dendup said the group’s members along with the gewog agriculture extension officer have managed to collect some pure native cereal seeds from those who still cultivate them. “We will grow them and produce more seeds now,” he said.

Another elderly person said Bulipas grew these varieties of cereals widely in past years. The cereals have become endangered, according to the group, after many could not practice shifting cultivation due to government policy which disallows the practise.

Phuntsho Dendup said the group will soon start building a house on government land on lease near the gewog office. The structure will house a seed bank where all kinds of seeds will be stored, and also be used to sell rice and house a small office.

The United Nations Development Programme is providing financial support.

“We have already received the Lag Thram for leasing the land and construction will start immediately after the approval,” he said. The tshogpa is also in the process of acquiring clearances for construction.

The gewog’s agriculture extension officer, LB Biswa, said barbed wire will soon be distributed to the farmers to fence their fields on which they grow the traditional grains.

He said they will store the seeds of the grains in the seed bank so that it can be distributed to the farmers when needed.  “We will also keep different types of rice there from where we can sell,” he said.

The group also grows vegetables. They will supply vegetables to Buli Central School this year. They have already transplanted some while some vegetables are grown in greenhouses at the moment.

Nima Wangdi | Buli

Bhutan observes International Women’s Day

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 17:00

To observe International Women’s Day, Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck graced the inaugural of a three-day national conference on women in governance, leadership and politics in Thimphu, yesterday.

The works and human settlement minister and also the chairperson of the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), Dorji Choden, said that the day is a reminder to celebrate what has been achieved so far and to identity where the country is lagging behind.

“With broad participation within the country and from the region, we expect the conference to underline the preference and heighten the significance of marking  women’s day globally,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said.

Lyonpo said that the day is celebrated to recognise the valuable contributions women make to societies which often goes unrecognised, unnoticed and unrealised and many times unaccounted for or under accounted.  “And it seems to be a daily affair but it’s a pity that is why we have to mark and observe such a day to reflect, to remind and to better understand, and to act to achieve gender equality.”

This year’s theme “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030,” cannot be more relevant given the state of the world, Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo added that the world needs women for political stability, a balanced and sustainable economy,  social harmony and most importantly for the wellbeing and happiness of families, societies and nations.  “I believe that wellbeing and happiness is a pre condition for any endeavor to be effective.”

Therefore, if women are crucial for a sound and healthy economy, society and a nation as a whole, then it must be accepted and demanded that societies, communities and nations do more to create a supportive environment where a young girl or woman can grow to their full potential, she said.

Over 250 participants, more than what the organisers had expected, turned up for the first day of the conference at the Terma Linca Resort in Thimphu.

UN Women representative, Dr Rebecca Tavares, said that women can no longer remain in silence whether it’s in politics, business or technology. “We are gathered here today to acknowledge that women are essential partners in the sustainable development of the nation,” Dr Rebecca Tavares said.

Access to jobs and resources, safety in the workplace and recognition are essential if women are to take their rightful place in society, Dr Rebecca Tavares said.

“Equality in the workplace can be achieved only if government, civil society and the private sector work together to expand decent work and employment opportunities and ensure that women participate fully and equally in all decision making.”

Dr Rebecca Tavares said that over the past decade Bhutan has made important and steady progress in gender equality. She said that Bhutanese women and girls do lag behind in political participation, economic empowerment and access to tertiary and technical education.

The UN Women office in Bhutan’s national coordinator, Rinzi Pem, said that this year, the spotlight is on women in the changing world of work. “We are fortunate that in Bhutan there has been tremendous progress under the dynamic leadership of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the President of RENEW and UNFPA Good Will Ambassador,” Rinzi Pem said.

However, improvements are required when it comes to job quality and productivity for women, which would enhance gender equality and promote economic growth, she added. “Let us all together step it up for gender equality towards Planet 50-50 by 2030 by ensuring that the world of work works for all women.”

The three-day conference is expected to take stock of opportunities and challenges for women in governance, leadership and politics in Bhutan, to understand better how the underlying norms and values of gender and patriarchy hinder advancement of women especially in politics and to share and learn from regional experiences, among others.

As part of the celebration, the three winners of the best documentary on women empowerment, gender equality and sexual reproductive health were awarded cash prizes of Nu 35,000 each.

NCWC and the Bhutan Network for Empowering Women organised the second national conference on women in governance, leadership and politics in Bhutan with a regional dimension, with support from the Royal Government, Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy, International IDEA and UN Women.

Dechen Tshomo

Be bold for change

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 17:07

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day. The day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, and is also an annual call to accelerate efforts towards achieving gender parity.

Bhutan has been observing International Women’s Day since 2005 and this year’s theme is Women in the changing world of work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.

Ensuring gender parity has improved dramatically since the 1970s when the girl to boy student ratio was 50:1. Today, girls outnumber boys in the schools.

With education, girls and women in Bhutan have been able to cross traditional boundaries and achieve success in domains once thought fit only for men.

Today, we have a woman minister, women dzongdags, local leaders, civil servants at decision-making levels, cops, pilots, taxi drivers, engineers, vehicle mechanics, carpenters, and plumbers, among others.

Despite the progress, gender bias is still present. For instance, in the first local government elections, the gender of the candidate did determine votes, with women voters themselves preferring men candidates. There still exists a belief that men make better leaders. However, with more awareness campaigns, the situation has improved as evident in the second LG elections, in which more women stood as candidates, and more women leaders were elected.

Clearly, there is a need to have more women at the decision-making levels so that the quality of decisions are improved and is more reflective of society.

However, this parity must not be achieved through the introduction of quotas. It may take long, but achieving gender parity through education, awareness, and based on meritocracy, is the safer and more sustainable approach. There is also a need to make working conditions conducive to women, for instance by enabling more friendly maternity leave and space for day-care centres in work places.

Change must also begin at home.

It is our responsibility as parents to ensure we are aware of the identities created by the media: pink is a colour for girls, while blue is for boys, or that a woman should look a certain way.

It is important that we educate ourselves and our children that when it comes to life and its opportunities, gender must play no role.

Reconstruction of Denchukha bridge yet to start

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 17:06

Locals worried that temporary bridge may be washed away this monsoon

Reconstruction of the 400-foot (122 metre) bailey suspension bridge over the Amochhu at Pultar in Denchukha, Samtse has not yet begun causing concerns among locals that the area could get cut off in the monsoon.

The bridge, which was in the last stage before completion, collapsed on July 11, 2016. Seven non-Bhutanese workers lost their lives in the accident. Today, parts of the bridge still hang from cables at the site.

A temporary motor bridge has been placed over the river.

Denchukha gup Chandraman Bhandari explained that the bridge is the lifeline for Denchukha and its people. “Even Gakiling gewog of Haa would remain cut off without this bridge,” the gup said.

But with current temporary bridge constructed at the confluence of two rivers, Chandraman Bhandari said it is likely that it will  not last the summer as the rivers are expected to swell.

Without the bridge, the Denchukha gup said that a path to the gewog is the only option. However, goods will have to be transported on people’s backs and on horses if using the path.

A foot bridge will also have to be crossed. But its metal pillars are old and rusted and in danger of collapsing at any time, it was pointed out.

If the motor bridge is washed away, developmental activities will come to a halt in Denchukha.

There are 582 households in Denchukha with a population of around 4,244. The people of the gewog own around 40 Bolero pickup trucks. Without the bridge, costs of essentials will also escalate.

The main reason for the delay is the requirement of new bridge parts as the old ones are not reusable, Dophuchen Dungpa Karma Jurme said, adding that all the parts have to be replaced.

Meanwhile, the Department of Roads (DoR) regional office in Phuentsholing has been following up with the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), in Kolkata, India. DoR had purchased the bailey suspension bridge parts from GRSE, which is the only certified and authorised dealer of bailey suspension bridges in India.

Executive engineer with the DoR regional office in Phuentsholing, EN Chhetri said that GRSE has almost completed manufacturing works of the bridge parts. “We have been pressurising them continuously,” he said.

The roads department has also made all necessary payments, including for transportation, to the manufacturing firm. If GRSE delays the dispatch of the bridge parts, DoR officials are planning to visit the factory to expedite the consignment.

The bailey bridge was constructed to connect Denchukha with a motor bridge. The construction of sub structures and anchorage blocks was awarded to a private national contractor.

The work commenced in November 2012 after being delayed. Once the work was completed in March 2015, the launching work was awarded.

This bridge if completed would have been the longest bailey suspension bridge in the country. As there was no local expertise to launch such a bridge, DoR awarded the launching work to M/s Ramaa Engineering, Kolkata for Nu 2.825 million through limited bidding.

The contracting firm had completed erection of towers and commenced launching of the bridge parts from both ends. Although the exact cause of the mishap has not been confirmed, only a few hours of work was pending when the cables reportedly snapped and the bridge fell apart in July last year.

Executive engineer EN Chetri said that M/s Ramaa Engineering is ready to start reconstruction works at anytime.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Political disagreements should not tear country apart: DIPD director

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 17:05

Members of political parties from Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar came together at Taj Tashi Hotel in Thimphu yesterday to share experiences and achievements of their respective democracy.

Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the director of the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD), said every country, including the UK and the USA, is today facing political crisis and that dialogues are the key to solving the problems.

The director said political parties will disagree but should not tear the country apart. “It’s important for political parties to keep talking,” he said, adding that democracy around the world is in a crisis.

The day-long seminar titled “Achievements and Strengths of Democracy” was organised by Bhutan Democracy Dialogue in collaboration with the Election Commission of Bhutan.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s (DPT) secretary general, Ugyen Dorji, who briefed the foreign delegates on Bhutan’s democratic set-up, said democracy in Bhutan was decreed by His Majesty The Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. “The country was stunned when His Majesty announced that Bhutan would be transformed into a democracy during the National Day celebrations in 2005 in Trashiyangtse,” he said.

He said elections in Bhutan are free and fair due to the presence of an independent election body and funds from the state for election expenses for political parties.

A foreign participant asked how minority rights were protected in Bhutan. Ugyen Dorji said that legal provisions that mandate a party to have members from all dzongkhags and regions to some extent ensure that people from all regions are included in the democratic process. “We don’t have a minority group as such in Bhutan,” he said.

The country’s laws do not allow formation of a political party based on ethnicity and region.

Ugyen Dorji explained that only two parties that make it through the primaries will get the opportunity to represent the people in Parliament. He said all Members of Parliament are elected through the first-past-the-post voting system and that Bhutan does not have proportional representation.

“This is perhaps one of the drawbacks of our democracy,” Ugyen Dorji said. He added that the country would look into the matter in future, if need be.

A member of the Nepalese delegation, Dina Nath Sharma, said that when political parties in his country have disputes over issues, they do come to a negotiating table for national interests. He said there are a number of political and ethnic groups opposing Nepal’s Constitution and that the government is committed to moving forward by addressing their concerns.

“Cooperation and consensus is the guiding principle of Nepal’s democracy,” he said. “Among disagreements, we find issues of common interests,” he added.

A delegate from Myanmar said democratic changes are gaining momentum in his country although there are armed struggles by some ethnic groups in the country. “Peace is essential for democracy,” he said.

Participants said democracies with a large number of minority and ethnic groups face bigger challenges.

MB Subba

Working on gender in the Hindu Kush Himalaya

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 17:03

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, it is important to reflect on the importance of the inclusion of gender in academia. The goal of gender professionals is to ensure fair representation of marginalized groups in a variety of discourses – be it literature, science, history, or even current affairs and popular culture. A larger awareness of the need for an inclusion of gender in everyday discourse has been recognized since the inception of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 5 of the SDG, “achieve gender equality and empower all girls and women”, calls for gender equality.

This SDG is not a singular goal. It is one that crosscuts other SDGs. SDG 5 is a precondition for achieving other SDGs. At the same time, all the other SDGs have implications for gender equality. Thus gender equality is now universally accepted as being critical for individual, community as well as national (overall) development.

Gender, women’s narratives, and issues of the marginalized are widely recognized in our time. Research and development sciences, as well as academia consider their inclusion in the everyday functioning of society essential. However, as a profession though, gender is still judged and often sidelined. Even reaching this point where working on gender is recognized as a career path is an accomplishment.

When we first started our careers in gender, backed by our degrees in women’s studies, development, and natural resource management, we were challenged by the difficulty of trying to explain to people the nature of our work without being misunderstood. The first impression most people had of us was that we would ‘teach’ feminism and ask communities to discard cultural norms, gender roles, and traditionally accepted structures and practices.

A career in gender is one that is both challenging and fulfilling, and absolutely necessary. The decision to work in gender for many of us arises out of the necessity to open a different perspective into an ever evolving world where we are both progressing and regressing. By far, the most exciting thing about working on gender is that we get to “unlearn” and learn in equal measure. But the study and work on gender cannot fit into a monolithic identity. It is hence necessary to have men and women from different experiences, contexts and cultures contribute to the birth of new discourses.

Our choice to work on gender and more specifically on gender in the Himalaya stems from the need for representation. Growing up and hailing from small Himalayan towns and villages, we saw no representation of Himalayan women in history or literature, nor in the research and development sectors.

Academic and official writing on the representation of gender from a gendered lens ensures that conventional stereotypes are not perpetuated and reinforced, both within and outside literature. A career in gender is not limited to the social sciences. It is relevant to other disciplines and sectors as well. Here, based on our experience working at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), we take examples from two traditionally male-dominated disciplines which are treated as gender neutral, and adopted as crucial components in the organization.

Talk of gender in Geographic Information System (GIS) is new. Until now, practical work on geospatial has been seen only as an analysis of high resolution images to discern land use and land cover. Spatial study from a gendered lens is necessary, however, especially in Himalayan or rural contexts where climate induced change and corporate globalization have led to migration, particularly of men. A feminization of responsibilities has taken place, leaving women not only with the burden of more work, but also with independence. Gender in GIS plays a significant role in helping disaster risk management, and reducing environmental and climate change impacts in vulnerable areas. It also serves to illustrate distribution and access to resources, which in turn helps bring socio-economic issues and disparities between men and women in the areas concerned to light.

Economics is another discipline where gender has proven pertinent. Dialogues on gender and economics first brought the issue of unpaid labour into discussion. This is how work done by women in the form of household chores and taking care of family members came to be recognized as work. Even so, women’s work until now has been largely invisible, and their contributions have not been recognized in economic discourse. The involvement of economics in gender and vice versa brought awareness regarding how traditional work hours have always enabled men to work in public spaces and succeed in the ‘labour market’. Professionals who work in economics and gender help bring out gender disaggregated data, which, in the past, was not considered important in research analysis. For a long time, in the absence of gender disaggregated data, gendered differences were neither documented nor analyzed, making it impossible to form connections between social issues, norms/practices, and economic activities and income.

Working on gender requires constant discovery – of new maps, theories, and definitions. The inclusion of gender in all fields of study is necessary to ensuring well-rounded and inclusive work and output. More gender experts, both men and women, with knowledge of several areas of work, research and study are needed to ensure that more discoveries are made and that old methods, understandings and discourses are deconstructed.

Contributed by
Chhaya Vani Namchu and Menaka Hamal

Chhaya Vani Namchu  Chhaya.Namchu@icimod.org  currently works at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) as a Gender, Water and Equity Analyst. Menaka Hamal Menaka.Hamal@icimod.org currently works at ICIMOD as a Gender, NRM/GIS Associate.

Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 17:02

Across the world, too many women and girls spend too many hours on household responsibilities—typically more than double the time spent by men and boys. They look after younger siblings, older family members, deal with illness in the family and manage the house. In many cases this unequal division of labour is at the expense of women’s and girls’ learning, of paid work, sports, or engagement in civic or community leadership. This shapes the norms of relative disadvantage and advantage, of where women and men are positioned in the economy, of what they are skilled to do and where they will work.

This is the unchanging world of unrewarded work, a globally familiar scene of withered futures, where girls and their mothers sustain the family with free labour, with lives whose trajectories are very different from the men of the household.

We want to construct a different world of work for women. As they grow up, girls must be exposed to a broad range of careers, and encouraged to make choices that lead beyond the traditional service and care options to jobs in industry, art, public service, modern agriculture and science.
We have to start change at home and in the earliest days of school, so that there are no places in a child’s environment where they learn that girls must be less, have less, and dream smaller than boys.

This will take adjustments in parenting, curricula, educational settings, and channels for everyday stereotypes like TV, advertising and entertainment; it will take determined steps to protect young girls from harmful cultural practices like early marriage, and from all forms of violence.

Women and girls must be ready to be part of the digital revolution. Currently, only 18 percent of undergraduate computer science degrees are held by women. We must see a significant shift in girls all over the world taking STEM subjects, if women are to compete successfully for high-paying ‘new collar’ jobs.  Currently, just 25 percent of the digital industries’ workforce are women.

Achieving equality in the workplace will require an expansion of decent work and employment opportunities, involving governments’ targeted efforts to promote women’s participation in economic life, the support of important collectives like trade unions, and the voices of women themselves in framing solutions  to overcome current barriers to women’s participation, as examined by the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. The stakes are high: advancing women’s equality could boost global GDP by USD 12 trillion by 2025.

It also requires a determined focus on removing the discrimination women face on multiple and intersecting fronts over and above their gender: sexual orientation, disability, older age, and race. Wage inequality follows these: the average gender wage gap is 23 percent but this rises to 40 percent for African American women in the United States. In the European Union, elderly women are 37 percent more likely to live in poverty than elderly men.

In roles where women are already over-represented but poorly paid, and with little or no social protection, we must make those industries work better for women. For example, a robust care economy that responds to the needs of women and gainfully employs them; equal terms and conditions for women’s paid work and unpaid work; and support for women entrepreneurs, including their access to finance and markets. Women in the informal sector also need their contributions to be acknowledged and protected. This calls for enabling macroeconomic policies that contribute to inclusive growth and significantly accelerate progress for the 770 million people living in extreme poverty.

Addressing the injustices will take resolve and flexibility from both public and private sector employers. Incentives will be needed to recruit and retain female workers; like expanded maternity benefits for women that also support their re-entry into work, adoption of the Women’s Empowerment Principles, and direct representation at decision-making levels. Accompanying this, important changes in the provision of benefits for new fathers are needed, along with the cultural shifts that make uptake of paternity and parental leave a viable choice, and thus a real shared benefit for the family.

In this complexity there are simple, big changes that must be made: for men to parent, for women to participate and for girls to be free to grow up equal to boys. Adjustments must happen on all sides if we are to increase the number of people able to engage in decent work, to keep this pool inclusive, and to realise the benefits that will come to all from the equal world envisaged in our Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

Contributed by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
UN Women Executive Director

The young entrepreneur of remote Gakiling

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 17:01

In the desolate gewog of Gakiling in Haa, Ugyen, a class XII graduate, has not only found a niche for his business but is thriving on it.

Gakiling is in Sangbaykha Dungkhag. Horses were the only mode of transportation and the charges used to be an expensive affair. Now, of course, there is a motor road.

Ugyen had just left school after class XII when his cousin, who was working for a bank, brought him to the gewog to explore business opportunities.
Ugyen quickly noticed the hardships that people in the gewog faced. “I saw people coming with loads of rations on their backs just to get their works with the dungkhag done. It was even difficult for people coming to settle court cases,” he said.

It was not only a business opportunity for him. Towards the end of 2013, the dungkhag gave him the approval to operate a shop. By April 2014, he was in the business.

Rice, milk powder, salt, sugar, tea and other necessities are for sale in a hut in the vicinity of the dungkhag headquarters. This makes the lives of villagers and staff much easier.

Ugyen had one regret, though. He is not able to provide the goods at market rates because the transportation charges are unreasonably  high. The pony charge for  a bag of 50 kg of rice used to be Nu 1,000.

Horses are gone and now it is the Bolero pickup trucks transporting goods by road. The new road has helped him offer better prices.

But what makes Ugyen proud is that he was able to make his living by providing the people in the remote community with basic necessities. He said that he sold salt at a loss at one point of time, but it is the satisfaction of serving people that kept him going.

Everything went as planned until the government’s farm shop came to the dungkhag. The farm shop is Ugyen’s newest competitor and he knows well that a government service provider holds the advantage.

Since the farm shop came into existence, Ugyen stopped selling goods that the farm shop sells. He now focuses on toiletries and other goods that the dungkhag may procure on short notice, like mats and scarfs.

Ugyen, originally from Langthril in Trongsa, is admired by the people for his entrepreneurial drive and for bringing goods to the doors of people, and for living and serving the remote locality.

Despite fewer customers and the uncertainty of being able to continue leasing the land on which the shop stands, he still provides the only source of entertainment in the community – a carom board.

Come evening, officials, labourers and visitors gather at Ugyen’s shop to unwind the day with a game of carom.

Tshering Dorji

Judiciary to endorse regulation on accountability this week

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 17:00

Bhutanese could soon be able to file complaints against judges or court personnel on the grounds of irresponsibility.

The judiciary will adopt the Judicial Responsibility and Accountability Regulations during the annual judicial conference that begins from Friday.
The regulation provides for the process of initiating a complaint, investigation, and possible actions that can be taken against judicial personnel.

“Judicial accountability is equally important with regards to maintaining its credibility,” the recently launched annual judicial report 2016 states.

In view of the fact that the legitimacy of the judiciary flows from public support and trust, transparency in the functioning of the judges and judicial staff coupled with their accountability for any disservice to the court users, is required.

Like in previous years, monetary and matrimonial cases top the list of cases registered with courts across the country. Of the 7,910 cases registered with the courts in 2016, 3,007 and 1,420 were monetary and matrimonial cases respectively. Of the total, 7,783 cases were decided including 1,495 pending cases from 2015. Thimphu and Phuentsholing courts registered the most number of cases.

Matrimonial cases slumped threefold in the past four years from 4,393 cases. There is a visible reduction in the number of cases in 2016 as the data on marriage certificates and other miscellaneous matters were recorded separately.

With the increase in cases, the pending cases also increased. From 1,054 pending cases in 2012 to 1,355 in 2014, 1,622 cases remained pending in the courts last year.

The judges attending legal education programmes, official functions, and occasional travel abroad to attend meetings, workshops, and seminars distracted them from attending to cases. The cases also remained pending due to the time taken for forensic reports, parties not reporting on time, and parties missing, among others.

The report points out numerous challenges, including lack of budget.

The judiciary pointed out that much of the public don’t know or understand the operation of the court system. This poses a risk of creating confusion and misunderstanding amongst the general public.

“It leads to our people being unaware of their rights guaranteed by different laws, and also the procedures of filing and proceedings of a case,” the report states.

Except in a few urban centres, most places have litigants appearing in court. Therefore, it poses the challenge of litigants not being aware of the court procedures and failure to correctly state the facts and issues before the courts.

“It’s important that legal information are disseminated adequately and the people are made aware of the enacted laws and court procedures. Adequate awareness of the laws and processes could help in efficient delivery of justice and in also enhancing the trust and confidence of the people in the justice system,” the report states.

The judicial conference is also expected to endorse the guidelines and procedures associated with contentious issues of conflict of interest.
The judiciary is also expected to endorse the Child Bench Book.

The judiciary also launched special benches for children, Private Money Lending Regulation, and e-services such as applying for marriage certificates, attestation of documents, among others in 2016.

Tshering Palden

Murder suspect surrenders to police

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 17:00

A 48-year-old man, suspected of murdering a 43-year-old woman in Dagana on February 28, surrendered to Tsirang police last week.

Police sources said they received a call on the evening of March 2 from a man claiming that he murdered a woman and that he be arrested. He also told police that he was near the Tsirang dzongkhag court.

Tsirang police then arrested him and handed him over to Dagana police, who then detained him.

Drugyegang gup, Karma Tshering, reported the matter to the police on February 28.

The woman from Pangna in Drujeygang succumbed to stab injuries in Sunkosh when she was being evacuated to the Tsirang hospital.

The woman had been stabbed twice.

The police crime report stated that the deceased and the suspect were in an extramarital affair for more than three years and both were under the influence of alcohol when the incident occurred.

The Dagana police will forward the case to the Office of Attorney General.

Staff Reporter

Dechheling to revive paddy cultivation

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 17:09

It was about a decade back when villagers of Dechheling gewog cultivated paddy in abundance on about 100 acres of land. Today, however, the land is fallow and barren.

This is attributed to the lack of an irrigation canal and drying up of nearby water sources, among other reasons.

The gewog was otherwise known for its mass paddy cultivation.

The sight of fallow land became an eyesore for many who returned to their village on holidays.

This is why a group of villagers, who are also members of a vegetable cooperative, have decided to revive the paddy land on a trial basis with the help from the gewog agriculture officer.

Gewog agriculture extension supervisor, Pema Chorten, said the initiative is being pursued to determine the possibility of reviving the land using only a certain portion of it in Pelithang village.

“We’ve already proposed for about 300kg of paddy seeds to the dzongkhag,” he said. “The main objective is to try not to leave the land fallow apart from reviving it with the expectation that paddy cultivation will pick up slowly.”

He said that although the area is marshy, they will have to look for a source that could supply irrigation water.

The villagers will sow seeds by April and transplant paddy by June.

According to gup Sonam Rinchen, the lack of an irrigation canal discouraged farmers from cultivating rice. “All the land is private and it is registered as kamzhing (Dry land).

He added that even the Peling tsho (lake) that used to provide water for paddy cultivation dried up.

Sonam Rinchen said the villagers have always expressed interest to revive paddy cultivation if there is support and assistance from the government.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay also shared the same concern on the fallow land during his visit to Dechheling after some of the youths shared their interest to revive paddy cultivation.

Some of the villagers said they stopped cultivating a few years ago when they were informed that a project on lake conservation would be implemented in the locality.

“This was also partly why people lost interest in paddy cultivation and the land became barren,” a farmer, Wangchuk, said.

Wangchuk said that they are willing to work on the land if the government provides modern technology and technical support. “With the gewog now connected by road, we will be able to market our rice.”

Meanwhile, the agriculture ministry recently supplied an additional power tiller to the gewog and farmers hope to utilise the machine for paddy cultivation.

Yangchen C Rinzin | Nganglam

Former mangmi elected as Dangchu’s new gup

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 17:08

Gup who resigned agrees to bear by-election cost of Nu 242,000

The people of Dangchu gewog elected 34-year-old Pemba of Tashidingkha-Zimi chiwog as their new gup during a by-election yesterday.

Pemba secured 494 votes against his opponents Singye Wangdi who got 266 votes and Gyem Dorji who got 142.

Pemba earlier served as a mangmi from 2011 to 2016 and also contested for the post of gup during the local government election in September 2016, against the former Dangchu gup Sonam Dorji, who has resigned. He had lost the election to Sonam Dorji by 38 votes.

Prior to contesting for the local government election in 2011, Pemba served as a forester in Haa and Paro. He said that given his experience as a mangmi, he is optimistic that he will be able to serve the gewog with dedication and hard work.

The by-election saw 902 voters turn out, which included 99 postal ballots. The gewog has a total of 1,162  registered voters. Some voters had travelled all the way from Thimphu, Punakha and Phuentsholing.

A total of 902 of 1,162 eligible voters turned out for the by-election

The by-election was conducted after the former Dangchu gup Sonam Dorji resigned and left for Australia. Following his resignation the gewog was left without a gup for several months.

The former Dangchu gup Sonam Dorji agreed to refund the by-election cost that is around Nu 242,000.

Kumbu Dema, 22, a voter from Rigoen, Dangchu said that they elected Sonam Dorji as he had served the gewog with dedication and hard work. “We had high expectations from him, but he has resigned,” she said. The decision to resign and leave for Australia shocked the community.

“We hope the new gup will stay after assuming the office,” an elderly voter, Rinzin said.

Dangchu mangmi Sonam Dorji said the gewog has been without an administration officer and a geydrung for several months. One of the five chiwogs in Dangchu, Uesagang is also without a tshogpa. The by-election for Uesagang chiwog is expected to be held soon, and for which three candidates have taken the functional literacy test.

Meanwhile, official sources said the newly elected gup will assume office on completion of the 10-day petition period.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue

Need to streamline Dzongkha spellings

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 17:06

At a retreat early this week in Gelephu, media professionals met to thrash out the issue of decreasing popularity of Dzongkha. Causes were identified and solutions worked out. More needs to be done, however. Key institutions have to come together if any progress is to be made towards standardising the language and making it less confusing.

Because Dzongkha, our national language, is an integral part of the country’s culture and identity, we have a standing command from the throne that Dzongkha should be the language of official correspondence and that it is the priority of the government to promote Dzongkha. Yet, we are faced with one of the greatest ironies of our time: English remains the preferred language of correspondence in the country.

At the heart of declining popularity of Dzongkha seems to be lack of uniform grammar and spelling. And this, media professionals said, has led to complicating the language, which is why children today find Dzongkha the most difficult subject.

Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC) has its own way of spelling Dzongkha words. Quite astoundingly indeed, the commission’s two dictionaries – English-Dzongkha and Dzongkha-English – have different spellings for the same word! And we have school textbooks with their own spellings of words. Media houses have long been trying to standardise Dzongkha spellings. Both think theirs is the right way.

The problem of inconsistent Dzongkha spellings has been longstanding, especially in the media, that at one point of time in 2011, DDC approved a budget of Nu 840,000 for Dzongkha Lekchoe Tshogpa (Dzongkha review committee) to review and improve standard of news published in Dzongkha. The committee died a quite death not long after. That our national language should suffer due to lack of fund is both ridiculous and painful.

At a time when we are beginning to make Dzongkha the main subject from classes PP to XII, language standardisation is more than just necessary. We may deploy adequate Dzongkha teachers in schools and supply sufficient Dzongkha teaching and learning materials, but if we cannot come to agree with as simple as how words should be correctly spelt, nothing much can be achieved in promoting our national language.

It is time the media houses, DDC and Department of Curriculum Research and Development flung their institutional pride out the window and came to agreeing on the one right way to spell Dzongkha words. A common ground must be sought for all the influence they have.

Promoting Dzongkha will remain a daunting task or else.

Japan provides Nu 334.2M for four grant projects

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 17:04

The ambassador of Bhutan to Japan, V Namgyel and the ambassador of Japan to Bhutan, Kenji Hiramatsu signed the Exchange of Notes for the Japanese grant aid ‘The Project for Improvement of Medical Equipment’ at the national and regional referral hospitals on March 3 in New Delhi, India, according to a press release issued by the Japanese embassy in New Delhi.

Japan provided Nu 334.2 million (M) or Yen 551M for the project.

The ambassadors also signed three grant contracts under the Grant Assistant for Grassroots Projects. For provision of equipment to the National Mushroom Centre, Japan provided Nu 4.87M (Yen 8.4M).

Japan provided Nu 4.9M (Yen 8.5M) for the provision of medical equipment for the national referral hospital in Thimphu and Nu 4.81M  (Yen 8.3M) for the construction of a girls hostel at the Chungkha Primary School in Chukha.

Speaking at the signing ceremony held at the Japanese Embassy in New Delhi on March 3, ambassador V Namgyel conveyed the appreciation of the Royal Government to the Government of Japan for its steadfast support to Bhutan’s development for many years that has contributed to improving the quality of life of the Bhutanese.

He said that the four grant projects would further enhance the delivery of quality health services and reinforce the quality of life of the Bhutanese people by improving medical facilities, improving boarding facilities for girls and agricultural development in Bhutan.

The ambassador also said that these projects stand as further testimonies of the excellent ties of friendship, understanding and cooperation between the two countries.

Staff reporter

New bird sighting takes avian count to 718

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 17:02

A recent sighting of a Yellow-eyed babbler (Chrysomma sinense) in the Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) has now increased the bird count in the country by one to 718.

The Yellow-eyed babbler is found in open grassland and shrubs in South Asia. The passerine bird, which was spotted by RMNP research section forest ranger, Dorji Wangchuk in January 2016 has been confirmed as a new sighting.

Ugyen Wangchuk Institute for Conservation and Environment  (UWICE) ornithologist Sherub confirmed the find as a new record for Bhutan. “I submitted pictures of the bird after I spotted it for the second time on February 14 this year and he said it’s a new record,” Dorji Wangchuk said.

Though the bird was spotted in January last year, the discovery could not be confirmed for lack of photographic evidence. “I knew it was a new record but could not prove it,” Dorji Wangchuk said.

The Yellow-eyed babbler was spotted at Manas Special Thang, which is a few hours walk west of the Manas range office.

But on February 14, this year, the forest ranger and two other RMNP foresters Jampel and Pema Loday spotted the bird in a group of nine at the same spot in Manas Special Thang during an annual tiger monitoring activity.

With the new sighting, the total number of birds in RMNP has increased to 493. Some of the newly recorded birds at the park include the Garganey Duck, Slaty-breasted rail, Chestnut-capped babbler and Great myna. RNMP is home to 70 percent of the total number of bird species in the country.

The annual waterbird count in January also recorded around 50 Black storks (Ciconia nigra) along the river Phibsulonga Khola. During the same survey, UWICE’s fourth batch of nature guide trainees recorded the Black-necked crane (Podiceps nigrcollis) for the first time along the Chamkharchhu in Bumthang.

The female mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) was also spotted for the first time along Thimchhu in Babesa last year.

Tempa Wangdi

A fuel depot for Tingtibi by March

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 17:01

Residents of Tingtibi will no longer have to drive all the way to Zhemgang to fuel their cars as a fuel depot will soon be available in the town.
The Druk Petroleum Corporation Ltd (DPCL) is currently constructing a fuel depot in Tingtibi.

Prem Bahadur, 39, who drives a Bolero, said people usually had to drive 35km to Zhemgang to fuel their cars. “It is a waste of time and fuel but we have no choice,” he said. He added that he stores fuel in jerry cans at home.

Another resident, Ugyen, said with the new fuel station in place, drivers can travel directly to Trongsa and Buli without having to first go to Zhemgang to fuel. She also added that many do not use their vehicles frequently given concerns of running of fuel.

A civil servant said it is also difficult for residents to refill their cooking gas cylinders. Sometimes, after travelling to Zhemgang to purchase a cylinder, they would find that the depot had run out of stock, he said. “This was one of the biggest challenges we faced in the absence of a gas station,” he said.

DPCL’s general manager, Nima Tshering, said the contractor has completed 20 percent of the work and that the depot will be ready by March.

Nima Wangdi | Tingtibi