The political representation of women is a key challenge for democracy in Bhutan. Following the 2013 elections, less than 7 percent of the elected MPs are women. At the highest level of local government, women’s representation is as as low as 0.5% while the overall percentage in LGs of the elected leaders is around 6%. Hence, to strengthen women’s political participation, the Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW) was established in 2012 with the support of DIPD. Through networking and training activities, BNEW seeks to strengthen the skills, network and confidence of women in politics and encourage more women to partake in politics.
BNEW is a network for current and aspiring women in politics at both national and local level. The network was established with the support of DIPD following the first ever national meeting of women elected at local and national level in Paro in March 2012 in collaboration with the National Commission of Women and Children (NCWC), the Department of Local Governance (DLG) and UN Women.
First called the Bhutan Network of Elected Women, the name was shortly after changed to Bhutan Network for Empowering Women to allow for aspiring candidates to join the network and broaden the scope of BNEW.
BNEW organizes a wide range of activities to raise awareness and strengthen the skills and confidence of female candidates (see the featured image from a leadership training). In 2013, BNEW has hosted a series of regional meetings in Mongar, Bumthang, Gelephu and Punakha in collaboration with the Department of Local Governance, National Commission for Women and Children, Social Forestry and Extension Division to raise awareness on the issue of women in politics and build the leaderships skills of aspiring female candidates. Close to 300 women from different levels of local government as well as women who would like to become leaders in other areas participated in the regional meetings.
Also, representatives from BNEW has visited Denmark on several occasions as the DIPD Christiansborg Seminar in September 2012 on Women in Politics and the International Women’s Rights Day in March 2013 to learn from the Danish experiences on women in politics and share lessons learned in Bhutan with both Danish politicians and other DIPD partners from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and other countries in Asia.
How BNEW is organized
The National Steering Group is the supreme decision-making body of BNEW. The NSG was elected following the national conference in Paro in March 2012 and consists of 12 either current or former political leaders from local and national levels. Elections to the NSG will take place at the next national meeting, which is planned for December 2013. BNEW activities are supported by a small secretariat based in Thimphu.
Visit the website of BNEW: http://www.bnew.bt/
The political participation and representation of women is a key focal point for DIPD supported initiatives in Bhutan, which also include research on Government policies and the importance of media for a democratic culture. DIPD also supports: KCD Productions, Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy, and Centre for Research Initiatives.