Bhutan aims to have women legislators

bhutanwomenTHIMPU (BHUTAN): Making the functional literacy test more accessible by having test centres located closer to women is one of the initiatives the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) would take to enhance women participation in future elections.
The commission will also encourage political parties and candidates to engage on issues of women representation in elective offices, and involve coordinators of democracy clubs to play an active role in focusing on young people.

The commission will sensitise men and women on the complexities of gender discrimination and the necessity of mainstreaming women in the political process.

Such initiatives were found necessary as indicated in the study of the determinants of voter’s choice and women’s participation in elective offices that the commission released on December 16.

Chief election commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said ECB would continue to conduct voter and civic education, including gender sensitisation programs, on a continuous basis reaching every community and take common forums further at the chiwog level in future elections.

“We now have reliable data to better understand the phenomenon, situation, challenges and issue of underrepresentation of women in elective offices,”  Wangdi said.

The study highlights issues associated to less women representation in elective offices, such as socio-cultural beliefs and traditions that undermine women’s social and cultural status, determinants of voter’s choice and views on electoral process, among others.

According to ECB, the study conducted in July covered all 47 constituencies taking a sample size of 1,600 voters.

There were 821 participants for focused group discussions, while opinions were sought from 648 respondents on social media and social networking sites.

As the issue of less women representative in elective offices was common to the South Asian region, it was highlighted during the Forum of Election Management Bodies of South Asia last October in Bhutan.

The Bhutan study, Wangdi said, rendered an excellent opportunity for ECB officials to stimulate interest and thinking beyond the actual electoral process and procedure.

“The data generated from the study will form a crucial benchmark to institutionalise a mechanism for such surveys to understand the changing trends in the electoral system and support informed decision-making,” he said.

Enhancing women representation, according to ECB officials, is a consorted effort by all stakeholders of the electoral and political processes.

Wangdi also urged all stakeholders to consider measures, such as formulation of policies and programs to combat negative stereotypes and societal perceptions, including review of educational curricula.

Others include training programs targeted not only at women but also at men, exposing them to the complexities of gender discrimination, increase in remuneration package, especially for local government posts, and training in key areas, such as leadership, lobbying and networking, to strengthen women’s skill for better and confident political engagement skills.

“Women, who are interested to contest elections, should be properly guided and trained to enable them to effectively contest elections,” he said, adding media should provide gender-sensitive coverage of news, avoid negative stereotypes and focus attention on issues of special concern to women in news programming.

“Change will not happen overnight,” the chief election commissioner said.

“As indicated by the evidence from the field and this study, it is but the beginning of a journey that we must undertake together to make it a meaningful one.”  – From Kuensel Online

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