Bhutan’s Queen Mother pro­motes women’s ed­u­ca­tion dur­ing Can­berra visit

Bhutan Times - - Home - By Craig Allen and Kath­leen Dyett

T he Queen Mother of Bhutan has a pas­sion for girls’ ed­u­ca­tion that has spurred her to ride horse­back through snow, and trek on foot to re­mote com­mu­ni­ties in her home­land.

But Her Majesty Gya­lyum San­gay Cho­den Wangchuck has trav­elled much fur­ther to en­list help for the cause of em­pow­er­ing women and girls in Bhutan.

The royal, who is step­mother to Bhutan’s King Jigme Kh­e­sar Nam­gyel Wangchuck, is spend­ing sev­eral days in Can­berra to pro­mote var­i­ous char­i­ties ben­e­fit­ting those women and girls.

On Thurs­day, Bhutanese stu­dents from the Univer­sity of Can­berra per­formed a tra­di­tional dance in cel­e­bra­tion of her visit.

The visit was partly to support the ef­forts of the Aus­tralian Hi­malayan Foun­da­tion (AHF), a char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion which taps Aus­tralian spon­sors to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties in Hi­malayan coun­tries in­clud­ing Nepal, In­dia and Bhutan.

AHF has part­nered with the Queen Mother’s own char­i­ta­ble in­sti­tu­tion, called RE­NEW, whose stated goals in­clud­ing “ad­dress­ing tra­di­tional bi­ases and mind­sets in Bhutanese so­ci­ety” and “work­ing on women be­ing ac­cepted as equal part­ners in every­day life”.

“It’s all part of a ma­jor cause of hers, which is em­pow­er­ment of women and girls, to give them more life and work op­por­tu­ni­ties, and to bring them into lead­er­ship po­si­tions,” said the AHF’s Si­mon Balder­stone.

Mr Balder­stone said there were sig­nif­i­cant bar­ri­ers to ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties in Bhutan, in­clud­ing re­mote­ness, poverty and a lack of ba­sic equip­ment for stu­dents.

“Our pro­gram pro­vides them with ba­sic needs like school meals, which is of­ten the only meal they’ll have in the day, school text­books, and board­ing fa­cil­i­ties,” he said.

“The Queen Mother does an in­cred­i­ble job. She ac­tu­ally walks out there, or rides horses out there to visit th­ese very re­mote com­mu­ni­ties.

“She started this pro- gram, it’s her pas­sion, and she does an amaz­ing hands-on job.”

Bhutanese Am­bas­sador Ke­sang Wangdi said it was an hon­our for Can­berra to host the royal visit.

“This adds to the grow­ing ties of friend­ship be­tween Aus­tralia and Bhutan,” he said.

“The fact that she has cho­sen this Univer­sity of Can­berra is also another sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor, in that many Bhutanese stu­dents come here and they go back as very, very vi­able cit­i­zens of Bhutan.”

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