Women rep­re­sen­ta­tion in pol­i­tics in­creas­ing, al­beit neg­li­gi­bly

Business Bhutan - - Front Page - Chen­cho Dema from Thim­phu

As we gear up for the third par­lia­men­tary elec­tions this year, women rep­re­sen­ta­tion in pol­i­tics stands around 14.4% presently. This is go­ing by the 17 women can­di­dates who have of­fi­cially been de­clared to con­test the Na­tional Assem­bly elec­tions.

The 2013 elec­tions, mean­while, saw a drop in women’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion to 6.9% from 13.9% in 2008. De­spite half of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion com­prise women, nu­mer­i­cally women re­main se­ri­ously un­der­rep­re­sented in de­ci­sion-mak­ing po­si­tions in the

par­lia­ment.

The Bhutan Kuen Nyam Party (BKP) cur­rently has five women can­di­dates. The party, how­ever, is en­deav­or­ing to field at least 30% women can­di­dates.

BKP’s Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Sonam Tob­gay said, “BKP will con­tinue to look for com­pe­tent women can­di­dates and of­fer a for­mi­da­ble choice. This ex­hibits the im­por­tance we at­tach to­wards women em­pow­er­ment while tak­ing a proac­tive role in so­ci­ety.”

The Druk Nyam­rup Tshogpa (DNT), which had three fe­male can­di­dates back in the 2013 elec­tions, has five fe­male can­di­dates rep­re­sent­ing the party.

DNT’s Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ten­zin lekphell, how­ever, said it wasn’t about men and fe­male can­di­dates, but about trust and con­fi­dence of the peo­ple on the can­di­dates.

“DNT be­lieves in hav­ing a good mix of both male and fe­male can­di­dates,” he added.

Sim­i­larly, the Druk Phuen­sum Tshogpa (DPT) has five fe­male can­di­dates for the up­com­ing elec­tions this year.

DPT’s Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of Ugyen Dorji said the party would be happy if the num­ber of the fe­male can­di­dates in their party was more.

How­ever, he said, “Women do not come for­ward and lack con­fi­dence as a po­lit­i­cal can­di­date. They par­tic­i­pate in pol­i­tics and prob­a­bly want to win. It also de­pends on the sup­port base back in their con­stituency which some­times dis­cour­ages them and they don’t want to take risk.”

“There are a few con­stituen­cies still with­out can­di­dates and if we come across strong can­di­dates then we will take them in. DPT had five can­di­dates back in 2008, five in the last elec­tions and also five in for com­ing elec­tion,” he added.

The Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party (PDP) has three fe­male can­di­dates in as of now - Ly­onpo Dorji Cho­den, Min­is­ter for Works and Hu­man Set­tle­ment (MoWHS), and MP Kin­ley Om from Bji Kar Tshog Uesu con­stituency in Haa. Mean­while, MP Ke­sang D. Wangmo ap­plied for res­ig­na­tion from the party to pur­sue fur­ther stud­ies.

PDP’s Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Sonam Jatso said the party is, how­ever, try­ing their best to get more fe­male can­di­dates.

“In fact, Ly­onpo Dorji Cho­den is per­son­ally try­ing to get more fe­male can­di­dates and is ad­vo­cat­ing on women par­tic­i­pa­tion. We could not even re­tain MP Kezang Wangmo who will re­sign from the party for fur­ther stud­ies,” he said.

Be­sides, he also men­tioned that the party al­ready has serv­ing MPs and there is no va­cancy and that the party is un­able to find fe­male can­di­dates where there are va­cant con­stituen­cies.

“It is very dif­fi­cult to get fe­male can­di­dates as there are no women only. Though there are hand­fuls of few po­ten­tial fe­male can­di­dates, but they are en­gaged with con­sti­tu­tional posts. If our democ­racy was new then we would go for fresh grad­u­ate, but now the sce­nario is dif­fer­ent. We are look­ing for ma­tured and good ex­pe­ri­enced can­di­dates. Less par­tic­i­pa­tion of women in pol­i­tics is a na­tional is­sue. How­ever, over the years we are hop­ing to see more par­tic­i­pa­tion from women,” Sonam Jatso said.

Mean­while, Bhutan’s par­lia­ment is over­whelm­ingly dom­i­nated by men both in the Na­tional Assem­bly and the Na­tional Coun­cil with women MPs from both houses num­ber­ing in sin­gle dig­its. The Cab­i­net also is no ex­cep­tion. Lo­cal gov­ern­ments are also mainly dom­i­nated by men.

In one of the win­ter par­lia­ment ses­sion, a pro­posal to re­serve 30% of the 47 seats in a po­lit­i­cal party to women was pro­posed to be in­cor­po­rated in the Elec­tion Act should it be amended. How­ever, the Na­tional Assem­bly de­cided not to amend the act.

The gov­ern­ment had also pledged to look into the pos­si­bil­i­ties of es­tab­lish­ing quota for women in the par­lia­ment and the lo­cal gov­ern­ment, but could not en­dorse it. The idea was floated for pub­lic de­bate which re­ceived mixed re­ac­tions from all walks of lives. In fact not many women liked the con­cept of quota sys­tem.

A for­mer se­nior jour­nal­ist and a free­lancer now, Ke­sang Dema, said, “Hav­ing fol­lowed elec­tions closely, I no­ticed pol­i­tics is an area many would view with in­hi­bi­tion, be it men or women. It ul­ti­mately boils down to in­di­vid­ual con­vic­tion and in­ter­est. But for women in par­tic­u­lar, it is true there are chal­lenges like the stereo­typed no­tions in their as­sum­ing lead­er­ship roles. It is not just pol­i­tics but bu­reau­cracy, and cor­po­rate and other spheres. Go­ing by the way things have tran­spired, women were de­prived of role mod­els too.”

“But re­cent trends are en­cour­ag­ing. De­spite nu­mer­ous prob­lems, we had a good num­ber of women com­ing for­ward in the last elec­tions, in­clud­ing the re­cent NC elec­tions. Al­though more is de­sired, we have rea­son­able pres­ence of women in lead­er­ship po­si­tions that we can look up to for in­spi­ra­tion. At this rate, women are do­ing pretty well for them­selves,” she added.

“So rather than in­ter­cept­ing with quota, which could im­pede the process of trans­form­ing mind­sets of peo­ple to­wards women, im­prov­ing fa­cil­i­ties for women, like child sup­port dur­ing cam­paign pe­riod for in­stance, would push her to go all out and ex­hibit her tal­ents and ca­pa­bil­i­ties. That way, women would earn trust and con­fi­dence from vot­ers,” she fur­ther added.

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