Pol­i­tics ver­sus women

And even when women run for po­lit­i­cal of­fice and that they are just as likely as men to be elected, the main rea­son they are so un­der­rep­re­sented is that they don’t run in the first place.

Business Bhutan - - Front Page - Chen­cho Dema from Thim­phu

When Karma Lhamo, then 27, de­cided to join pol­i­tics back in 2008, it was a de­ci­sion she be­lieves was made on time. The mo­tive for her to join pol­i­tics and run for elec­tion back then was to set an ex­am­ple for Bhutanese women and also be­cause there were less par­tic­i­pa­tion from women then. This will be her third time par­tic­i­pat­ing in the elec­tion from Mong­gar con­stituency in Mong­gar for Druk Phuen­sum Tshogpa (DPT). She won in the first elec­tions, but lost in 2013.

She said there is noth­ing a woman

can­not do com­pared to the male coun­ter­parts ex­cept when it comes to phys­i­cal strength. “Women should come for­ward to par­tic­i­pate,” she added.

Dr. Dechen Wangmo, an as­pir­ing po­lit­i­cal can­di­date rep­re­sent­ing Druk Nym­rup Tshogpa (DNT) from North Thim­phu, said there are many fac­tors that limit women from tak­ing part in pol­i­tics such as the ex­is­tence of so­cial and cul­tural bi­ases against women in lead­er­ship po­si­tion. “There are no en­abling poli­cies and sup­port from the po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tion to pro­mote women par­tic­i­pa­tion and the in­sti­tu­tion of democ­racy must be strength­ened so that peo­ple feels proud to be as­so­ci­ated with,” she said.

Her join­ing pol­i­tics is to build a vi­brant in­sti­tu­tion of democ­racy so that they are able to pass on the sa­cred gift from His Majesty to the fu­ture gen­er­a­tion by pro­vid­ing a choice to the peo­ple of Bhutan.

Out of 188 peo­ple who will rep­re­sent the 47 con­stituen­cies from four po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the pri­mary elec­tion for the Na­tional As­sem­bly, 19 are women. Bhutan KuenNyam Party (BKP) has seven women can­di­dates, DPT has five, DNT has five and PDP two. Less par­tic­i­pa­tion from women can solely be at­trib­uted to women be­ing the big­gest self-doubters.

Leela Prad­han, 54 and one of the vet­eran fe­male politi­cians from DPT and of Ugyentse-Yoe­seltse con­stituency in Samtse, said she was not keen in pol­i­tics be­fore and as a woman she had no con­fi­dence to come for­ward. But en­cour­age­ment from peo­ple in her con­stituency, rel­a­tives and fam­ily mem­bers gave her the con­fi­dence to par­tic­i­pate. She said such en­cour­age­ment at­tributes to par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Chador Wangmo, 31 years old and the Dru­jey­gang-Tseza can­di­date of BKP, who also con­tested in the Na­tional Coun­cil elec­tion, said women do not have con­fi­dence within them­selves and she feels that it is time that such no­tion should change.

“Be­ing a woman, you are at­tacked per­son­ally and your char­ac­ter is ques­tioned. Maybe due to which women fear to come for­ward,” she said.

The is­sue of women not forth­com­ing when it comes to pol­i­tics can be at­trib­uted to var­i­ous fac­tors, but the last two elec­tions have proved that women par­tic­i­pa­tion has not been ac­cepted well by the vot­ers. The num­ber of women par­tic­i­pa­tion in the pri­mary elec­tion has dropped to 19 from 31 in 2013.

And even when women run for po­lit­i­cal of­fice and that they are just as likely as men to be elected, the main rea­son they are so un­der­rep­re­sented is that they don’t run in the first place.

Talk­ing to some of the peo­ple on why women don’t come for­ward to par­tic­i­pate in elec­tions, Sonam Tsh­er­ing, a fac­ulty of law with the Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law, said, “I think one of the rea­sons is that, uni­ver­sally power and pol­i­tics is man’s sub­ject. Men gen­er­ally dis­cuss pol­i­tics and power much more than women. Women gen­er­ally do not dis­cuss pol­i­tics in their ca­sual con­ver­sa­tion as much as men do. There­fore, women may not be hav­ing much in­ter­est to join too. Se­cond, in the last two elec­tions, women rep­re­sen­ta­tives are still yet do enough to con­vince other women to join pol­i­tics.”

He added, “How­ever, it also sets ex­tra man­dates for the cur­rent serv­ing women politi­cians to demon­strate and con­vince the vot­ers spe­cially women vot­ers to elect more women into pol­i­tics. Women politi­cians must per­form more than their ba­sic man­date as it also re­quires the so­ci­ety to shift its men dom­i­nated mind­set to women as choice of bet­ter politi­cians.”

“Equal op­por­tu­ni­ties of­fered re­fer to a gen­eral term. It is lib­er­ally used in speeches but how many of the women are ac­tu­ally free to grab these op­por­tu­ni­ties? Women are still tied with the du­ties they have been be­stowed upon since the hu­man civ­i­liza­tion be­gan. First we need to break that “spe­cific role”. Women them­selves need to break free from the in­vis­i­ble chain of “care­giver” first,” Au­thor Chador Wangmo said.

Tara Limbu, a free­lance jour­nal­ist cur­rently pur­su­ing her mas­ters in Aus­tralia said, “The op­por­tu­ni­ties are seem­ingly equal. But, it isn’t so. I have seen in­tel­li­gent and ca­pa­ble women be­ing de­nied man­age­rial po­si­tions be­cause they are women. It even hap­pens in me­dia houses that are sup­posed to cham­pion equal­ity. The gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion is sub­tle. We are used so see­ing bla­tant gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion and vi­o­lence in our neigh­bor­ing coun­tries which is why I think the sub­tle­ness eludes us.”

She also men­tioned that the other rea­son, she thinks, is the men­tal block. “We haven’t seen many Bhutanese women lead­ers. As a re­sult, for many Bhutanese, the idea of lead­er­ship is menori­ented,” she said.

Sonam Ugyen, a for­mer jour­nal­ist of Bhutan Broad­cast­ing Ser­vice (BBS), said, “The rea­son for not many women com­ing for­ward to join pol­i­tics mainly is be­cause we are still a male dom­i­nated coun­try. Women are still ex­pected to take up house­hold chores - which by the way is ex­tra for the women. In most cases, even both wife and hus­band earn equally, once at home the hus­band would set­tle him­self on the sofa and watch TV while the wife starts do­ing chores. Most women in our coun­try are smoth­er­ing their tal­ents, skills and knowl­edge as soon as they get mar­ried or ba­bies. And the rea­son is both men and women. Women them­selves don’t want to go fur­ther af­ter some­time. They would be rather happy to leave the jobs.”

Dik­sha Gu­rung, a teacher in Ten­zin Higher Sec­ondary School in Paro said, “Women should not wait for things to hap­pen or change and let peo­ple watch you. Don’t worry about the re­sults, just step for­ward and make the change.”

Rabi C Da­hal, a free­lance jour­nal­ist, said, “Women who have se­cured jobs don’t want to lose it and I think we didn’t set a good prece­dent in the first elec­tion as not many women par­tic­i­pated. There were no roads, cam­paign­ing was dif­fi­cult for them. The peo­ple per­ceived that pol­i­tics meant for men. We also look at neigh­bor­ing coun­tries - pol­i­tics means ne­tas, Men ne­tas. And in the re­cent elec­tions not many women were elected. So women fear and they have pre­con­ceived no­tion that they won’t get votes, so not many come forth. So I say blame the first par­lia­ment or those two par­ties who took part in the first elec­tions.”

Samten Yeshi, Cul­tural Re­searcher with Lo­den Foun­da­tion said, “We need to fo­cus on chang­ing the cul­tural at­ti­tude of women to­wards con­fi­dence build­ing. Our gen­der fo­cus seems to be stronger into chang­ing their habits to men’s in­stead of build­ing their self es­teem and con­fi­dence. Our gen­der fo­cus, I mean, our women em­pow­er­ment.”

“While what is needed in women em­pow­er­ment is con­fi­dence build­ing, we are stronger into chang­ing women’s habit into men’s. I would rather say, we seems to achieve in chang­ing the tra­di­tional habits of women in the process of women em­pow­er­ment but there are still a lot to be done in con­fi­dence build­ing of our women to come for­ward to step in to the plat­forms pro­vided on equal foot­ing,” he added.

It is also as­sumed that the po­lit­i­cal par­ties are look­ing out for high pro­file women can­di­dates (ex­ec­u­tive lev­els) and those in that po­si­tion don’t want to take risks.

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