The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Monday, February 21, 2011

The National Commission for Women and Children-Bhutan Wins ADB-Japan Grant

News Release

21 February 2011
ADB, Japan Support Economic Opportunities for Women in Bhutan
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Japan are providing assistance of $1.95 million to Bhutan to support increased economic opportunities for women.

The grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, administered by ADB, will strengthen the gender mainstreaming and monitoring capacity of the National Commission for Women and Children and other government agencies responsible for women's economic empowerment. Another key element of the project will be assistance for trade apprenticeships and skills training for women in partnership with the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources. Funds will also be used to help partner nongovernment organizations involved in promoting economic opportunities for women and micro enterprises.

"The project will improve the capacity of government agencies and civil society to address gender disparities, while helping increase livelihood opportunities for vulnerable women and girls in selected urban and rural areas," said Francesco Tornieri, Senior Social Development Specialist in ADB's South Asia Department.

Bhutan has a strong gender equality ethos but some disparities still exist, with female participation in the labor force under 42% in urban areas, compared to nearly 77% for men. In addition, illiteracy among rural women remains high. To address the gaps, the Royal Government of Bhutan has established a National Plan of Action on Gender to make gender mainstreaming and advocacy an integral part of its programs.

Project performance targets include the completion of 12-month apprenticeships in various trades for around 600 youths, with an 80% target for women, and the completion of trade skills training by up to 360 rural youths, 50% of them women. It also aims to help up to 1,200 individuals - the bulk of them women - to engage in microenterprises and other livelihood activities.

Along with the ADB-administered grant, the Government of Bhutan will provide in-kind support of more than $548,000, with beneficiary communities supplying $56,000, for a total investment cost of almost $2.6 million. The National Commission for Women and Children is the executing agency for the project which will run for three years.

About ADB

National commission for Women and Children in Bhutan

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Beating Wives in Bhutan

Buddhist Bhutan Wrestles With 'Shocking' Abuse Study
By Vishal Arora

Religion News Service
NEW DELHI (RNS) The government commissioner charged with promoting "Gross National Happiness" in the tiny Buddhist nation of Bhutan said he was deeply dismayed by a recent study that found a majority of Bhutanese women think their husbands have the right to beat them.
Karma Tshiteem, head of Bhutan's Commission for Gross National Happiness, called the findings "surprising" and "shocking," and said such attitudes are "totally inconsistent" with Buddhist teachings.
The survey by Bhutan's National Statistics Bureau found that roughly 70 percent of women say they deserved beating if they neglect children, argue with their partners, refuse sex or burn dinner, reported the Business Bhutan newspaper.

The acceptance of domestic violence is highest (90 percent) among the women in Paro, a picturesque valley that's home to Bhutan's most revered monastery, Takshang. The capital city of Thimphu scores the lowest acceptance rate, about 50 percent, for wife beating.

"Any form of violence is totally contradictory to the teachings of the Buddha," Tshiteem said, noting that Ahimsa (non-violence) "is a central tenet in Buddhist philosophy."

Mahayana Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan, where a vast majority of the 700,000 citizens are Buddhist.

Gross National Happiness, which seeks to create an "enlightened" society in which government fosters the well-being of people as well as other "sentient beings," was first envisioned by Bhutan's former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972.

The landlocked Himalayan nation -- about half the size of Indiana -- peacefully transitioned to democracy after the king abdicated power in 2006, but Buddhist principles continue to shape the country's government.

Bhutan's Gross National Happiness index -- as opposed to more traditional measures like a nation's economic activity -- is based on nine components of happiness: psychological well-being, ecology, health, education, culture, living standards, time use, community vitality and

good governance.

Because healthy family relationships are key to harmonious communities, "attitudes accepting such behavior, in these relationships or even outside, would be totally inconsistent" with Gross National Happiness, Tshiteem said.

Covering 15,000 households, the Bhutan Multiple Indicator Survey also found that more than one in four women believe HIV/AIDS is transmitted supernaturally; one in four children do not attend school and one in five children are involved in child labor.

Source: Huffington Post

Domestic violence in Bhutan: Bhutanese women are becoming conscious
Mehdi Hassan

Situated in the Himalayan region between India and China, Bhutan is a poorly developed country. Surprisingly, the country was ranked the 8th happiest country on the list of happy countries in the world compiled by University of Leicester. Low literacy rate, low rate of industrialization and zero exposure to foreign culture have enabled the country to keep its domestic culture and natural beauty intact.The irony is that the women of this happy country are not so happy because domestic violence is very common in Bhutan.
The worst thing is that the women who are victims of domestic violence do not go to the police. They are afraid of losing respect in the society. In many cases, women are illiterate and entirely dependent upon their husband for financial support. In addition, many women can not leave the family for their children. Silently they tolerate the brutal torture of their husbands. Kuensel Online reports:
“Most Bhutanese women just won’t shout for help, no matter how severe it gets,” said an observer. Bhutanese women, as in other countries, says Thimphu referral hospital’s Dr. Pakila Drukpa, do not want to come out in the open for various reasons. Factors like children’s welfare, fear of breakdown of marriage, and an innate embarrassment that relatives and others will come to know, influence their decisions, said Dr. Pakila.
The worst affected are those who were economically dependent on their husbands, said a spokesperson of RENEW, a non-government organisation, which provides support and services for victims of domestic violence.

The good thing is that the situation is changing. With the gradual spread of education and various NGO’s, women especially those who are living in urban areas have become conscious. Now, they seek legal counsel against domestic violence. The queen of Bhutan, her majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, established an organization named RENEW which deals with domestic violence.

Domestic violence can be more or less found in almost all the countries of the world but it is more common in under-developed countries. Last year, Razib Ahmed published another post about the crown prince of Nepal abusing his wife.
One of the major reasons the abusive husbands go unpunished in countries like Bhutan is that the social system and customs support men. Creating law against home violence is not enough. It has to be made sure that the law is strictly observed and at the same time awareness against violence has to be raised among women.

Source: South Asia Bussiness

Education Not for all

Choices for those cut offEnrol in a private school, repeat the same class or train for a blue-collar job
Labour Market 17 February, 2011 - With the cut off point fixed at 61 percent for Class X, the ministry of education will absorb only 3,727 students into 32 government higher secondary schools across country.

A total of 9,330 students appeared for the examination in 2010 and 5,236 students will have to either opt for private school, repeat the same class or hunt for jobs. The existing 13 private schools in Bhutan will absorb only about 50 percent of those who disqualified. Most of the private schools will absorb a maximum of 350 students each, with the minimum cut off point set at 45 percent.

But, with the recent release of labour market guide by the labour ministry, class X and Xll school graduates, who cannot make it to the government schools or pursue higher studies, may avail job opportunities.

There are 1,580 vacancies available in 92 occupations in the private and corporate sector. The salary ranges from Nu 3,000 to Nu 15,000. Some of the job includes bill collectors, caretakers, front desk personnel and receptionists.

Labour officials said the vacancies are merged together, since most companies provide vacancies for both Class X and XII students.

The labour market guide shows there are 908 training opportunities available for class X graduates in the public sector under six different institutes and under sustainable development projects.

The training opportunities under different institutes across country will take in 668 candidates to be trained under various courses, which includes electrical, mechanical, automobile, networking, carpentry, masonry, plumbing, driver and carpentry.

The sustainable development project would train candidates in hospitality, IT, construction and other sectors like education, media and production. The different sectors under the project would take about 240 candidates. Among others they will be trained as waiter and waitress, in fruit juice processing and food and beverage and housekeeping staff.

The guidebook, which is posted on the labour ministry website, will provide practical and timely information to help make career choices and find suitable employment. But officials said information on the guide is only from January to March. “We’ll provide job market information after every three months with new opportunities,” labour official said.

While many students, who didn’t meet the cut off percentage, said that they wouldn’t be able to afford private school, they said they showed strong preference to repeat than work as waiters or waitresses. “I need to continue my study, so that I can get a better job,” said Jigme Tshering, who failed the board exams.

The 367 students, who were not awarded pass certificate, labour officials said, can also apply for the training and job vacancies. Officials explained that, if there is a vacancy, which requires qualification, they would forgo qualification requirement to absorb interested candidates. “Class X student not awarded the pass certificate could apply for jobs meant for Class VIII pass students,” an official said.

Officials said that there are also certain training programs that do not require qualification.

By Yangchen C Rinzin


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

US Under Secy to visit India, Bhutan & Nepal

Press Trust Of India

Washington: US Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero will visit India, Bhutan and Nepal this week to discuss bilateral issues and look into the situation of refugees in the region, the State Department has

During her trip to southern India and New Delhi, Otero will discuss bilateral coordination on global issues, visit Tibetan refugee settlements, explore cooperation to strengthen elections organisations and consult on regional disaster management.

She will hold bilateral meetings with senior government officials while in New Delhi, the State Department said. Otero would travel to India from February 8 to 11, Bhutan February 11 to 12 and Nepal from February 13 to 14.

The senior most Obama administration official to visit Bhutan, she would discuss global issues as well as the protracted situation of the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. Otero would also have a bilateral meeting with the Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigme Thinley and other senior officials, besides civil society leaders.

In her final stop, Otero will visit Kathmandu, where she will address the Disaster Risk Reduction Symposium entitled 'Be Aware, Be Prepared: Implementing lessons learned from other earthquakes.' The purpose of the event, which is hosted by the Government of Nepal in collaboration with the US Embassy and the United Nations, is to raise awareness among key decision makers of Nepal's vulnerability to a catastrophic earthquake. Otero will also hold meetings with senior Nepalese officials and civil society representatives and engage on Tibetan refugee and trafficking in persons issues, the State Department said.

As Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, Maria Otero oversees the bureaus of Population, Refugees and Migration, Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, and the Office of the Science and Technology Advisor. She also serves as the Special Coordinator for Tibetan issues.

India to contribute Rs.15 crores for education development in Bhutan

2011-02-07 18:30:00

India on Monday announced that it would provide a grant of Rs.15 crore to Bhutan for education development.

The announcement was made by visiting Indian External Affairs Minister S.M.Krishna after calling on Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and meeting the country's acting Foreign Minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk.iplomatic ties between India and Bhutan were established more than 40 years ago with the appointment of a resident representative in Thimphu.

Monday's meeting between Krishna and the Bhutanese leadership was aimed at further strengthening relations between the two.

The Rs.15 crore grant is being made to the Kidu Foundation, which was jointly launched by Bhutan's Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y. Thinley and India's Ambassador to Bhutan Pavan K. Varma on Februry 3 , 2011.

The foundation aspires to effectively complement government efforts to address critical issues in the areas of education development and to preserve the country's environmental and cultural heritage.

India and Bhutan have signed many agreements in various areas, including hydropower, information technology, health/medicine, and air services etc.

India is not only Bhutan's main development partner, but also its leading trade partner.

A free trade regime exists between the two nations. By Naveen Kapoor / Ravinder Singh Robin (ANI)

India, Pakistan foreign secretaries meet in Bhutan

(AFP) –
NEW DELHI — The top diplomats of India and Pakistan held talks on Sunday in Thimphu, the Bhutanese capital, in the first high-level meeting between the two rival countries since July.

Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir met on the sidelines of a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) conference, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

India suspended a peace dialogue with Pakistan after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, which claimed 166 lives, but the two countries last year began to explore a resumption of structured talks.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi held a meeting with his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna in Islamabad in July.

"Dialogue between India and Pakistan is necessary and a must if we are to satisfactorily resolve the outstanding issues between our two countries," Rao was quoted as saying by the PTI news agency before Sunday's meeting.

"We have a number of outstanding issues. So we are going into this with an open mind and constructive attitude."

PTI quoted Bashir as saying that the talks on Sunday would focus on making progress towards another meeting between the countries' foreign ministers.

"My expectations are that we should be working towards continued engagement," he said.

India accuses Pakistan of failing to crack down sufficiently on militant groups on its territory, including those which New Delhi blames for the Mumbai attacks.

Relations between the two countries, which have fought three wars since the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947, have been plagued by border and resource disputes, and accusations of Pakistani militant activity against India.

Two of the three wars were over the disputed Kashmir region, and Kashmiri militants have been fighting New Delhi's rule for two decades in an insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Dhaka seeks Delhi notification to allow Nepal, Bhutan transit through its territory

Dhaka has requested New Delhi to issue notification to allow Nepal and Bhutan transit through India, which would give the two countries access to the Mongla and Chittagong ports, reports UNB.

The request came when Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni held a discussion with Indian external affairs minister S M Krishna Monday in the sideline of the SAARC Council of Ministers' meeting at Thimphu, according to a foreign ministry press release issued on Tuesday

Moni also requested operationalisation of Rohanpur-Shinghabad rail link to provide access to Nepal, and for reestablishing rail links between Chilahati-Haldibari and Kulaura-Mahishashan.

The matter is expected to be looked into by the railway officials of the two countries soon.

During the discussion Krishna informed his Bangladesh counterpart that 300,000 tonnes of rice would soon be ready for export to Bangladesh.

Both the ministers discussed the entire gamut of bilateral and regional issues.

The Indian minister informed Dipu Moni that the rice price would be cheaper than that in the international market and that New Delhi was also ready to export 12,000 tonnes of sugar to Dhaka.

During the meeting, the Bangladesh foreign minister raised the issue of augmentation of the Ganges water during the dry season, and expressed interest in setting up joint venture projects to tap Bhutan's hydro-power.

"She also sought Delhi's support for the sale of 200 megawatt electricity, from Palatana power project in Tripura to Bangladesh," the release added.

Both the ministers discussed early operationalisation of the secretariat of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) in Dhaka.

At another meeting with Bhutanese economic affairs minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk, Dipu Moni discussed transit to Bhutan through India, hydropower generation, use of Mongla and Chittagong ports and the possibilities of Bhutan to use airports in Bangladesh.

The foreign minister informed that Bangladesh would be happy to welcome the king of Bhutan in Dhaka on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Bangladesh's independence.