Nim Dorji | Trongsa
The green tea plantation in Samcholing under Drakteng gewog will be explored and expanded for mass production in the next fiscal year.
At present Samcholing green tea cooperative is running the business with only 29 members.
For green tea development Drakteng gewog has proposed Nu 2 million from the dzongkhag development grant (DDG), which was dropped for not meeting the criteria to get the fund.
Drakteng gup Kingzang Dorji said that the DDG issued for making farm road and making footpath in other gewog are the works that can be done within the gewog and which is being carried by the gewogs all the time.
“The machinery needed for farm road construction is also easily available”.
The DDG guideline states that the grant shall only be used for funding activities that would facilitate economic growth, generate employment, promote tourism and agriculture.
The dzongkhag administration and dzongkhag tshogdu agreed to conduct survey and explore for mass green tea production and include it in flagship programme in the next financial year.
Gup Kingzang Dorji said that if the fund is used to supply green tea sapling in the community, it will help to boost the local economy.
The gewog had proposed the fund to supply saplings and increase the production.
More locals are into green tea cultivation. They have taken it as the only means of income in the local economy.
The cooperative lacks machine and with few members, they face a challenge to meet the demand. With only one frying pan and a roller, the members take turn to fry and roll the tea leaves.
This problem will be solved as the gewog administration with dzongkhag livestock sector has ordered a frying pan and roller which will reach soon.
A member of the cooperative, Rinchen said that, compared to other crops, it is easy to work with green tea.
“We need not guard against wild animals and also do not have to work hard,” she added.
She is planning to plant more sapling.
With no other cash crops in the community, the gewog administration has planned to supply green tea sapling to all the households in the gewog.
It takes three years to raise the plant and it can be harvested for twenty years generating income.
At present, the cooperative carries out the processing and packaging from the three-storied building and the products are available in some dzongkhags and the cooperative shop.
While the people of Bumthang thronged the grounds of Tamzhing Lhakhang to receive the empowerment of Tsenmara at Tamzhing Phala Choepa on October 10, 50 people of Dhur community chose to stay back for a media literacy workshop.
Ugyen Tshomo had decided to go to the choepa but when the village tshogpa informed her about the workshop, she changed her mind and remained back in the village for the workshop. She said she had been attending the choepa every year but this year she wanted to learn new things about the media. She had earlier learnt that the media was a powerful tool for rural empowerment.
Ugyen Tshomo was one of the 50 villagers from Dhur who attended a day-long media literacy workshop conducted by Journalists’ Association of Bhutan (JAB).
A team from JAB briefed the participants on the importance of the media, responsible social media use, and the importance of reading advertisements critically.
Many community issues emerged during the workshop. Namgay, a former monk, said, “I was very excited when I heard about the media professionals from Thimphu visiting the village.” He believes that the media have the power to address the challenges people face.
Namgay said the gewog road is one of the challenges facing the village. The poor condition of the dirt road remains the same even after the change of three governments. “Despite the members of parliament promising blacktopping the road, nothing has happened,” he said.
The participants also raised concerns about the poor phone network in the village. They said the media could make the promises happen.
Even as 50 villagers discussed their pressing challenges, hundreds of others jostled to receive the blessings of Tsenmara on the last day of the three-day annual Tamzhing Phagla Choepa.
The empowerment ritual is locally known as Pakpa (leather bag) Wang, which is bestowed by getting hit or banged on the back with two leather sacks stuffed with hay and sacred relics.
The local people believe that the blessing from the bags drives away and protects one from evil spirits and influences.
The annual Tamzhing Phagla Choepa is a festival associated with the construction of the Tamzhing Monastery in the 16th century by Terton Pema Lingpa and his protecting deity, Dorji Phagmo.
Contributed by Sangay Choki
Yangchen C Rinzin
Women perform 71 percent of unpaid care work, 2.5 times (218 minutes) more than men (87 minutes), according to the report on Accounting for Unpaid Care Work in Bhutan 2019.
On paid work, men spend 2.5 times (147 minutes) more than women (57 minutes).
Unpaid care work is increasingly being recognised as critical for sustaining people’s daily lives, yet it remains invisible to many policy makers, economists, and national statisticians.
As yet, it is excluded from conventional national income accounts.
It falls outside conventional definitions of what counts as works and is unaccounted for in the national accounting system. This is because unpaid care work largely consists of activities like cooking, cleaning, caring for children, the sick, and the elderly.
Unpaid care work is an important aspect of economic activity and the burden of unpaid care work is particularly borne by the women that underlie gender inequality.
This is important in Bhutanese society too, as it contends with similar issues, according to the report. Unpaid care work is still viewed as the natural duty of women.
The report revealed that unpaid care work has a total value of Nu 23,509.11 million, which is equivalent to 16 percent of GDP if measured using a ‘specialist’ wage.
Over two-thirds of the estimated monetary value of unpaid work was performed by women and the rest by men.
Another significant finding was that 95 percent of women engage in household maintenance and management activities, and about 33 percent of women engaged in providing unpaid care services.
The report also found that women spend more time on unpaid household and care work than men regardless of income, age cohorts, residency, or employment status, and as income goes up, men are less likely to spend on unpaid household and care work.
When it comes to total value of unpaid care work, in 2017, women 15 and older spent 310 million hours on unpaid household and care work, while men spent 150 million hours.
“Women’s contribution to unpaid household and care work was at least two times larger than that of men. While women’s contribution as a share of GDP is 11 percent, men’s contribution is around five percent,” the report said.
The report, which was launched yesterday coinciding with the International Day of the Girl Child, is aimed at documenting the gender patterns of unpaid care work in the country.
It also aims to measure and value unpaid care work as it reflects the large amount of unpaid care work is disproportionately performed by women. Which is why the report also seek and recommended for modifications/additions to current national surveys and data, which would allow a more precise measure of unpaid care work going forward.
It has also recommended to incorporate the findings into the GNH conceptualization and unique institutional and policy framework.
“It recommends on labour policies that could help narrow the gender gap in unpaid care work, maximize the rewards and acknowledge the value of such work,” said the report.
Health Minister Dechen Wangmo and Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) launched the study report conducted by the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) and ADB. The hashtag #ICommit #StopRape #MinorRape was also launched.
NCWC’s director, Kunzang Lhamu, said that it was time girls were encouraged to pursue their dreams, uplift their self-esteem and celebrate their talents.
“More girls are competing and attending schools, fewer are getting married or becoming mothers and gaining skills to accept in the world of work,” she said. “However, we wake up to the fact that girls are lying in the unsafe or unsecure settings, and exposed to neglect and abuse.”
She reminded that many legal instruments and policies still lagged behind in implementation and a safe nurturing environment should be created for the children.
With the girl child day themed “Girl Force: unsubscripted and unstoppable”, UNICEF representative Dr Will Parks said that a theme was fitting for Bhutan where girls were proving they are unscripted and unstoppable. “Let’s stand with our girls as they break boundaries and barriers posed by stereotypes and exclusion, as they unleash their potential to be unscripted and unstoppable, as they move from dreaming to achieving.”
Health minister said that access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health, saw a huge improvement.
“Today, I am proud to share that we’re are able to significantly improve the legal and policy environment to eliminate all forms of discrimination against our girls and provide them with equal platform to participate in social and economic development,” she said.
An elderly devotee receives tika from His Majesty The King during Dashain on October 8. His Majesty The King granted Dashain tika to the people of the Hindu community at the Devi Panchayan Mandir in Thimphu Kuenselphodrang. Hundreds of people from across the country gathered at the mandir to receive tika and blessings from His Majesty.
Tshering Dorji | New York
Notwithstanding the graduation from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category, which is bound to happen in 2023, Bhutan should remain vigilant of various cooperation and support that various agencies have committed.
The programme coordinator of Economic Analysis and Policy Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), Namsuk Kim (PhD) told Kuensel that as long as Bhutan knows what’s the priority and chanelise the commitment, it should be fine.
He said the challenge for Bhutan would be coordinating and channelising the various interests and commitments in different areas to support Bhutan from bilateral and multi-lateral agencies including the United Nations.
“It could be overwhelming and Bhutan should be careful of what is coming in and what is going out,” said Namsuk Kim.
For a country to graduate from the LDC status it should fulfil two of the three criteria- income per capital, human asset index and economic vulnerability index. However, graduation can also be considered based on income only criteria if the income per capita is twice the threshold.
Bhutan has met the income and human asset index for the two consecutive triennial reviews and was recommended for graduation in 2021. But the government has requested for graduation in 2023, which coincides with the end of the 12th Plan.
Even if countries meet the criteria, Namsuk Kim said graduation is not automatic and that the UNDESA examines other information. He said that some of the countries that had met the income and human asset but did not meet the economic vulnerability index, like Bhutan, were not recommended for graduation.
For Bhutan, there is not much to lose from the graduation.
Namsuk Kim said that LDCs are low income countries confronted with challenges in pursuing sustainable development. “If you have enough resources and an enabling environment to pursue sustainable development then you are good to go,” he said.
For example, there are some countries eligible for graduation based on income only criteria. Even though these countries did not achieve economic vulnerability and human asset indices, they have higher income to achieve these two.
“Bhutan’s income level and human capital on education is kind of a guarantee that you have a sound development policy although the economic vulnerability is little higher,” he said. Bhutan is developed enough in two criteria to take care of the country’s development sustainably.
Bhutan, he said is also not so dependent on assistance available to the LDCs, which means that there is not much impact after graduation.
“When we were looking at the possible graduation, we found that Bhutan’s main trading partners are its neighbors and it has nothing to do with the LDC status,” he said. “I speak very highly of GNH because it is the missing link in achieving the SDGs,” he said. SDG, he said covers everything, but if taken a deep dive into the details, he said targets sometime conflict with each other.
Pursuing one SDG goal at times affect others. For example, to eradicate inequality, if the wealthy are taxed more, it could affect other goals like employment. This, he said calls for a balanced approach, which in turn is changing the mindset of people in their daily lives. “To achieve SDG, it is important to understand what it really means for your society because somebody has to lose and someone has to gain,” he said. “GNH is about changing this mindset and this has helped the country.”
While there isn’t much to lose, Bhutan could lose aids that it could avail as an LDC. Namsuk Kim said that the UNDESA has also analysed and talked to bilateral partners.
He said a lot of aid is coming from neighboring countries and bilateral and multilateral donors such as ADB and World Bank. “Much of these agencies said their commitment and support wont change after graduation.”
However, there are smaller funds that are tied to LDC status, for instance the loans from Japan and Korea at zero interest and longer duration. “There will be some impact, but the size is relatively smaller than those not tied to LDC,” he said.
Few small multilateral donors and LDC fund from the UN agencies, he said are exclusive for LDCs and this would no longer be eligible for Bhutan. While the support of the UN agencies like UNDP and UNCDP would continue, the operation budget of these agencies would also diminish.
“But few other partners like the Global Climate Fund (GCF) told me that Bhutan is the best example,” he said adding that their support would continue even after graduation because GCF is not tied to LDC fund and are much bigger in size.
One of the main reasons Bhutan did not achieve the economic vulnerability criterion is that it did not meet the concentration of economic structure due to lack of diversification.
The economic diversification plan, he said is the right decision, but the country has to be careful in making investments. Infrastructure, logistic and enabling environment, he said is a must and this is where Bhutan should prioritise.
To export, he said, challenges pertaining to logistics, infrastructure and non-tariff barriers, he said are not unique to Bhutan. In fact all land-locked countries face this problem. “When you get out of LDC, you need to work on this,” he said.
Perhaps, negotiation strategy with the neighbours might come handy. Namsuk Kim also said that at this point there is no difference whether Bhutan is a member of WTO or not. He added that the country, however might want to consider trade facilitation if given a membership to the WTO.
The country’s high debt to GDP ratio and indebtedness, he said has nothing to do with the LDC. “India did not lend the money for hydropower because Bhutan is LDC. India invested in hydropower projects because they are economically viable,” he said.
But the question is how the country uses the revenue from hydropower to promote other sectors. Some resource rich countries, dependent on oil and diamond, he said, has used the revenue to import consumer and luxury goods. “You have to learn from these examples.”
Two women working for Bhutan Development Bank Limited’s (BDBL) Tsirang branch were alleged of embezzling public funds amounting to more than Nu 17 million (M).
The women, who were working as tellers, embezzled the money in a span of seven years from 2012 to March 2019.
The BDBL management first reported the case to police on March 5 this year, alleging the two tellers of unauthorised cash withdrawals from clients’ saving accounts.
As police conducted preliminary investigation detaining the two suspects, the bank also forwarded the case to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for investigation.
ACC’s investigation revealed that the two women issued fake deposit receipts to customers without crediting into accounts and thereby pocketing the cash given for deposit.
As tellers, the two women were responsible for handling customers’ financial transaction like accepting retail or commercial deposits, loan repayments, process checking and withdrawals. Their duties also included cash counting, answering queries, filling deposit slips and paperwork, balancing cash at the end of the day.
It was found that they also forged customers’ signatures on numerous occasions to withdraw money from the accounts.
“Whenever the customers whose accounts had been manipulated came for withdrawals, the duo either filled the account or reinstated the balance by transferring amount from some other client’s accounts or simply used cash deposits of other clients,” the ACC’s investigation report stated. “In this way, they were able to conceal their wrongdoing year after year until some clients detected the irregularity and alerted the bank.”
It also stated that the two women targeted people who were illiterate.
One woman joined BDBL in 2011 after completing a Diploma in Commercial accounting and the other joined the company in May 2012.
ACC forwarded the case to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) on October 7, charging the tellers for violating section 52 (1) and (2) of the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan 2011 for embezzling public funds and section 296 of the Penal Code of Bhutan 2004 for forging bank records in pursuit of obtaining corrupt gains.
ACC stated that the fraudulent conduct of the two tellers not only defrauded and deprived hard-earned savings of rural people, but also caused damage to the reputation of the bank with the primary mandate to uplift the economic conditions of the rural population.
The two officials are on bail after being detained for 33 days.
OAG is reviewing the case.
About 20 members of Y-VIA (Young Volunteers in Action) underwent a month-long training on bamboo handicrafts in Gelephu. Organised by the Gelephu Y-VIA with support from Bhutan Youth Development Fund and UNICEF Bhutan, the programme was initiated to provide livelihood skills to youth and to teach the age-old culture of bamboo handicraft. A couple from Zhemgang Bjoka, Namgay Dorji and Karma Dema taught the youths how to weave bangchungs, pen holders, flower vase and other containers using bamboo. The programme ended last week. (Photo: Pema Wangdi)
Yangchen C Rinzin
The growing urban sanitation problem could be addressed with the National Sanitation and Hygiene Policy, which is now in place.
The policy that was approved by the Cabinet, as informed by the Prime Minister during the Annual Performance Agreement with the autonomous agencies on Monday, is to provide clear direction to address the urgency to address urban sanitation adequately.
According to the Joint Monitoring Programme Report 2019, although 78 percent of country has access to improved sanitation services, it is of poor standard with various management issues resulting in high level water related disease outbreaks.
It has been estimated that by 2020, around half the country’s population will live in urban areas. With the declaration of 16 new Dzongkhag Thromdes and 20 Yenlag Thromdes, urban sanitation problems are expected to grow.
The policy, which was drafted in October 2017 will guide the government, private sector, institutions, hospitality industry, civil society organisations (CSOs), bi-lateral and multi-lateral agencies associated with the sanitation and hygiene sector.
The 2016 sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities (HCFs) report states that 41.48 percent of the 28 hospitals surveyed reported E.coli or faecal contamination. Some toilets were found to be dysfunctional.
One of the policy statements are to achieve universal coverage and access to sustainable services for all where the works and human settlement ministry (MoWHS) and health ministry (MoH) in collaboration with the local government would ensure all dzongkhags and thromdes are open defecations free.
“The Tourism Council of Bhutan in collaborations with two ministries should ensure highways are provided with adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities,” the sanitation policy states. “It would also adopt appropriate technology for sustainable sanitation systems.”
It was found that the performance of the sanitation and hygiene sector in implementing programmes are not coordinated for the lack of national policy. The policy states it would develop sustainable and efficient fianancing mechanism for safe sanitation and hygiene services including behaviour change communication at all level.
The policy will also ensure there is no ambiguity over roles and responsibilities in the sector, especially in the peri-urban areas, and a disconnect between existing policies and legal instruments that deal with sanitation and hygiene.
The Water and Sanitation Rules of 1995 stipulate that both black and grey water outlets should be connected to either a municipal sewer line or septic tank. However, currently, greywater is typically discharged directly to open drains without treatment, according to the policy.
In the four Thromdes, the Thromde provides de-sludging services including transporting of pre-treated wastewater from septic tanks to treatment facilities. However, proper management of septic tanks, safe transport and disposal of sludge is a growing concern for urban and peri-urban areas in the absence of proper guidelines and standards.
According to the policy, MoWHS is responsible to make individual households and public aware of adopting appropriate sanitation technology options that are cost efficient and most effective.
In line with the government’s pledge to supply 24/7 clean and safe drinking water, Gelephu Thromde handed over a newly dug borewell facility to the regional referral hospital yesterday.
The borewell will supplement the hospital’s existing water supply that is drawn from Passangchhu.
The hospital recently experienced acute water shortage when the pipelines supplying water to the hospital were damaged in an accident where a truck had fallen on the pipeline network.
Medical superintendent, Dr Dorji Tshering, said that the hospital in the past have faced major crisis in absence of a continuous supply of water. “Especially during monsoon when the supply lines are completely cut off, it compromises the provision of safe and quality health care.”
During the recent cutoff, the hospital used fire engines to supply additional water from nearby streams. However, officials said that it was not enough to carry out the routine clinical functions at the hospital.
It was learnt that the hospital used more than 30,000 litres of water on a daily basis. There are two reservoir tanks at the hospital measuring 60,000 litres each for treated and untreated water.
After the national referral hospital, Gelephu referral hospital sees the most patients in the country, with an annual increase rate of about 10 percent.
Dr Dorji Tshering said that water is an integral part of health care and hospitals cannot function without an uninterrupted water supply. “Besides the clinical aspects where water is essential, we need water to cook meals for patients and to cater to health staffs and attendants who reside in the hospital.”
He said that according to the World Health Organisation, a single surgery/delivery requires at least 100 litres of water.
With patients from six central dzongkhags being referred to Gelephu, he said that the borewell is guaranteed to help them all.
Gelephu Thrompon, Tikaram Kafley, said the borewell was provided on a priority basis. “We were worried that in times of water shortage, the quality of services at the hospital were compromised.”
The borewell with a capacity to pump in 300,000 litres of water every hour will not only cater to the hospital, but also to the nearby areas including the lower secondary school, thrompon said.
“Given the water shortage Gelephu Thromde faces especially during monsoon, we hope that borewell will address the problem,” he said.
Similar borewell would also be dug in Rabdelling demkhong in a few months, thrompon said.
There are eight borewells in Gelephu today.
Thinking future has not been the greatest of our strengths. Talking about urban sanitation, however, we might have managed to forearm ourselves just in time.
We now have a National Sanitation and Hygiene Policy.
But what does urban sanitation mean and how are we tackling this growing issue?
Bhutan’s bigger population centres like Thimphu and Phuentsholing have been facing significant problems related to urban sanitation over the years.
While our towns and cities keep growing, basic management has not been growing at the same level.
Going by the speed of change that we continue to experience, close to half the population of Bhutan could be living in the urban areas by the end of 2020. In other words, urbanisation is growing rapidly. The number of thromde is expected to grow by 16 more. And, oh, added to the number 20 yenlag thromdes.
This means the management of human excreta, safe and clean confinement, treatment, disposal and associated hygiene-related practices will present themselves as the major challenge for the country in the coming days.
It takes just a few minutes of heavy rain in Thimphu, for example, for the roads to become cesspool with intermittent fountain of human dirt shooting up to the heavens. This problem is going to grow with population rise.
The way frustrated public elsewhere are treating their village and city officials for failing to improve basic services might sound and appear like a little too much, but it is not difficult to imagine that such a reality might happen here too, and soon.
Thromde officials posting pictures of planned implementation gone wrong, time and again, is in bad public taste.
The coming of the National Sanitation and Hygiene Policy is good, but there is a lot that needs to be done to convince the people that something good might come of it because one swallow does not a summer make.
Policies we have many, far too many in fact. And we know that by themselves, on their own, have little teeth or rigour to effect any significant change.
More than as a cause for celebration so, the coming of the National Sanitation and Hygiene Policy must be viewed with scepticism.
For the National Sanitation and Hygiene Policy to succeed, and more by token all other policies to find the true meaning of their existence, a fundamental change is wanting.
That change must come with courage to face the ugly truth.
For now the truth is that Bhutan is becoming more urbanised and urban sanitation will be the biggest problem facing the nation.
Imagine a nation painted in gold of human faeces and people reeling in the sin of the resulting health complications. We have other dimensions of this problem to talk about.
It might prove mighty interesting to watch how this policy is by the by rendered toothless and those responsible to deliver quality services get away without as much a gentle telling.
That is exactly what we do not want.
Rinchen Zangmo | Tsirang
Villagers of Dungkarcheling in Tsirang are looking for a solution to a new problem they are facing.
With villagers experiencing water shortage frequently, they are clearing the stream. They know water will be a problem in winter.
A resident, Chogyalmo, said that water shortage was non-existent about five years ago. “There was abundant water and we didn’t have to quarrel or get into fights because of it.” Today, however, the situation has changed as water shortage has started causing disharmony among the people in the village, she said.
Having served as the water management tshogpa in the village for the past three years, she said that the issue needed attention, as it not only affected their daily chores but also businesses.
Last month, 29 people from the village went to clear the stream.
Members of one of the village’s association, Gaki Vegetable Detshen is the worst affected. Members of the group shared that the production has decreased in recent years because of water shortage. Most of the produce are sold at the Sunday vegetable market. “Although we got help from agriculture ministry, we need a viable solution. Nothing can be grown without water,” a member said.
More than 30 people from the village gathered to discuss the responsibilities and the amount to be paid to the person in charge of clearing water channels and keeping the water running throughout year.
About 37 households have come together and decided to pay a fee of Nu 12,000 annually to a person who would clear the stream.
Another resident, Kuenga Norbu, said that there were about 12 new constructions that would soon come up in the area. “These constructions require a lot of water and it will only keep increasing with many people buying land around and are planning to settle here.”
Dungkarcheling is under pressure to protect and manage the source, which is about two hours walk from the village, he said. “We face water shortage for almost six months.”
To manage the water issue and to ensure the continuous flow of water, the system was first instituted about three years ago.
It was learnt the Damphu municipality would provide water for those households near the town in the future. Currently, there is no water shortage in the town area.
Neten Dorji | Trashiyangtse
Women in Jangphutse are busy these days, weaving. They are weaving from early morning until night trying to produce as many Kharza-Kop (hand woven bags of Dakpa) as their hands can manage.
The bags are in high demand during the upcoming event called Wangchen in Tawang, a neighbouring village across the border in India.
For generations, women in this hamlet have been weaving bags, as their main occupation, and trading in Tawang. They travel to Tawang three times every year.
As the traditional weaving is their livelihood, women begin training as early as eight.
Villagers said, Kharza-kop is a popular traditional bag, which Dakpa (those from Tawang) carry during special events and festivals in Tawang , Arunachal Pradesh, a northeastern state of India.
Like most women in the village, Thukten Lhaden, 46, began her training in weaving when she was eight. She weaves throughout the year and her income from weaving helps her to look after her family.
The mother of four said that most of the women weave beside agriculture work. “During vacation, students also weave and earn their own expenses.
Thukten weaves 90 bags in a month and earns around Nu 20,000 from selling them. She said that while it doesn’t fetch her good profit, it is still helping her meet the family’s expenses. “We have to buy yarns from the shop and the profit margin is minimal,” she said.
The bag is woven with intricate patterns and colourful flowers. It is also known for its durability.
Another weaver Karmo said the women in Jangphutse spend half their time weaving the bags. “Some women weave till midnight,” she said. “These days, I don’t get time to weave guarding the crops.”
With fewer sewing machines in Jangphutse, most of them stitch the bags by hand. “If government support us with sewing machines, it would be easier and quicker to produce the bags,” she said.
Villagers said that in the past Jangphutse weavers had to compete with those from Tawang. The dwindling number of weavers in Tawang has created a market and an opportunity for business in Jangphutse.
Weavers said they don’t have to worry about marketing and they can sell at least 50 bags in a day. “Whatever quantity we take, they buy,” she said.
A villager from Dungtse, Singye Wangmo said she weave products along with her daughters during the break at home.
Occasionally, she weaves gho and kira. “Weaving gho and kira consume a lot of time. Weaving bag is easier,” said Singye.
People here also work on farm. Men and women share equal responsibility for the family, villagers said.
A village elder said life in the village has changed with women now earning. “Before it was simple, men worked and women stayed at home to raise the children. But as more women are now earning through weaving, balancing family and work-life became a prime aspiration for the younger generation,” he said.
Dungkar in Lhuentse is the ancestral home of the Kings of Bhutan. It is remote. It is beautiful.
This fabled village has limited access to television, radio, and newspaper. But the change is already at the door.
Most villagers (of the total 700) here own smartphones and WeChat is first form of media that people use to communicate, to inform, and to be informed.
This is what came to light during a media literacy workshop that the Journalists’ Association of Bhutan with support from United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) conducted in the village on October 7.
Villagers young and old use WeChat to communicate. In fact, the voice-messaging app is their only link to the world beyond Dungkar.
The villagers have formed WeChat groups for different purposes. The gewog administration has one.
The village was connected to 3G Internet service two years ago. Since then, the people here have been using WeChat to bridge communication gaps.
Dungkar Tshogpa Kungala said chipons of the villages no long walked door to door to deliver messages. They use WeChat. It saves time and energy.
“If we use WeChat in a positive way, there are many possibilities and opportunities,” Kungala said.
A few days ago, boars and sambar deer destroyed paddy in a village. The tshogpa was able to resolve the problem immediately with the local RNR officials using WeChat. Without WeChat, this would not have been possible.
Sixty villagers attended the day-long workshop. The majority of the participants were women.
Dungkhar village is two days’ drive from Thimphu. It is the third remote village JAB has visited for media literacy this year.
If the closure of a part of the Norzin lam during the three-day Thimphu tshechu was a litmus test for pedestrianising the city’s busy thoroughfare, the result was mixed.
Business people along the street who although experienced increased sale from the closure are apprehensive of long term impact. They said tshechu holiday was different because people came knowing there were lots of goods on sale.
However, for the people who thronged the street said it was a relief for them to stroll along the street that usually is crowded with vehicles. “It was a change. I felt nice,” said Tashi who was walking with her daughter. “It was a different feeling. I felt very safe.”
Shopper, Karma, said closing the street for vehicle was a good idea. “We don’t have to worry about our kids as they can freely play with their friends,” he said. “It is an opportunity for us to meet and interact with each other without vehicle disturbances,” said Karma.
Some are suggesting the thromde to not back out on their decision to close the street for vehicles. “It will be a free space, but some movement of vehicles should be allowed to not hamper businesses along the street,” said another shopper, Tshewang Rinzin. Another shopper, Choki Dorji said that it’s a good initiative by the thromde. “In country like United States and Canada, this idea has helped business,” he said.
Business owners have already appealed to the health and works and human settlement ministers on the thromde’s decision.
Shopkeeper Dorji Gyeltshen, said that the thromde had let people open shops at the multi-parking building. “They have tricked us by letting people park there and attract customers,” he said.
“We are planning to discuss the issue with the Prime Minister soon.”
Some said that the idea of pedestrianising a part of the street is not fair as it will be a disadvantage for them.
Ram kumar Baraily, owner of the ornaments shop, said that it has started hampering his business. “It’s been four days that we are receiving few customers and it’s a huge loss,” said Ram.
Some shopkeepers said closing the road for traffic will be a problem for them while loading or unloading heavy loads from the vehicle.