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Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy

by The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD)
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Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy
Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy
Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy
Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy
Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy
Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy
Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy
The Dzongkha Citizen Guidebook
The Dzongkha Citizen Guidebook

Towards Inclusiveness in Citizenship Education  

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy’s (BCMD) handbook on ‘Being a Good Citizen’ has been translated into Dzongkha, Bhutan's national language. 

Covering topics on values such as interdependence and harmony, respect for diversity, equity and equality, integrity and courage the resource on citizenship is now available to others who are proficient in Dzongkha. Designed particularly for the youth, the booklet takes readers on a reflective journey starting with self and moving on to thinking about how these values manifest in the larger societal contexts. 

Thus far, the handbook has been used during Youth Summit, Media and Democracy and Literacy training, Project Mikhung (Citizenship) and Peer Facilitation. The Dzongkha handbook is expected to cater to the needs of the ever-increasing participants of BMCD programmes coming from diverse needs and groups. 

This Dzongkha edition is supported by EU Helvetas Bhutan. 

 The Druk Journal Focuses on Technology

The Spring Edition of The Druk Journal, “Bhutan in the Age of Technology” couldn't have come at a better time than now when schools, colleges, offices, and businesses remain closed and everyone is learning and working from home in Bhutan. 

The theme reflects Bhutan’s aspirations in a world of changing technology. The unforeseen COVID pandemic has revealed the digital divide, among other socio-economic inequalities, in society and makes a pertinent and relevant topic for deliberation.  This spring issue aims to give Bhutan an idea on what’s happening across the globe and provide ideas on how to adopt, adapt and create technology at home to improve governance. 

The issue contains 16 articles written by renowned faces across the globe and local academics, public servants and seasoned journalists. GlobalGiving’s support enables us to continue publishing the bi-annual journal to bring attention to themes of critical importance to a young democracy. 

DIPD, EU Hevetas Bhutan and Druk Holding & Investments supported this issue of The Druk Journal.  

Youth Review Youth Policy

In the true spirit of nurturing a sense of agency, for the first time, 24 youth attended the 11-day residential camp at the Media Lab, Thimphu where they reviewed in depth the National Youth Policy (NYP) with a good grounding in the principles of Gross National Happiness and historical context of the birth of NYP in 2011.

The rigorous camp culminated in the youth presenting their critical views and suggestions for revision of the policy, etc. to make the NYP more engaging, relevant, and comprehensive. 

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy partnered with the Department of Youth and Sports for the first time to lead the youth consultation to review the national youth policy. The review of the policy began in January with 24 YI members during its winter camp followed by 18 YI members moving on to get trained in facilitating focus group discussions with other youths.  

The 11 YI members interviewed more than 110 youths across the country, including, members of LGBT, women from Drayang (dance bars), youths in rehabilitation centres, and students. The review process also held an online survey involving 1,099 respondents from different walks of life. Meanwhile, a video on FGD will be produced by the end of this month to document the national youth policy review process. 

This collaborative project with the Department of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Education is supported by UNICEF. 

Resource Guide for Youth Initiative

In a move to institutionalise the Youth Initiative (YI) as a programme, a guide called the Youth Initiative Guidebook was updated and developed as a resource to guide its members, who are mostly college students. 

The guide provides essential information about the YI and other useful information to translate democratic values and practices into action. The guide also gives guidance on the basics of policy research and how to go about it. 

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy’s YI has been running successfully for seven years developing a cohort of highly motivated and engaged youth who are equipped to explore, critically examine and understand the socio-economic, and political landscape. YI is a biannual youth event involving youths in policy research. The YI camp begins in summer and ends in winter every year.

CISU supported the publication of the YI Guidebook.

Promoting Civil Society Through Song

In appreciation for efforts rendered by the selfless leaders, health professionals and everyone in the frontline of the COVID pandemic, a music video, “Lhayul; Ngoma Zogay” which translates to “Let’s Make a Heaven on Earth” was launched in solidarity as BCMD celebrates the works of civil society.

The song, “Lhayul; Ngoma Zogay” embodies the spirit of civil society -- solidarity, compassion and courage -- of everyone working together and harder to restore the light and bring hope to everyone. The EU Helvetas Bhutan supported this project.

Watch the song …

The issue is now on The Druk Journal website.
The issue is now on The Druk Journal website.
Participants shares findings of the review.
Participants shares findings of the review.
The guide will help youths with policy research.
The guide will help youths with policy research.
The song celebrates as well expresses solidarity.
The song celebrates as well expresses solidarity.
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The conversation was an input into tourism policy.
The conversation was an input into tourism policy.

Suja Dzow Conversation Over Tourism in Bhutan

Changangkha, Thimphu, 28 October 2019: The Druk Journal’s Suja Dzow Conversation on “Tourism in Bhutan” generated an open and comprehensive dialogue and feedback session on tourism at an opportune time as the government is reviewing the tourism policy. 

Foreign minister and chairperson for the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), Lyonpo Dr Tandi said that he’s noted many new and good suggestions from the conversation with more than 60 persons from the tourism sector, members of parliament, representatives from political parties, the media, government, and CSOs at the discussion.... “These suggestions will be taken very seriously when we hold our bilateral discussions,” said Dr Tandi. 

“...Bhutan must have only one tourism policy...basically one overarching – high-value low volume or high-value low impact,” said the minister". 

Stakeholders called for improved management of tourist numbers throughout the year since tourism is concentrated only in few districts. The Director of the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators Sonam called for improved coordination, collaboration, and partnership to improve the current situation. “The issue is not the mass tourism but rather management so we are talking about governance and coordination,” said Sonam. 

Chuni from the Hotel & Restaurant Association urged the relevant governing bodies to put in place proper rules to govern tourist behaviour. “Proper signage, pamphlets, and notification has to be put in place and those found violating the rules should be held responsible,” said Chuni. 

BCMD acknowledges the support of the DIPD, the Tourism Council of Bhutan, and the UN system for the production of this latest issue of the Journal. We thank local hotels and UNDP Bhutan for supporting the conversation.  

Support the Druk Journal, subscribe to the journal today


Paro Schools Complete Local Actions Projects


Paro, 12 November 2019: Just one day before the final exams, student mappers gathered to present the results of their Local Action Projects to the Townhall Committee at the 3rd Paro Townhall Meeting on 12 November. 

Over the last few months,  students and teachers from Shaba Higher Secondary School (SHSS) and Drukgyel Central School (DCS) have been busy working on their Local Action Projects that included constructing a volleyball court, fencing the menchuna (hot spring) water source and conducting advocacy on road safety and waste management. Besides presenting their experiences, observations and lessons from their projects, students shared the knowledge and skills they gained participating in the Community Building Initiative. 

“Apart from memorising…We learned how to handle tensions (creatively) and be prepared to change at any time when our plans failed.  We learned that nothing is impossible when we have a willing heart... I’m taking these ideas and values with me to my own community. I will encourage my brothers and sisters, especially the people in my community. I will explain the importance of being active participants in the community,” said Lham from Drukgyel Central School. 

Teachers and students recognised their ability to see a problem and find solutions with the community members to strengthen people's participation and reduce dependency on other agencies.  Two teachers from DCS observed that engaging communities in the projects are far more effective and sustainable to community development than volunteering to “do things” for the communities. 

Dasho Dzongdag Thinley reminded the town hall participants of the campaign slogan “I am my community” that it is in our hands how we shape our communities. We thank International IDEA and Bhutan Foundation for supporting the Project Mikhung (Project Citizen aimed at strengthening people’s participation in fostering a more democratic society).


Samdrup Jongkhar Town Launch Vision Mision


Samdrup Jongkhar 7 November 2019: Residents of Samdrup Jongkhar town -- located in the south-eastern part of Bhutan -- launched their town vision and mission which they created earlier this year.

The town will now use this vision to be a GNH-based (Gross National Happiness) commercial hub in eastern Bhutan. The town’s mission is to nurture a commercially and culturally vibrant community living in peace, health and inclusivity. 

The town’s vision-mission was launched in the presence of residents and government officials with a drama based on a popular Bhutanese fable, Thuenpa Puenzhi (The Four Noble Friends, an elephant, monkey, rabbit and a bird).  The play sent out a strong message to the residents and relevant stakeholders on the need to come together for the larger benefit of the community by setting aside their differences and individual goals.

The play also revealed the potential dangers that residents, policy-makers and officials could face by working in isolation without considering the greater good of the community. 

“Through this skit of the four friends I learned that happiness does not come from material wealth or connection, you need good intention. If you don’t have good intentions, the results will not be good. If each one of us has a good intention, we will naturally contribute to the wellbeing of Bhutan. We need to change our mindset from an individualistic view to a greater good...,” said an official from the Dzongkhag Administration, Sonam. 

BCMD hopes to share this tale of interdependence for the good of society soon on our website. Nine students from JNEC in Dewathang, Samdrup Jongkhar participated in the drama led by Bhutanese actor and a volunteer at Jangsa Animal Saving Trust (CSO), Tshering. 

The Community Building Initiative in Samdrup Jongkhar is funded by UNDP Bhutan. The aim of the project is to enhance citizen awareness of their role in their community and town. 


First-ever Youth Summit Held in Eastern Bhutan


Sherubtse College, Kanglung, Trashigang, 14 December 2019: The first-ever Youth Summit in the East “Change Starts With Me" attracted over 100 students from schools across eastern and southern Bhutan from 7-14 December 2019. 

At the summit, the participants explored their ideas of change and how they saw themselves in the process of change. Exercises of reflection ignited students' social consciousness making them think about issues and their role in impacting change in the community. Trashigang Dzongrub Gom (Deputy Governor) Wangchuk urged the students to share their learning with their friends while encouraging participants to carry on their projects creatively even if there weren't monetary support. 

Many participants shared their excitement to share their learning with their friends, family and in their neighbourhood. More than 70 people including the civil servants came to interact with participants as they presented their projects on themes ranging from waste management, reduction of corruption to the issue of substance abuse and capitalising on technology to improve education. 

This Youth Summit was a success with partnership from Sherubtse College and our funders Bhutan Foundation and CIVICUS.


Teachers Learn Media Literacy and Good Citizenship


16 December 2019, Nazhoen Pelri Complex, Thimphu: The Media Literacy & Being Good Citizen Training was an eye-opener for Shaba Mangmi Sangay (Local Leader) from Paro Dzongkhag (District Administration).

“I used to read newspapers but never knew how to question the information and look for sources and evidence to verify facts at an individual level. This training was an eye-opener for me on being critical about information and news,” said Sangay. 

Another participant from Paro Pema said that the training was useful for him to read news critically. "The training helped me understand the importance of media and journalists in a democracy to provide objective information and news...," said Pema. 

A total of 24 participants including teachers from Drukgyel Central School (DCS) and Shaba Higher Secondary School (SHSS) from Paro and Gelephu Middle Secondary School (GMSS) attended the training. Elected local leaders and a civil servant also participated in the four-day training aimed at imparting critical skills to debunk fake news and misinformation and more importantly access, evaluate, analyse news and information. 

The fourth day of the training covered sessions on "Being Good Citizen" where the participants learned about the art and values of leading active citizenship. The International IDEA and Bhutan Foundation supported the media literacy and Being Good Citizen Training from 13-16 December.

Students completes projects in Paro.
Students completes projects in Paro.
The town will works towards its vision.
The town will works towards its vision.
First such forum for children in the remote east.
First such forum for children in the remote east.
The media literacy was an eye-opener for many.
The media literacy was an eye-opener for many.
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Youth Learn to Bring Changes

Students from 23 schools across Bhutan presented six proposals for action at the end of the 5th Youth Summit, “Change Begins With Me” held at the Royal Thimphu College in the capital city Thimphu from 11-14 July. 

A total of 117 youths of schools from Dagana, Zhemgang, Samtse, and the Royal Academy  conceptualised action plans that they would take on on issues such as:

  1. Global warming;
  2. Women empowerment;
  3. Divorce and its effects on youth;
  4. Mental health;
  5. The negative impact of social media; and 
  6. Promoting self- reliance. 

"From the outside, it always looks so good (referring to society and mental health situations ) but from the inside, it is terrible. It's full of fear. I and my friends want to create a more positive society by helping to spread awareness of mental health. We always tend to show that things are alright, but many youths face anxiety and challenges...,” said a student from Gomtu Middle Secondary School.

The summit was facilitated by 12 youths mostly from colleges who were trained in peer facilitation to co-facilitate with Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy. UNICEF Bhutan funded the Youth Summit.

Youth Present Research Papers 

As a follow up to the Winter Youth Initiative in January, 21 college-bound and out-of-college youth presented their research paper findings on a number of issues at the Summer Youth Initiative held from 2-5 July at the Royal Thimphu College. 

The five research topics included Thimphu’s plastic ban, perceptions on LGBTQI, Internet consumption pattern, nutrition in boarding schools, recycled paper-based souvenirs. The participants also underwent training in Media Literacy to become smarter consumers of information and news.  Participants explored values from the Five Habits of the Heart to be better prepared for daily challenges as citizens. 

A 21-year-old college student from Thimphu said she had stopped being just somebody who complains and became one ‘who would change what I want changing’. Another participant remarked that he has gained the confidence to ‘influence the society and make a huge difference’. CISU supported the summer YI camp.

Teachers Prepare to Make an Impact in Communities

Speaking at the closing of Community Mapping Workshop on 9 August, Education secretary Yeshey encouraged teachers from Drukgyal Central School (DCS), Shaba Higher Secondary School (SHSS) and parents from Paro to inspire more people to take proactive citizen initiatives to resolve issues in communities. 

"Community Mapping is a critical exercise - you have been trained to look at issues differently and solve these issues - you must now pick up from here so that it doesn't remain in the paper," said Yeshey.

Paro Dzongda Thinley said that it is more important now than ever that people learn to make a collective effort to resolve issues. "Community must think about what it can do to solve these issues...,'' said Thinley. 

At the mapping training, which began from 4 August, teachers and parents learned the essence of studying communities by mapping strength, resources, and assets to tackle some of the issues of common concerns. Community Mapping guides the participants into developing skills such as interviewing, research that will enable them to engage proactively in their communities. "... I learned that posting on social media forums and pouring out frustrations to the leader is wrong. There is always an alternative like asset-based community mapping to resolve some of the issues in the locality," said Choki, DCS.

Bhutan Foundation supported the Project Mikhung. 

 CSOs Endorses Strategic Document

Under the theme of 'Building Solidarity', the 2019 Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Retreat held at Paro brought together 41 members from 24 CSOs of Bhutan to establish a collective voice in tabling pertinent issues and charting the way forward into the future of civil society landscape. 

As such, the CSOs gathered were able to successfully review and endorse a strategic document that would guide the direction of civil society, which remains the greatest accomplishment of the retreat. Moreover, CSO Rules & Regulations were also reviewed, thematic groups updated to reflect the current realities of CSOs, and a Working Committee formed to steer the CSO development fund. All these efforts were ultimately directed towards making the landscape more enabling for CSOs to contribute towards the nation-building. 

“It was the most participatory retreat that I have ever seen. All the decisions were taken democratically so we are actually being a really important element of democracy. I really appreciated it” said executive director of Handicraft Association of Bhutan, Chorten.  

Helvetas Bhutan supported the CSO Retreat 2019.

Student Mappers to Implement Six Projects

The grade 9 student looked nervous as he made a pitch to the Paro town hall committee for his school to develop a volleyball court for youth in the Drugyel neighbourhood.  

Recognising a lack of recreation for youth, the proposal was to enable youth to play volleyball and occupy themselves with a healthy sport. 

“Dasho la, will (the Paro municipality) provide the school with a space for the court, la?” 

This was one of six activities that students of Paro will undertake as part of the Building Community project being carried out in partnership with the Paro Thromde ( municipal authority). 

Students mappers of Drukgyal Central School (DCS) and Shaba Higher Secondary School (SHSS) will implement six Local Action Projects (LAP) in their respective communities in October.

The Townhall Committee endorsed the projects after deliberating and providing guidance on the practicality of the solutions the student mappers presented at the 2nd Townhall Committee meeting on 27 September at Paro. 

The six LAP are mostly awareness and advocacy campaigns on community cohesion, drinking water management, community safety, Menchu (hot spring) preservation, waste management, pedestrian safety, and building a volleyball court for youth. The Townhall Committee will also support the student mappers in their endeavour to improve community safety, drinking water and waste management, and youth engagement. 

“Until I attended the community mapping workshop, whenever there were issues in school, I was like ...maybe the school will do it or the teachers will do it because I’m just a student and I have no role. But being in community mapping made me realise that I’m that ‘someone’ who can make a difference for my community,” said a student mapper from DCS, Wangmo. 

Project Mikhung is supported by Bhutan Foundation. 

Youths Undergo Podcast Training 

A group of youths who were undergoing a week-long podcast training at Media Lab from 25 September will be presenting five stories, “Listening in the Dark” on pertinent social issues on Wed. 2 October.   

Unlike previous years, this year's podcasting workshop was extended by five more days to allow participants to develop a podcast through meaningful storytelling. This was done to leverage on the power of stories within the context of existing social issues of democracy, to explore in-depth and not just skim the surface of problems they present. 

The workshop was titled 'Dha Rei Na Ba' ( Now and the Future?) and was able to gather youths from various aspects such as counsellors, out-of-school, freelancers, young radio hosts and members from CLCS. 

“The use of examples and analysing the audio makes the training very different. I plan to improve the radio station at College of Language and Culture Studies and also train some of the club members after going back to college” said a faculty member from CLCS Choney. The workshop is funded by CISU. 

Picture Captions

1. Students learn how to start change at an individual level.

2. Youths learn research at the policy level and its effectiveness, challenges, and shortcomings.


3. Teachers present their findings from the Community Mapping. 

4. The retreat enabled CSOs to update their thematic group.

5. Students Present their Local Action Projects in the 2nd Townhall Meeting.

6. Youths edit their programmes at the media lab.

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Bhutan Democracy Forum 2019
Bhutan Democracy Forum 2019

Bhutan Democracy Forum 2019

In what appeared to be the first such forum following the 3rd Parliamentary elections in 2018, Bhutan Democracy 2019 brought together politicians and members of the academia, students, civil society, civil servants, representatives of Constitutional agencies to talk about ‘Democracy as a path to Good Governance’ on 30 April. Representatives from the four political parties, Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, and People’s Democratic party represented their parties at the forum.

The second panel of speakers consisted of an academic, a gup (Local Leader), a journalist, and a Member of Parliament from the National Council. The representatives of the political parties touched on the trust between the people and the government. They also discussed whether the media in Bhutan is becoming sensational and has become part of the problem or is providing solutions. Women representation in politics, corruption, youth, and the complexities of being “apolitical” were some other pertinent issues covered during the discussions.

The Druk Journal Publishes Issue on Education

The 9th Druk Journal issue “Educating Bhutan - Nurturing a Society that Learns to Learn”, has been published and is readied for distribution across the country. Containing 18 articles by academicians from within and outside the country, ‘Educating Bhutan’ looks at education as learning beyond the classroom.

This issue of the journal is intended to enable the society to see education not only as preparation for jobs but as a lifelong endeavour to learn. Four political parties also shed light on the respective party’s stance on education. They discuss and debate on pertinent issues, removal of cut off point for class ten, pruning of curriculum, off Saturdays and central school and education as their long-term goal.

With education overwhelmed with issues, it outlines some recommendations on Educating for Gross National Happiness (EGNH), 21st Century learning, research culture, vocational education in Bhutan. A ministerial adviser from Finland shares how her country has excelled in education every year. It also highlights the exceptional progress that Bhutan had made to educate its elderly citizens in rural areas with the inception of Non-Formal Education. This edition of The Druk Journal is partially supported by DIPD.

Paro Town Launch Campaign

Residents, local leaders, and Paro Dzongkhag (District Administration) came together to work towards realisation of their town’s vision “safe, clean, green, and culturally vibrant town” through the launch of campaign “I am my community” at Paro on 29 June. Finance minister lyonpo Namgay graced the launch.

Reflecting on the skit staged by students of Paro College of Education, Lyonpo highlighted the dangers of accelerated change and modernisation without foresight and the need to draw wisdom from Bhutan’s guiding philosophy -- Gross National Happiness. The launch of campaign signifies that the residents, local leaders, and planners will hereon make an effort to integrate the town vision, mission, and strategy in the developmental activities. Jute Tote bags were issued to the participants to create awareness on the campaign “I am my community”.

Tshering, a local resident remarked, “I was so moved by the students’ performance; it is different, it makes you think. You should film the skit”. About 200 people including residents, civil servants, civil society members, elected local leaders, students, and teachers from schools in Paro attended the launch.

Youth Initiative Empowers Young Minds

This year 24 youths mostly from colleges across the country underwent a four-day Youth Initiative Summer Camp where they learned policy research, media literacy, citizenship, and social consciouness.

"YI has helped me in many ways - firstly it encouraged me to self-reflect that ultimately helped me see from another's perspective, appreciating and valuing otherness. It also helped me in molding my personal capacity to solve social issues," said Choeki from Sherubtse College. Nima from the Royal Thimphu College learned on basics of finding solutions. "To find solutions, we first need to need to follow some fundamental steps such as research. This is what I learned in the YI and by applying these aspects to my project, I have been able to carry it out effectively and significantly" said Nima.

The conclusion of the 6th annual Youth Initiative (YI) was marked with five diverse presentations of research findings from the members on recycled paper souvenir products, perceptions on LGBTQI, Internet usage pattern among youths, and effectiveness of plastic ban and Nutrition.

5th Youth Summit, Learning Space for Children

Participants of the 5th Youth Summit, “Change Begins With Me” presented six proposals for action at the end of a weeklong programme at the Royal Thimphu College, Thimphu that began from 11 July.

Youths from over 23 schools including Yebilaptsa Central School, Zhemgang and Geserling Central School (GCS) in Dagana conceptualised action plans on issues such as global warming, women empowerment, divorce and its effects on youth, mental health, the negative impact of social media, and self- reliance. "From the outside, it always looks so good (referring to Bhutanese society) but from the inside, it is terrible. It's full of fear. I and my friends want to create a more positive society by helping to spread awareness of mental health. We always tend to show that things are alright, but many youths face anxiety and challenges...,” said a student from Gomtu Middle Secondary School, Bireshpati.

Another participant from GCS Kelzang wanted to work towards women empowerment. “I want to start with my family by talking about women empowerment, to start small. Then, (I) will plan to take it to school and community levels by organising a sensitisation meeting to talk about creating a conducive platform for women to express their feelings and opinions,” Kelzang said.

The residential camp brought together 117 youths aged 14-18 on a journey of self-discovery and reflection on their roles as citizens of a democracy. The summit was facilitated by 12 youths mostly from colleges who were trained in peer facilitation to co-facilitate with Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy. 

Paro Town Launches Sustainable Town Campaign
Paro Town Launches Sustainable Town Campaign
The Druk Journal Publishes Issue on Education
The Druk Journal Publishes Issue on Education
Youth Initiative Empowers Young Minds
Youth Initiative Empowers Young Minds
Youth Summit Attracts Children from 23 Schools
Youth Summit Attracts Children from 23 Schools
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Students interact with RMA Deputy Governor.
Students interact with RMA Deputy Governor.

Seminar Generates Interests in Students

Students of Gedu College of Business Studies (GCBS) submitted access to finance as the biggest hindrance for people taking up entrepreneurship during a seminar on ‘Transforming Bhutan’s Economy,’ on 16 March.

The need to improve access to finance topped the wish list of things students wanted improved to encourage entrepreneurship. “The Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) should do away with 30 percent equity in Priority Sector Lending since many young people are from poorer family backgrounds so that young people can take up the business,” stated one of the students of GCBS.

Other recommendations included, need to increase investment in human resource and export, and the introduction of international e-commerce.  Both faculty members and students also felt that entrepreneurship teaching and modules should be introduced early in schools.

Four speakers including - the Royal Monetary Authority, Deputy Governor, Yangchen, The Druk Journal Editor, Dasho Kinley, and two other writers spoke to students on Bhutan’s economy, issues, opportunities, and what needs to be done to spur growth in Cottage and Small Industries.

Yangchen Tshogyel spoke on the Priority Sector Lending initiative and on Cottage and Small Industries (CSI). She explained the RMA’s strategies to make access to funding easier, funding being the biggest challenge right now for young Bhutanese venturing into business and entrepreneurship.

“While hydropower will remain important but for a more inclusive, resilient, and diversified economy, CSI has huge untapped potential. However, for the CSIs to realise its full potential, a more integrated ecosystem is required,” said Yangchen.

The other speakers spoke on women entrepreneurship, organic farming, and one-gewog-one-product initiative which was attended by over 420 students and some faculty members.

On 15 March, a conversation was held with faculty members of the college where they shared their views on democracy and Bhutan’s economy. Faculty members pointed out the need for open discussion on politics, reflective of progressive democracy, to help them make better and informed decisions. They also called for relaxed collateral and taxation for small businesses to open up rooms for entrepreneurship.

The RMA supported the conversation and seminar at the college.


NatGeo Photo Camp Inspire Story-telling


The week-long Photo Camp organised in partnership with National Geographic to tell stories through the tool of photojournalism concluded with a photo exhibition at the Royal Textile Academy on 14 March.

The training really was an opening for some participants as they learn better photography. "I now know that photography is not just taking pictures of anything, it is all about experiencing, touching and getting into other's lives and creating, re-creating the story of my subject," said one of the participants of the Nat Geo Photo Camp.

The NatGeo Photo Camp team who accompanied 20 youth participants to Khuruthang, Punakha guided students to capture stories on a number of issues including, waste, positive face of modernity, happiness, a vegetable vendor, fashion, youth unemployment, migrant labourers, among others.

Besides basic photography skills, the camp helped photography enthusiasts to learn to engage deeply with their subjects when shooting to simply taking a snap from a distance. The camp also encouraged students to get into an intimate conversation with their subjects, following them into their homes to really understand their stories.

National Geographic supported the training.


Film on Democracy draws more than 280 


At the launch of a film, ‘Bhutan’s Democracy:  A Decade On’ on Feb 20th, it was learned that there is much more diversity in views and thoughts in Bhutan, indicating that democracy is growing. 

Former Chief Justice Lyonpo Sonam in his keynote address at the launch of the 40-minute film said that research shows that “ there has been stability, a steady improvement in people’s voice being heard, and a growing sense of accountability” in the past decade of democratisation. 

“The horizontal checks and balances by the Constitutional Office are promoting accountability and our media is continuing to render oversight of responsibilities” said Lyonpo.

Also present at the launch was the Minister for Information and Communications, Lyonpo Donnen who handed over a copy of the film to the Election Commissioner Deki for use in democracy and media clubs and schools across Bhutan. 

About 280 people including, students, teachers, civil society organisation members, press, civil servants, INGOs, MPs, political parties, and former ministers attended the launch. The documentary supported by CFLI was produced to commemorate a 10-year democracy.

The film provides a reflection on the changing socio-political landscape through the eyes of a cross-section of people including, the media, voters, and politicians. BCMD thank everyone for sharing their thoughts and views and will post the film online soon. Look out for it on our website.

The film was launched at the Royal University of Bhutan in Thimphu.


Youth Learn Filmmaking


Nestled in at the Media Lab in Thimphu, 15 motivated youth are hard at work creating original short films on social issues and the importance of civic space.

The filmmaking workshop aims to inspire youth to exercise their voice through the creative medium of filmmaking: a critical aspect of democracy. Those involved will also learn the technical aspects of filmmaking, including camera handling, editing, storyboarding, and script writing.

Each day, representatives of civil society organisations, former MPs, journalists, and film-makers and practitioners share with the group of aspiring film-makers to sensitise them on the notion of civic space. By the end of four days, the groups have generated some issues of significance to Bhutan including women’s issues, youth engagement, urban poverty, disability and how local governments handle the responsibility of democratic decision-making.

We’re all looking forward to seeing how this team can use their creativity to turn the issues into films. At the end of this ten-day workshop, five five-minute films will be produced, expressing unique points of view, spreading awareness and prompting further engagement. BCMD would like to thank the CIVICUS, National Innovation Lab and Innovation for Change (South Asian Hub), without whose support this would not be possible. 


Winter Y Camp Sparks Interests on Current Issues 


Members of the Youth Initiative (YI) will be researching issues affecting Bhutan as part of their learning to become a responsible citizen. Groups of youth, mostly students from colleges, will study the following pertinent issues: 

  1. Mobile data affordability by Chukha Team
  2. The effectiveness of providing free facilities in schools by Sherubtse Team
  3. Support for recycled products by Thimphu & Paro Team
  4. Nutritional value of food in boarding schools by Samtse Team
  5. Education level and plastic bag usage by Punakha Team.

The five groups will present their position paper during the Summer YI Camp in July. The weeklong programme in January was aimed at awakening social consciousness. Youths learned about the responsibilities of being a citizen and the skills of inquiry to understand the society in the year-long programme. “I feel like a week of awareness has opened my eyes to what is going on in the country. I am now equipped to take action,” said a YI participant, Tenzin.

Youths also saw opportunities for youth to engage at the local level with 50 percent of the budget in the 12 Five-Year-Plan allocated to the Local Government. This I was supported by CFLI.

Youths learn to be a responsible citizen.


Inspiring Community-based Change Book Published 

The impact of Local Action Plans of Community Building Initiative is now captured in a photo essay book ‘Inspiring Community-based Change’.

The publication contains Local Action Plans that youth carried out in Paro and Samdrup Jongkhar, with guidance from their teachers, thromde (municipality), and local leaders. In Paro, the publication captures the conservation of spring water in Kesa by Shaba Higher Secondary School, among other projects. In Samdrup Jongkhar, it features benefits construction of a vegetable shed brought about in

Rikhay village. Improvement of road safety at Dewathang by its primary school students are also covered in the photo essay. We thank International International IDEA, CFLI, and UNDP for making the programme possible and look forward to continued support in the coming year.

BCMD also acknowledges the contributions of CSOs based in Paro and Samdrup Jongkhar and town residents for listening to the youth proposals and sharing feedback.Our partner, the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative and BCMD are looking forward to the next phase of the project. We welcome support for our initiative to enable us to reach more people in the coming year. 

Photo Camp participant with a subject.
Photo Camp participant with a subject.
Officials launch the documentary.
Officials launch the documentary.
Youth produces five short films on civic space
Youth produces five short films on civic space
The book captures the impacts of youth as change.
The book captures the impacts of youth as change.
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Organization Information

The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD)

Location: Thimphu, N/A - Bhutan
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Bhutan_CMD
Project Leader:
Pek Sioksian Dorji
Thimphu, N/A Bhutan
$2,337 raised of $10,000 goal
72 donations
$7,663 to go
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