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

Reimagining Bhutan Policy Brief

With the submission of the 21st Century Economic Roadmap and the issuance of the Royal Kashos, the policy brief from BCMD and UNDP’s Reimagining Bhutan series has never been more timely and relevant. The series seized the opportunity provided by the pandemic to reflect and recommend bold policy suggestions on themes of governance, technology, economy, environment, education and social protection by drawing on the knowledge of experts and local non-governmental thought leaders. The policy brief provides recommendations which the partner organisations believe will help address the drastic changes and reformations taking place in the country.

You can access the policy brief here: http://bcmd.bt/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Policy-Brief.pdf

Remaining ‘Apolitical’ in Bhutan’s Democracy

The theme for Bhutan Democracy Forum 2021 – Being “apolitical” in democratic Bhutan – sought to open the space for a discourse on several interconnected questions around ‘apoliticalness’. Bhutan’s democracy isn’t about political parties or elections alone; it is an everyday exercise and it is only as strong as the participation of its citizens. However, having to remain ‘apolitical’ is often a barrier in deepening and expanding the discourses on Bhutan’s democracy.

The discussion highlighted the tightropes civil servants have to walk as they implement decisions made by the elected government of the day irrespective of their political preferences, and to protect national interests at the same time. In talking about civil servants being apolitical, a panelist shared that policies and politics cannot be separated. Their political stance is important to ensure that in designing and implementing policies, they bring on board the full benefit of their past experiences and their professional expertise and not be influenced or coloured by their political preferences.

The discussion also brought to light the struggles of the Media that have the responsibility to inform the nation in accessing information from public servants and institutions who tend to self-censor in the name of being apolitical. For the same reason, common forums tend to be poorly attended by the educated echelon as they fear the risk of being misconstrued as "political"; this, in the view of political parties, defeats the purpose of common forums and undermines informed choice.

Public institutions keeping the Media at bay on the one hand and the growing popularity of social media, on the other hand, engenders the risk of social media that abounds with unsubstantiated and unregulated information shaping citizens' views and perceptions.

The promotion of public forums, think tanks, critics and commentators who conduct independent research were recommended to help the public make informed decisions.

The forum was attended in person by the national assembly speakers, parliamentarians, representatives from the government agencies, political parties, press and more whereas 238 university lecturers and students and other individuals from within and outside the country joined the forum via Zoom.

The forum will be aired on BBS and will also be uploaded on BCMD’s YouTube channel. The proceedings of the forum will also be printed and distributed to stakeholders.

The forum was held in collaboration with the Royal University of Bhutan and is supported by the Danish Institute of Parties and Democracy.

Building Better Communities

The Building Community Initiative in 2021 is designed for our local leaders, administrators and community representatives to strengthen their capacities in the development of the gewog plans by effectively engaging the residents.

19 participants attended the three-day training on Community Mapping. It gave them a chance to relook at the definition of community and what makes it strong. The Shaba Gup shared how the lockdown helped him realise that all residents, not just the registered voters, are equal members of the community. It is important for the local elected leaders to consult and address the residents’ concerns and aspirations as much as that of the voters of their constituency.

This project is supported by the Asia Foundation with the aim to strengthen inclusive and participatory planning and decision-making at the local level where elected leaders, administrators, and citizens engage in genuine consultation and democratic decision-making processes.

Making Sense of Strategic Communications

In continuation with the Civil Society Engagement Workshop conducted in September last year, BCMD developed a Strategic Communications Guidebook for Civil Society. This interactive guidebook is designed to help organisations develop a communications strategy so they can achieve their programmatic, fundraising and advocacy goals.

This guidebook will be distributed to civil society organisations in an effort to help expand their reach, network of supporters, partners and constituents. It can also be found online at: http://bcmd.bt/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Communications-Guidebook.pdf

This project is supported by EU Helvetas.

Dynamic Approaches Towards Learning

Designed in an intentional, graphic-driven and easy-to-understand format where each section builds on the previous one, the peer facilitation guidebook will supplement the peer facilitation training offered to help model and execute a radically different approach towards learning. The facilitative approach not only integrates the head, heart and hands when solving problems but more importantly does this in an inclusive, fun and experiential way. In the past, BCMD has utilised this approach to co-facilitate the Youth Summits which is attended by 100+ youths from across the country.

Nevertheless, the peer facilitation training remains highly flexible and lends itself to be used in a variety of settings to solve a variety of problems. This guidebook will help institutionalise the best practices so that this approach can be easily taught and replicated by other interested changemakers.

You can find the guidebook at: http://bcmd.bt/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Peer-Facilitation-Guidebook.pdf

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The Druk Journal Conversation on Urbanisation
The Druk Journal Conversation on Urbanisation

Youth Initiative – Learning the Ropes of Social Media Campaign

“Now more than ever, as a part of the generation that grew up with the internet, I believe it is the role of all young Bhutanese to become media literate in a world that is constantly bombarding us with overwhelming amounts of raw information. So my expectations for this summer camp is to … learn how we can use social media to become good participants of democracy” (Teacher at Rukubji Primary School & Youth Initiative (YI) Participant).

Building on the learnings and achievements of the winter camp where 20+ YI participants reviewed the National Youth Policy (NYP), the YI summer camp began with a lot of excitement! In its seven years of running, this has been the first time that it has been taken on an online platform with the participants joining from various parts of the country. Nonetheless, the conversation and attitude remained focused on the silver lining that this pandemic has provided in making us experience the potential that technology has in bridging distances and conserving resources.

The participants discussed the meaning, significance and relevance of Social Media Advocacy Campaign which remains the theme for the virtual summer camp.

Starting with their 60-second advocacy pitch, the 7th cohort of YI members launched their campaigns on various social media platforms. After examining the issues from last winter’s review of the NYP, the members came up with four issues to develop further into advocacy campaigns: Share your story (mental health awareness), #IWish (Education), Highlighting responsible stories (Governance) and Every job is noble (Economy).

All projects were up on Facebook & Instagram, where the members shared messages based on their content calendars developed after receiving training on leveraging social media platforms and tools. “The only way out of this mess was to grow stronger and let no one look down on me. As time passed, all the hate that I received never bothered me…it always made me feel like I can be an independent person so that I can walk down my path.” (Excerpt from Health & Wellbeing group).

Continuing to strive towards sustained youth engagement in policy dialogue and deliberation, the members, presented their learnings and challenges from carrying out their respective pilot Social Media Advocacy Campaigns at the closing ceremony. The members received feedback from those in the audience to think about ways to reach youth who are not on social media and to think about the sustainability of their pilot campaigns.

Within a month of campaign launches, the members were collectively able to receive a total of 3,000 ‘likes’ on their pages and an estimated 85,000 total ‘views’ on their video content posted. The learnings and skills from running virtual social media campaigns will prepare them to become advocates for the NYP when it eventually gets passed.

We thank CISU for your support in making YI possible. 

Youth Voices: Youth Matters Report 

‘Youth Voices: Youth Matters’ report will become a useful resource for both policymakers as well as youths with interest in socio-political matters of Bhutan, as it captures a youth-led, youth-driven and youth-centric model of engagement and participation within policy. This approach marks a significant change in Bhutan where youths have traditionally been seen as passive recipients of policy decisions and not as stakeholders that need to be engaged and consulted. 

The report provides the entire National Youth Policy (NYP) revision process by Youth Initiative (YI) members; it includes their own review of the policy, their roles in leading consultations with 114 other youths of Bhutan from various walks of life, and also the online survey that was launched to widen the reach to 1,099 other youths. 

However, the most treasured section of the report consists of pertinent and extant issues that have been identified across various thematic areas by youths themselves and corresponding solutions and interventions that they would like to see implemented. The report weaves together the ‘big picture’ of the landscape that youths navigate in Bhutan through a large quantitative set of data; with the indispensable testimonials and revealing glimpses into the thoughts of youth through the qualitative data gathered during the consultations. 

You can now access the report here:

https://bit.ly/3rskpjj

This report is supported by UNICEF, Department of Youth and Sports and Ministry of Education.  

Reset! At the Media Lab

‘Reset! at The Media Lab’ puts young recent graduates and those looking for jobs in direct conversation with thought leaders, practitioners, academia and others from diverse walks of life to discuss matters revolving the socio-cultural, economic and political landscape of the country.

In ways more than one, the COVID pandemic has forced us all to ‘hit the reset’ button as individuals and societies are affected indiscriminately. Everything from the micro to the macro level has been affected. Previously invisible gaps and shortcomings in our systems and way of conducting ourselves have been made much more visible. As such, Reset! at The Media Lab will provide the platform to revisit the various aspects governing Bhutanese lives and society to recognise the shortcomings and gain clarity on charting the way forward. So far, three sessions have been organised which are further detailed below.

 

1. Governance in Modern Bhutan

“Only when the tide goes out do you discover who is swimming naked” – Warren Buffet

Mr Ramakrishna incorporated this metaphor in his presentation to compare it to the COVID-19 pandemic, pointing out that most countries were unprepared and caught by surprise. His insights on emerging stronger through digital paradigm shift aptly characterises the urgency of a digital transformation needed in sectors such as governance.

Dasho Kinley also compared this to Bhutan’s context when discussing the persisting challenge of the gap between the planning and implementation of the policies. He also emphasised on how COVID-19 brought these key governance challenges, such as the need for developing a proper house addressing system, to the forefront.

This discussion on governance enabled the participants to assess the similarities of issues faced both by Singapore and Bhutan such as management of the migrants in the labour force.

2. Institutions: How Do They Matter?

The session highlighted the concept of “Institutions being the projections of societal beliefs” to help present a holistic understanding of the topic. The conversational exchange revolved around how collective values enshrined in norms, lay the foundation for both the formal and informal institutions in a society.

Dasho Sangay, a former member of parliament, spoke on formal institutions as being more than infrastructures such as parliament, and the role of community in formalising social practices over time to strengthen the existing informal institutions. Dr Sonam, a curriculum developer in values education at the Royal Education Council, pointed out that informal institutions such as rituals, invoke community ownership and help the individual to participate actively in reinforcing these social practices as well.

The dialogue discussed in great length about the narrative of the institutions in Bhutan, the role of collective values and the significance of incorporating a balanced approach in tackling institutional challenges.

The voices within the space included educators, entrepreneurs, young professionals and students from the Political Science & Sociology Department, Royal Thimphu College.

3. Climate Justice

How do we approach the middle path to secure a sustainable ecological development while promoting economic progress that is justifiable and socially responsible?

What is our vision of sustainable economic development for Bhutan?

The thought-provoking questions by the speakers initiated a critical discussion on climate justice in Bhutan.

Thinley, an independent consultant and former chief at the Climate Change Division in the National Environment Commission, presented a comprehensive overview of the environment acts and policies in Bhutan. This enabled the audience to understand how Bhutan is working toward achieving sustainable ecological development, and also shed light on the citizens’ role during the consultations of these legislations.

Pem, the Director of Landscape Enterprise, Agriculture & Forest Programme in Bhutan Ecological Society, gave a holistic view on sustainable development through concepts such as the 9 planetary boundaries. She argued that although Bhutan has a grand vision, it lacks focus, which hinders incorporating policies that uphold the GNH model when dealing with problems such as waste management.

An important takeaway from this discussion was the responsibility of the citizens in being aware of how our actions disrupt the ecosystem and compromise the inter-generational equity.

There was a large turnout of Zoom audience with a total of 239 students of Environmental Science, Eco-Geography, Population and Development Studies from Sherubtse College, and 39 students of Sustainable Development from the College of Natural Resources.

We would also like to extend our gratitude to CISU - Civilsamfund i Udvikling for supporting Reset! At The Media Lab.

Reimagine Bhutan, Building Forward Better Beyond COVID

The unsustainability of Bhutan’s socio-economic and development policies have been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has been exemplary in responding to the humanitarian crisis at hand while simultaneously preparing economic contingency plans to stimulate economic growth. Now more than ever, it is important to make policy decisions that not only prepare for recovery but are also able to transform our society for a sustainable future through whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches.

In light of this, UNDP in partnership with Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy organised Reimagine Bhutan, Building Forward Better Beyond COVID, a conversation series on themes that are critical for Bhutan’s development.

The #ReimagineBhutan Conversation Series started in September with the conversation on Future of Work, Skills and Education that touched on topics such as TVET integration, network intelligence, liquid workforce and micro-skills development. The panellists provided policy suggestions that must be made to build a more resilient 21st-century workforce and an adaptive, robust labour market.

With Bhutan’s economy projected to plummet to a record low of 1.1% due to the pandemic, the Future of Economy was discussed next to understand how the Bhutanese economy could be steered towards a resilient and sustainable path. The need for an enabling ecosystem for the entrepreneurial sector to flourish, the opportunity to address structural issues in the economy and build reforms that will drive the long-term product of the economy were discussed.

The next conversation series kicked off the discussion on how the pandemic has heightened the need to put Bhutan on the path to Green Recovery. Changes in policy and financial incentives to support green business ideas, the cost-effectiveness of green technologies in the long run and a system shift in recovery are required if Bhutan is to build back better.

The penultimate conversation on Social Protection discussed building a social protection system that is not only inclusive but is sustainable and shock-responsive. The speakers also pointed out the need for better coordination across agencies and to bridge the gap between policies and implementation.

The Conversation Series wrapped up with the theme of Anticipatory Governance where ideas about regulatory sandbox initiatives and grassroots collaboration among civil society, private and public sectors were put forward to encourage an ecosystem for anticipatory governance.

The conversation series provided a platform for individuals to provide transformational and no-regret policy choices that that are much needed for Bhutan to #BuildForwardBetter and to shape a society that is resilient, inclusive and sustainable.

Druk Journal Conversation on Bhutan in the Age of Technology

The second Druk Journal conversation on the theme: Bhutan in the Age of Technology was attended by enthused participants from Sherubtse College, Gyalpozhing College of Information and Technology and College of Science and Technology and a small in-person audience. Questions regarding blockchain technology, the widening digital divide, further developing online payment systems, cybersecurity and difficulty for students in ICT to find jobs/internships were discussed during the conversation.

The conversations started with the three speakers and their perspectives on the theme of Bhutan in the Age of Technology. Jigme spoke on Digital DrukYul – a cross-cutting flagship programme that enables government agencies to work more collaboratively and to help create a governance mechanism where investment in technology is a collective endeavour rather than siloed initiatives by ministries. The aim is to leverage technology to deliver equitable access to online services for all citizens. Dr Tshering stressed on the rising need for a technological transformation to strengthen our economy. He said the modest success of the Thimphu TechPark shows we can benefit from technology but consistent effort and political commitment is required to sustain this success. Ujjwal spoke about technology being an ecosystem and leveraging its use for societal benefits. He also highlighted the need to find a Bhutanese technological pathway — to figure out which technology is worth investing in? And how to leverage that technology for the everyday consumer and the next generation.

A question at the conversation was about revisions to the Digital DrukYul in light of the pandemic and Jigme agreed that it has opened up vast opportunities to make changes to specific sectors of the programme especially in education, which has been massively affected. Had there been a robust infrastructure, there would not have been issues in continuing education. However, plans are being developed to accelerate the implementation of Digital DrukYul.

The Druk Journal Conversation was funded by DHI and DIPD.

Rethinking Urbanisation - The Druk Journal

The fall issue of The Druk Journal, ‘Urban Bhutan - the Story’ has been published and it explores the topic of urbanisation in Bhutan. Bhutan had the advantage to learn from the failures of others’ development, to ensure the same mistakes weren’t repeated, however, it appears our developmental path has not steered into the direction we had hoped.

The opportunity presented itself to develop well-planned towns and aesthetic cities as Bhutan opened up in the 1960s but attempts at creating urban centres have been far from successful. Efforts from the government have been immense in developing long-term structural plans with the help of foreign experts but there has always been a shortfall in implementation of these plans. With more and more emphasis being placed on technology & digitisation and cities around the world exploring the idea of “smart cities”, Bhutan is still far behind with a capital city that is barely able to cater to the needs of people with disabilities.

This issue is supported by Civilsamfund i Udvikling (CISU) through Bhutan Denmark Friendship Association, Danish Institue for Parties and Democracy (DIPD), Bhutan Foundation and Helvetas Bhutan.

This issue of the journal can be accessed at www.drukjournal.bt

Subsequently, the first Druk Journal Conversation on Urbanisation in Bhutan was organised and generated discussion surrounding the rapid urbanisation of Thimphu, failure of implementing the Thimphu Structure Plan (TSP), the need for community participation in the development process and more. The session was moderated by the Editor of The Druk Journal, Dasho Kinley.

Meghraj, the first Bhutanese urban planner, spoke about the failure to implement the TSP due to lack of funding and resources and highlighted co-ordination amongst relevant authorities as a problem with most organisations choosing to work in silos. Siok, an editorial member of The Druk Journal, spoke about the importance of the inclusive development processes with wide consultations and engagement of end-users in the planning and design process. Tashi, the Chief Urban Planner from Works and Human Settlement Ministry, spoke about how the introduction of the zoning system during lockdown is paving the way for urban planning and development in Dzongkhags across the country. Jigme, a lecturer at College of Science and Technology (CST), spoke about rental unaffordability in Phuntsholing with the market being driven by private developers, thereby inflating the market.

More than 100 students and faculty from CST attended the conversation via Zoom and a small in-person audience of 22 were present at The Media Lab, which included the current and former Thimphu Thrompons, urban planners from the MoWHS, Thimphu Thromde (City Corporation) and private design firms, members from the political parties, architects, development partners and the media.

Thank you to DIPD & JICA for supporting the conversation.

Facts vs Misinformation in an Infodemic

With overwhelming information on COVID-19 and the rise of the ‘infodemic’, it has made it crucial now more than ever to be critical of what you see in the media. With the lack of media literacy, Bhutanese citizens, including individuals who are actively facilitating to keep people informed and aware, were unconsciously sharing information and pictures that were not verified, including fake news. In light of this, Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy conducted the training on “Facts vs Misinformation in an Infodemic”, which was attended by 85 participants from different schools, colleges, and individuals who are in the frontline assisting the medical professional fight the pandemic like officials from the Ministry of Health (MoH), and volunteers from the Bhutan Red Cross Society, Bhutan Taxi Association, and De-Suung.

The first workshop heightened the critical lens of 21 educators and curriculum developers who were trained as facilitators of news and media literacy by Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) given the urgency to educate the society that is experiencing an onslaught of information both useful and useless.

The discussions revolved around inculcating the value of news in the society especially when we are unable to distinguish between real news and fake news. “I was never critical of the news and media information I consumed. Now I wonder how much of my values and what I believe are my own or are shaped by what I have consumed from social media. I realised the importance of analysing and consuming media information critically.” Pema, Teacher, The Royal Academy.

Taking back insights to integrate into his process of curricula development, Ugyen from Royal Education Council (REC) shared: “I now understand that the news and media literacy training by BCMD also focuses on democracy and it is quite different from the Media Studies of the REC … the content is similar but the approach is very different. I learnt a lot of very insightful approaches.”

The second workshop was attended by De-suung, MoH officials, and volunteers from the Bhutan Red Cross Society, Bhutan Taxi Association.

As volunteers helping the government contain the virus, the participants were made to think of how the training has changed the way they use media – both as a producer and as a consumer, to be cognizant of their own biases and predispositions, and the need to understand their target audiences.

“Since the [start of the] pandemic, I was delegated to the National COVID-19 Media Team and that is when I had to work on creating content…Whatever the MoH was releasing on social media or any other platforms, we could have used the tools we were taught here today. I think it would have helped us disseminate ideas more professionally…this is a very helpful platform for us to learn and for inner growth and to create quality content for Bhutanese citizens.” Kinley, Ministry of Health.

The closing was graced by the Honourable Health Minister Lyonpo Dechen. Lyonpo highlighted the importance of the training and mentioned the struggles MoH faced at the start of the pandemic dealing with disseminating information but mainly with the spread of fake news and misinformation, which not only created panic in the public but also cost the government in terms of time, money and resources.

Thank you to Give2Asia for their support in filling this critical gap in news and media literacy.

Media Literacy Participants Become Media Nomads

The training on Media and Democracy Literacy inspired a number of initiatives that expanded the reach of MDL to 37 parents and teachers in Paro and Punakha and 450 students in Thimphu.

“Media literacy must be introduced to students from pre-primary because children as young as six years old now have access to gadgets and the internet.” said the Principal from Olathang Primary School, Paro. The 9 teachers at the training in Olathang reflected on their online behaviours and felt the urgency to develop a social media guideline to model positive online behaviour and review the existing social media guideline of their school.

Meanwhile at Lobesa Secondary School, Punakha, 28 parents deliberated on the double-edged nature of social media.  The parents reconciled that children can’t be denied access to mobile phones, however, it is equally important to introduce quality family time to connect and share the benefits and dangers of the internet among other things. “A broken mobile can be repaired at the repair stations but a child spoiled [addicted] to a mobile can be difficult to repair.” said a parent. To start that process at home, the parents co-developed social media guidelines for their families -- one of which was to watch the news as a family. 

At Wangbama Central School, Thimphu, around 450 students received an introduction to media literacy. The major learning for the students was having the tools to distinguish news from other forms of information and misinformation.

We would like to thank Give2Asia for supporting this project.

Youth Initiative participants at the summer camp
Youth Initiative participants at the summer camp
Participants after the 3rd Reset! at The Media Lab
Participants after the 3rd Reset! at The Media Lab
MDL training for Olathang Primary School teachers
MDL training for Olathang Primary School teachers
Participants developing social media guidelines
Participants developing social media guidelines
Preparing for the closing of Youth Initiative 2020
Preparing for the closing of Youth Initiative 2020
Panellists from the five Conversation Series
Panellists from the five Conversation Series

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Participant at the media literacy training
Participant at the media literacy training

Druk Journal Conversation

The first-ever Online Druk Journal conversation on the theme, Bhutan in the Age of Technology generated much excitement among the college students and faculty members of Gyalpozhing College of Information and Technology (GCIT) and political party representatives on Saturday, 30 May.

The online conversation was held in light of ongoing restrictions on gathering in the wake of a global pandemic. Three speakers who contributed to the spring issue of the journal, Bhutan in the Age of Technology spoke on Bhutan’s plan to stay relevant in the technology age. Jigme spoke on Bhutan’s ICT masterplan. The second speaker, Kinley talked about what the Royal University of Bhutan is doing to improve and prepare ICT in tertiary education. The third speaker, Ujjwal shared how Bhutan is planning on science, technology, and innovation to find a Bhutanese path.

During the Q&A session a student from GCIT, Sonam asked about the government’s plans to reduce digital inequality between the rural and urban areas. Jigme who is also leading the Department of Technology and Telecom said that a large chunk of resources is being allocated to improve connectivity in rural places. “…Our focus is on how to make the Internet affordable… We are also looking at regulatory measures to bring down Internet usage costs,” said Jigme.

Cybersecurity, employment opportunities, use of IT to improve public service delivery, and the importance of opening the third Internet gateway, etc. were other issues discussed in the conversation. 

This issue of The Druk Journal is supported by DIPD, Druk Holdings & Investment and EU Helvetas.

 

Enabling Inclusive Citizen Participation

Chencho, a teacher from the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf shares some of the impacts the News and Media Literacy workshop has had in the lives of the deaf students in terms of inclusivity, access to information, and citizen education.

“I realised that my deaf students had no access to news and information that is critical for them as a citizen in a young democratic country.”

Media literacy is important for our students who are also on social media and read news and information online. After availing BCMD’s training, we conducted basic training for students from classes PP – X to impart critical skills and methods to judge and analyse information and news. This session was planned to prepare our students against mass information, fake news and rising online threats.

I feel the lack of access to information and platform for the deaf people has been an issue in the country. We need to be conscious and create resources and enabling platforms for deaf students to develop their interpersonal skills, boost confidence and self-esteem to be able to share their views and concerns openly, and participate in conversations.”

Teachers and students of Wangsel Institute attended the BCMD’s Bhutan Democracy Forum in 2019 where elected leaders, decision-makers, media personnel and the academia were also present. A pertinent issue about the lack of information for the deaf students beyond the classroom was raised then and it has gone on to spur discussions on the topic outside the forum towards building inclusive plans and policies.

 

Youth Voice in Youth Matters

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy has had the opportunity to lead and capture on film the youth engagement process of the National Youth Policy (NYP) review.

In an increasingly audio-visual world, the 14-minute video takes the viewers along the journey with the Youth Initiative (YI) members as they undergo the various stages of reviewing the youth policy. It models an approach that remains youth-centred, youth-led and youth-empowered. 

Besides the journey of the YI members, the video also seeks to educate viewers who might not have been aware of the NYP about its importance and implications to the overall development of youths in Bhutan. With a mix of narration as well as the voices of the youths as they engage in conversations on issues that impact and surround the lives of young citizens, various challenges are highlighted. Subsequently, suggestions and recommendations from the youth are also presented in hopes of contributing to nation-building as we chart the way forward for youths to achieve their full potential. 

The process documentation was supported by UNICEF.

 

Reimagining Bhutan’s Education and Economy

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy conducted the forum Reimagining Bhutan’s Education & Economy at the YDF conference hall that saw three speakers, including a youth, engage in discussion about the impacts of the pandemic and its future implications.

Sonam highlighted the importance for teachers to break the cycle of “dependency”. Even after months of e-learning, students are relying on teachers for instructions, and teachers are relying on the Royal Education Council for directives. On a similar note, Karma highlighted the importance of “continuous learning” and the need to unlearn and learn new skills as evident from teachers feeling technologically challenged when lessons moved to online platforms.  Among issues like social inequity and technological divide, the forum touched on pertinent challenges within the education system like the lack of connection between curriculum and economy and the news skills that need emphasis  (e.g. creativity, self-directedness, critical thinking, adaptability, technological skills etc.) 

In terms of employment, the need to change people’s mindset regarding the jobs individuals take on was emphasized. The unemployment rate amongst youth is high and there is a desperate need for labourers in the construction and agriculture sector, yet people still refuse to apply due to the stigma of doing vocational work. If the importance of vocational work was made socially acceptable, more youth would be motivated to apply for the jobs. This pandemic has shown that society should no longer wait until individuals are desperate enough to increase interest and employment in skills-oriented work. A participant opined that children have been brought up to focus on education to obtain high-paying jobs and it is not only an educational issue but a social one. Investing in work environment safety, mechanising, and professionalising were some of the suggestions from the audience in addition to emphasis on greater collaboration between private and vocational institutes to bridge the current gap between mismatch in skills and the market requirement. The forum also touched upon bigger structural issues like challenges in inter-agency collaboration and cooperation within the public system.

This forum was supported by CISU.

 

Media Literacy Amidst an Infodemic

With a deluge of information on social media due to the current pandemic, News and Media literacy has never been more relevant and necessary than now. It is hard to figure out which information is verified and from a valid source and which ones are not. 

With physical distancing and other measures put in place, Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) conducted the News and Media Literacy and Being a Good Citizen training in five batches for the teachers from Project Mikhung partner schools - Drukgyel Central School and Shaba Higher Secondary School. We also held the training for the town committee members and government officials as well as BCMD staff. Overall, 49 participants, 27 female and 22 male took part in the training.

The discussions during the training gave participants the opportunity to discuss what it means to be apolitical, the need to know the difference between news and information and journalistic values in a democracy. Limited democracy literacy and citizenship education were among the many reasons the citizens disengaged from the democratic process.

“As a counsellor, I have an increasing number of students availing counselling services, with issues related to social media like cyberbullying, poor time management, fake news, low self-esteem, not being mindful of their social media post and comments resulting in bigger issues. I am sure that this might be the issue that most of the other counsellors might behandling. Therefore, this training on media and democracy will enable us to understand our students better and provide all the necessary information and skills,” said Tshering.

One of the participants never voted as she was overwhelmed with politics in our neighbouring countries and having to be apolitical as a civil servant. However, attending the training made her realise that change is possible. “Having attended this training, my values of good citizens are unfolding only now,” said Sonam. 

One of the training also consisted of a session on ‘Meeting the Press’, which included representatives from BBS News, BBS Radio and Kuensel, both the press and the participants had the opportunity to clarify what a productive and conducive environment would look like for them to be able to work together as elucidated by the Editor from Kuensel, Ugyen, “It is important for [the government] and the media to work together – I see the group here as the bridge between the media and the people. When the information is not clear- it raises more doubts and questions.”

The participants also conversed about the values of being a good citizen, especially the value of respecting diversity — an important and integral aspect of democratic culture. Tashi, a Gewog Administrative Officer said, “In a democracy, political parties led by a woman have different perspectives than a party led by men in framing policies and therefore, we need to respect those diverse perspectives.” Women remain a  minority when it comes to political representation and it is only by respecting the diversity that we will be able to encourage women’s participation in politics.

Youth Summit in Pictures  

A Photographic Journey seeks to capture and convey the essence of the journey that participants of Youth Summit (YS) undergo to transform themselves from youth citizens on autopilot to socially-minded proactive citizens.

Covering three years (2017 – 2019), the picture story provides a visual narrative of the depth and context of the stories of change experienced by the participating youth. The picture story not only takes the viewers through the events, sessions and the interactions during the camp but also covers the self-directed initiatives undertaken by the participants after the camp. “After the Youth Summit, I started thinking and gained a lot more confidence. I started believing that I can contribute to society and that I can make a difference…,” said a YS participant, Rinchen.

Click here to enjoy the picture story: http://bcmd.bt/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Youth-Summit-Book-1.pdf

Participants at the media literacy training
Participants at the media literacy training
Youth Summit - A Photograhic Journey
Youth Summit - A Photograhic Journey
Discussion at the Reimagining Bhutan forum
Discussion at the Reimagining Bhutan forum
Snapshot from Youth Voice in Youth Matters
Snapshot from Youth Voice in Youth Matters
Meeting the press session
Meeting the press session
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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 … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfWn66r0nDs



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 http://drukjournal.bt/

 

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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The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD)

Location: Thimphu, N/A - Bhutan
Website:
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Twitter: @Bhutan_CMD
Project Leader:
Pek Sioksian Dorji
Thimphu, N/A Bhutan
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