Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy

by The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) Vetted since 2012
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
Students present their projects in the summit.
Students present their projects in the summit.

Being change-maker in democratic setup

Thimphu, 14 July: Participants of 4th Youth Summit (YS) proposed a number of projects to tackle rural-urban migration, promote the waste management, empower women, and promote organic food production in their communities. Students will try to implement these projects through fundraising in their respective project site

The Youth Summit is BCMD’s annual event to engage young minds during summer vacation to supplement the government’s efforts to nurture socially conscious and responsible citizens.
This year, over 115 students and teachers from a number of schools colleges in the country attended the Summit with the theme: “Be the Change” held at Royal Thimphu College from 11-14 July. Among them were recent graduates and out of school youth. BCMD also trained 12 youths to facilitate the summit with support from four teachers.
Many students from Gomtu Middle Secondary School (GMSS) in Samtse and Yebilaptsa Central School (YCS) in Zhemgang were in the capital, Thimphu, for the first time. Some of the students from the two schools come from villages without access to roads. Six of the total 10 students from GMSS are also single-parent children from economically challenged families.
“We brought students from these places since we wanted to give an opportunity to the underprivileged,” said a teacher from YCS Ratna.
On the final day of the summit, participants including a number of students from YCS and GMSS presented projects their groups planned to tackle issues in their communities.  Two groups including Yebilaptsa Central School from Zhemgang proposed production of compost from food waste in schools and colleges. “If making compost from kitchen waste in schools and colleges is successful, we can expand the project to the national level,” said one of the group members.
The other groups will work on reducing rural-urban migration and women empowerment through advocacy on women health and hygiene and distribution of sanitary pads. Another group will advocate waste reduction through the use of filter water to bottled mineral water.

“We will also bring success stories of people who have returned to the villages to inspire and encourage young people to live in the rural backwaters,” said the group’s presenter, Kinley from Motithang Higher Secondary School.
Speaking to BCMD, both students and teachers agreed that Youth Summit really helped youths reflect on their role as a young citizen. “Through interaction with National Commission for Women and Children director I came to know that I can be instrumental in reducing child abuse in my community,” Tsheyang said.
Laxuman said that he’s seen a dramatic improvement in students from his schools. “These are children I have never seen participate in debates or quiz while in school and four days after bringing in the summit – they were making presentations to over 100 people. That’s the greatest achievement they have achieved,” Laxuman said.
Apart from learning to exercise voice, participants learned to explore the values of diversity, inclusiveness, and the role of citizens in a democracy. We thank UNICEF Bhutan for being a valued partner and for supporting this workshop. Catch some of the action at the Summit on a short film soon on BCMD’s YouTube.

Youth Initiative Summer Camp

Thimphu 5 July: In a move to enhance the knowledge and skills youths acquired during the winter Youth Initiative (YI) Camp last year, 24 youths from various schools and colleges participated in Summer YI Camp from 5-7 July at Media Lab in Nazhoen Pelri Complex.
Last winter the youths from different schools and colleges with diverse backgrounds attended seven-day residential training to reflect on their role as citizens. In the following months of the training, the participants initiated and implemented a number of Local Action Plans in their schools, colleges, and communities.
This year, the three-day camp focused on News and Media Literacy and news report writing. They also presented their Local Action Plans on the first of the camp.

One of the sessions of the summer training guided the participants through an interactive activity to reflect on what it means to be a good citizen.  At least 21 of the total 24 participants agreed that the activity helped them understand their strengths and weaknesses better. “I learned that I have the capability to accept all diversity of people and love them for who they are,” said a graduate from Sherubtse College Shanti.
Participants most of who are media savvy also found News and Media Literacy useful and educative to learn about online behaviour. A student from the College of Natural Resources (CNR) Pema said that after attending the Media Literacy he will always ‘think’ before posting or sharing anything on social media. “Besides that, I can also now distinguish news from the fake news,” Pema said.
Another participant from Gaedu College of Business Studies said that he learned that not all the information such as promotion and the raw information is news. "The Media Literacy taught me that we should not buy everything we read and see online and on television but use our judgment to discern the credibility and reliability of information," Yeshi said. BCMD would like to thank UNICEF Bhutan for funding the YI Summer Camp. The participants also learned news report writing. UNICEF Bhutan supported the summer YI Camp. 

Youths and Teachers Learn Peer Facilitation

Thimphu, 9 July: A group of 11 Youth Initiative (YI) members from schools and colleges and four teachers underwent training on Peer Facilitation at Media Lab to help Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) in facilitating 4th Youth Summit.
In a two-day training, YI members mostly youths from schools and colleges learned appreciative inquiry to facilitate Youth Summit slated for July 11-14 using positive probing questions to prompt reflections, imagination, and story sharing. The participants also learned the use of a contextualised version of Palmer’s Habits of the Heart to generate reflections and discussions around values of citizenship.
Besides learning coordination and co-facilitation, the peer facilitators learned the use of icebreaker, grouping, debrief, and organisation of ideas. Following the training and successive facilitation of Youth Summit participants was positive about their experience. They discovered a lot of new things about themselves and teamwork. “I learned to patiently engage with a variety of children of different age groups without sharing my personal opinion to influence them,” said a high school graduate, Pema.
A 2nd-year student from Sherubtse College, Tenzin said that the training and opportunity to facilitate YS boosted her confidence. “I discovered that I have the capability to interact with new people and work well in a team. I feel confident enough to lead sessions for youth in the future,” said Tenzin. BCMD would like to thank UNICEF Bhutan for supporting Peer Facilitation.

Women want to improve online behaviour

Women from Gomtu in Samtse who underwent a two-day News and Media Literacy from 11-12 August at Gomtu Middle Secondary School wanted to improve their online behaviour.
“I want to reduce the time I spend online and want to limit how much my children can be with their phones,” Tshering said, adding that she now knows that there is a difference between news and information shared online especially social media.
Gomtu is located at a two-day drive from Thimphu towards the southwest of the country via India. During interaction with 30 women participants, most found the News and Media Literacy relevant, timely, and useful. According to most participants, the training was an eye-opener about social media – its benefits and harms.

One of the participants, Pema, said that she would now be more mindful when commenting on social media. “I will think before posting anything about others, which I never thought before,” Pema said. 

Kinga, who also participated in the training, has asked her WeChat group friends to refrain from sharing and posting disturbing images of accident and rape victims. “They have also agreed to refrain from sharing such images and videos in the group,” Kinga said.
Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) conducted the training at Gomtu following a proposal from the Royal Bhutan Police since the small town of over 1,000 has been seeing an increasing number of social-media related domestic violence. EU and Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation supported the News and Media Literacy. 

Nuns to be smart on use of social media

For the first time, 16 nuns from nunneries in Thimphu attended a three-day News and Media Literacy Training from 30 August – 1 September at Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy’s Media Lab at Nazhoen Pelri Complex in Thimphu.

The nuns were trained in News and Media Literacy to help them become smart consumers of information and news since increasing number of nuns and monks many are highly active on social media like Facebooks, WeChat, and WhatsApp. Following the training, nuns wanted to improve their online safety and privacy. “I want to deactivate my existing Facebook account that has over 3,000 friends and start a new one. Then I will add only the people I have met and I know in real life,” said Choden.

Sonam Choden from Bhutan Nuns Foundation said that she would be more careful about what she likes, posts or shares on social media. “I will not like or share everything on social media without thinking about its consequences,” Sonam said.

Another participant, Rinchen, from Drubthob Thangtong Dewachen Nunnery said that she now knows the importance of being critical while sharing and reading information and news. “I will now check whether the news is real or fake,” Rinchen said.

EU and Helvtas Swiss Intercooperation supported the training.

Dewathang Mappers construct vegetable shed

Mappers of Dewathang in Samdrup Jongkhar constructed a vegetable shed at Rekhay following the Community Mapping programme in early 2018.

The vegetable shed has been handed over to the community after drafting a guideline on its management and maintenance. Construction of vegetable shed was one of the three local action plans proposed during the Community Mapping from Dewathang, which is located in the southeast of Bhutan. Dewathang is a two-day drive from the capital city Thimphu.

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy implemented the project with support from UNDP in collaboration with Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative. Yangchenma Private Limited, Sonam Drukpa Eastern Bhutan Coal Company Limited, Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative, and Chokyi Gyatso Institue in Dewathang also contributed to the construction of the shed in kinds and in money.

Ranjung Central School Launches News Letter

Featuring events within its campus, Rangjung Central School (RCS) launched its newsletter, ‘The Lens of Rangjung CS’ in September this year.
The coordinator from RCS, Yeshey, said that he was very happy with the efforts the students invested in producing the newsletter. “Media club is a good platform for those genuinely interested students in media to learn media and multimedia skills,’ Yeshey said.

A media club member Kinzang said that he was very proud to be involved in the making of the newsletter.’ “I learned photography and news reporting in the media club,” Kinzang said.
The newsletter featured stories on Women’s Day Celebration, Social Forestry Day, academic awards, Teachers’ Day, and International Children’s Day, among others. CISU supported the production of the newsletter.

Students Maps Communities in Paro

The students of Utpal Academy in Paro visited the nearby communities – Lango, Drugyel, and Satsham to understand people and the communities they are living in.
During the community mapping - young people to talk to community people to understand their issues and design and plan simple local actions to help resolve issues plaguing the communities. The step-down training is a part of Building Community Initiative in Paro.
Through community mapping, young mappers learn to interact with people and enable them to work in a team, and to realise their potential to bring about changes in the communities. A class 11 Arts ‘C’ student Tandin attending the training for the first time said that the training helped him overcome nervousness when talking to other people.
“I realised my confidence level was growing. I still have more platforms to face and work on it,” Tandin said. International IDEA funded the project.

2. YI members during their tea break.
2. YI members during their tea break.
3. Peer facilitators learn skills to entertain.
3. Peer facilitators learn skills to entertain.
4. The training helps improve online safety.
4. The training helps improve online safety.
5. The training helped nuns judge information.
5. The training helped nuns judge information.
6. The shed provide a space to sell farm produce.
6. The shed provide a space to sell farm produce.
Students learn local issues in Community Mapping.
Students learn local issues in Community Mapping.
Turning teachers into media literate citizens
Turning teachers into media literate citizens

Turning Teachers into Media Literate Citizens

Teachers from a number of private schools and colleges in the country were trained on Media and Democracy Literacy during a two-day workshop Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy conducted from April 23-24 at its Media Lab in Nazhoen (Youth Development Fund) Pelri Complex in Thimphu. 

A total of 24 teachers and lecturers from private schools and colleges including, Norbuling Rigter College in Paro, Sherub Reldri Higher Secondary School in Mongar in the east, Kuendrup Higher Secondary Schoo of Gelephu in the south attended the training. Four teachers from the public schools including, Tendru Central School from Samtse and Wangbama Central School in the outskirts of Thimphu also attended the workshop. 

Media and Democracy Literacy is one effective activity BCMD has been conducting over the years to educate teachers and youth to be a smart consumer of news -- in the age -- where news finds its readers and goods and services finds its consumers. People no longer have to spend hours looking for news and goods and services, they are all now only a click away. Instant availability and access to information have changed the dissemination of information, communication, business, and entertainment. The unprecedented growth in ICT and technology has changed lifestyle accross the board. 

But all is not well. The onslaught of information online has caused disharmony, discord, confusion, and chaos in the society. Often, harms of social media have led to misinformation, crime, and violence. Bhutan had its own share of such issues because of its ill-preparedness to negative effects of social media, fake news, and disinformation because of people lacking knowledge and understanding of news. 

BCMD for last few years has been training teachers, civil servants, and youth on News and Media Literacy to educate on the citenzenship, democracy, rights and responsibilities, and news and media. This time the workshop was conducted for teachers and lecturers from private schools and colleges. Teachers attending the workshop found the workshop relevant to their school media studies curriculum. According to teachers, the workshop did not only educate them on democracy, citizenship, news, and media but would go a long way in helping them impart the knowledge about news and journalism to their students taking media studies in schools. 

"The workshop will really help us in classroom teaching about the media studies," said a teacher from Jampel Higher Secondary School in Haa. 

Another teacher from Nima Higher Secondary School, ..... said that the workshop was important for her to attend as it helped her cement the understanding about news and its difference between the information, social media posts, fake news, and judging the credibility of a news report. "I knew what is news but this workshop really helped me understand the difference between news and other information," she said. 

During the workshop, a copy of the Educating for Citizenship Guidebook was also distributed to each participant. BCMD developed the guidebook as a resource for schools to help educate students on being a smart news consumer. Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy would like to "Thank" Bhutan Foundation for supporting our initiative to inspire and support youth and teachers to be smart consumers of news. 


Bhutan Democracy Forum


The State of Bhutan’s democracy was the topic of a riveting forum where speakers from Bhutan’s four political parties came together to share their views in an election year. The Bhutan Democracy Forum took place on May 11th with more than 490 people packing the auditorium at the Royal University Convention Hall in Thimphu leaving many persons standing along the corridors.

Political party representatives who spoke included Lyonpo Damcho Dorji from People’s Democratic Party, Aum Lily from Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), Dasho Neten from Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP), and Dr Tandin from Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa. Finance minister Lyonpo Namgay and home and cultural affairs minister Dawa Gyeltshen also attended the forum along with members of the newly elected National Council.

Members of the press, civil servants, civil society members, and students from schools and colleges, and international non-governmental organisations  also attended the forum.
The four speakers shared their thoughts on the state of Bhutan’s democracy based on their own experiences with democracy. Lyonpo Damcho said that Bhutan’s democracy is unique. “As the former chief justice, Lyonpo Sonam said Bhutan’s democracy is an evolutionary process, and not revolutionary,” he said. Lyonpo also called on the audience to take a matured and constructive approach to politics to avoid divisive politics. “The politicians must join hands to take a constructive approach and we must also define the role of MPs whether as NC, ruling or opposition,” he said.

Aum Lily said democracy is too important to be wasted away in petty arguments, wrong judgments or gotcha statements. To engage, we must connect, understand, and work in a spirit of harmony and respect. “... I humbly call upon all politicians, media, voters - let us set our differences aside and work on setting Bhutan off on a journey towards the best democracy in the world because Bhutan and Our Kings deserve this for their sacrifices,” she said.  

Sharing her experiences of visiting six dzongkhags, Dasho Neten said that there is a need to educate people that democracy is not just about voting every five years. “We need to advocate that democracy is not only about elections…“Everyday people have to be important – citizens have to be important. Citizens cannot be passive recipients – there has to be space for citizens voice,” she said. Dr Tandin raised concerns over the existing practice of Bhutanese voting entirely based on the promises parties to make during the campaign period. “…Therefore it is also important for our political parties to have strong ideologies on which we stand so that our voters can predict what to expect …” Dr Tandin said.

In the question and answer session, the speakers responded candidly on a number of issues including the widening gap between the rich and the poor, sustainability, sovereignty, and foreign relations.  Civic education, civil society, and media were some other aspects of democracy covered during the question and answer session. Participants talked about the importance of such open forums to enable them to meet with and better understand how politics and democracy are evolving in Bhutan.

BCMD conducted the Bhutan Democracy Forum in collaboration with Royal University of Bhutan and Bhutan Democracy Dialogue (BDD). We thank the DIPD for supporting the forum. The Bhutan Broadcasting Service will soon be screening the forum on TV. Look out for the dates to be trailed soon on our FB page and on BBS.


Second Photo Exhibition by Adolescents


Monks and nuns with 10 other out-of-school adolescents concluded their second photo exhibition on May 4-5 that was held at Royal Textile Academy.

Sharing his experience at the exhibition, one of the participants, Deyon said that the training made him realise that attractive photography is not just about the filters or the stickers. "It’s the story behind and once you move from 'what you have captured' to 'why you have captured that moment. That's when the picture truly becomes beautiful…” said Deyon.


17 October 2017: Five-day Basic Photography Training Begins.

October 19: Adolescents Starts Taking Pictures, some of which are sent to ROSA in Nepal for an exhibition.

October 20-21: Adolescents learn picture Caption.

October 22-November 1: Starts photography for an exhibition to be held in November.

November 20: Adolescents Hold Their First Exhibition at Royal Textile Academy coinciding with World Children’s Day.

20-22 March 2018: Adolescents Attends Advanced Photography Training.

May 4: Conducts Second Photo Exhibition at Royal Textile Academy.

The second photo exhibition comes after the second round of training from March 20-22 at Media Lab on advanced photography. The initial training began in October last year with support from UNICEF to train five nuns from Drubthob Thangtong Dewachen Nunnery and five monks from Dechenphodrang Monastery with 10 out-of-school youths and members of civil society.


Graphic Novel JURWA II Launched

Adding another resource for youth in Bhutan’s young democracy, BCMD launched graphic novel - JURWA II on May 11 at the Bhutan Democracy Forum held at Royal University of Bhutan, Convention Hall.

Royal University of Bhutan Vice Chancellor, Nidup Dorji launched the graphic novel which captures a slice of life in a democratising country. JURWA II is about an idyllic village Gakithang on the outskirts of Thimphu caught up in a dramatic change spurred by Bhutan’s transition to democracy. The story revolves around a young civil servant, Sangay Penjor from Gakithang and his interest to pursue a career in politics.

But as is the norm in the real world of politics, following his dreams isn’t easy. People already making assumptions and speculations about his inexperience. His will to join politics also throws his own love life into trouble. Add to this, chorten (stupa) vandals, rumours, and reporters hunting stories, we have JURWA, the story of “Changing Times in Gakithang.”

The year is 2008, when the villagers of Gakithang are overwhelmed with a historic election year – political parties, campaigns, candidates, and the hard decisions of making a choice. Jurwa is based on a 43 episode radio serial, and the first part of the graphic novel was launched and distributed last year.

The graphic novel was distributed free to over 250 students, civil servants, civil society members, and International Non-Governmental Organisations at the forum. JURWA II will be distributed to parliament, ministries, colleges, schools, and public libraries.


Another Milestone for BCMD

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) marked its 10th year of educating the Bhutanese people on citizenship, media, and democracy on May 19 with 150 of its youth alumni at Royal University of Bhutan, Convention Hall. 

The half-day event themed “Celebrating Youth Voice” included six young people sharing their reflections, journey, and aspirations. The youth speakers pointed out that BCMD was instrumental in stimulating self-discovery, inspired to be an active citizen. Its activities on media also helped youth people to make mindful use of social media and be smart news consumers. Attending BCMD’s events also enabled youth to understand rights, responsibilities, build leadership skills, volunteerism, and personal development.

Sonam, Youth Initiative (YI) alumni and MC at the event said that attending BCMD’s events boosted her confidence. “I wasn’t like this before. I wasn’t good at public speaking. Being part of YI gave me confidence and the belief that I can have an impact,” Sonam said. 

Another BCMD alumni, Karma who is a teacher at Druk School also shared about impact BCMD had in her life. Youth from schools and colleges in and around Thimphu attended the event. Some students shared that the event was an opportunity for them to connect, and get inspired by stories of youth leaders, and learn how they can also contribute as citizens.

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) was established in 2008 with a commitment to strengthen a “GNH-inspired and vibrant democracy to engage all”.  In the past decade, BCMD has organised forums that created opportunities and safe spaces for youth, academics, bureaucrats, media personnel and elected leaders alike to engage in open discussion, deliberation, and debate on current and pertinent issues.“The speakers really inspired me”, said a student of Yangchenphug Higher Secondary School who attended the event.


Think Critically When Consuming Information


Increasing number of people including the members of civil society, teachers, nuns, and monks found News and Media Literacy workshop relevant and felt the need for more such workshops across the country. 

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy conducted another round of News and Media Literacy workshop for members of civil society orgsanisation (CSOs) on 29-30 June. Over 24 CSO members including communication officers and programme officers attended the workshop. A monk from Gangtey Monastery in Wangdue Phodrang and two nuns from Pema Chholing Nunnery in Tang, Bumthang were among the participants. 

In the wake of increasing number of controversial and misleading posts on social media, participants felt that the News and Media Literacy could be an answer to online confrontation. "If people had attended media literacy before, the recent incident of a video of a group of boys bullying another boy would not have happened," Thinley from Khengrig Namsum Cooperative in Zhemgang said.  

But Thinley said that the requirement of media literacy is, even more, greater in rural areas. "News and media literacy training should be brought to rural areas since rumours and misleading information on social media is causing many problems in the communities," Thinley said.

Other CSO members felt the need to spread media literacy to more members of CSOs, youth, and school children since most are active on social media. "I will definitely talk about media literacy and social media with my family members," Yeshey from Bhutan Network for Empowering Women said. 

BCMD would like to than Helvetas for supporting the workshop.  


JURWA Series Now on Television


This year, 46 students from Motithang Higher Secondary School are attending multimedia training in Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) Media Lab at Nazhoen Pelri Complex in Thimphu every Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. 

BCMD trained another batch of students from the same school last year, who produced a number of short documentaries on the subject of their choice. Similar training on multimedia has been undertaken since it has enabled students to learn skills usually unavailable in a school curriculum. Students who came upon the recommendation from their seniors said that they found the learning environment in the training completely different from the classroom teaching. 

“Our seniors told us that the media classes here would be different but I didn't believe it. When I came to the classes it really was different. There was more interaction among ourselves and had more practical sessions which kept me engaged all the time. I hope other schools take the opportunity too,”  a class XI arts student from Motithang Higher Secondary School, Rinzin Dorji said.

During the training spanning at least for a few months, students are taught storyboard, script writing, photography, interview, research, and editing, among others. At the end of the training, students will produce a short film while working in a group. As part of their introduction to the training, students were introduced to the Filmmakers Without Borders' (FWB) curriculum. The volunteer from FWB  Jade Donaldson taught the students -- different types of animation.

Following their introduction to FWB, students are in the process of making a flipbook. The students also had a discussion on what they know about Democracy and what it meant to be an active citizen. 


Conversations in Sherubtse College

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy organised two Conversations at Sherubtse College in Kanglung, Trashigang on April 17-18 on two issues of The Druk Journal, Civil Society in Bhutan and Democratisation of Bhutan. The two Conversations were held with the Political Science students and Media Studies students of the college. 

Around 110 people including, students and lecturers from the college attended the conversations. In the conversation on civil society, the concept and role of civil society in democratic governance were discussed. Through the conversation, it was learned that the Sherubtse students take civil society and gender as courses in political science. Students volunteer in a number of activities on and around the campus.

For example, they were then cleaning up the mess from the Thuja trees that were cut down when at the time, BCMD was in the college for the conversations. 

In their feedback all the participants found the Conversation to be useful in enhancing their understanding of civil society and Civil Society Organisations.

During the conversation on democracy, views on the democratisation process in Bhutan were invited. The observations and issues raised during the Conversation were not different from the issues that are being discussed around the country. The emphasis was the need for Bhutanese citizens, both urban and rural, to understand the democratic process better. The approach to democracy and the electoral process was not very different from the real-life experiences of the students within their families and communities.

Several found the format of having an informal conversation much more conducive to exploring topics such as democracy and civil society. Open Society Foundations supported the conversations in Sherubtse College. 



Reps. of four political parites at the forum
Reps. of four political parites at the forum
Photo exhibitions by the adolescents
Photo exhibitions by the adolescents
BCMD's 10-year anniversary
MDL for CSO members
MDL for CSO members
JURWA Graphic Novel Launched
JURWA Graphic Novel Launched
A scene from JURWA TV Series
A scene from JURWA TV Series
Conversation with students of Sherubtse College
Conversation with students of Sherubtse College
The participants at the pariliament
The participants at the pariliament

Youth to Address Local Issues

A total of 24 students from schools in Thimphu and colleges like Sherubtse and Samtse College of Education participated in the Youth Initiative Camp that BCMD started in 2014. YI was started to empower youth to share their voice, impart skills in research, debate, and dialogue to build a strong community of active citizens across the country.

During their weeklong training, the participants divided into five regional groups proposed five projects they would work on after the residential camp.

Proposed Local Action Plans

  • Zero Waste Policy
  • Advocacy to Reduce Teenage Pregnancy
  • 3Rs (Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle) of Paper
  • Environmental Education
  • Advocacy to Reduce Alcohol

Students from Samtse, a dzongkhag (district) in the southern foothills proposed a “Zero Waste Policy”. This project will study the causes of food waste in Samtse College of Education to frame a “Zero Waste Policy” that the group will propose the college to adopt.

The group from Thimphu consisting of youths from the capital city proposed an advocacy programme to educate youth on teenage pregnancy. The group will educate teenagers about the ill effects of teenage pregnancy for both girls and boys.

Students from Taktse Higher Secondary School and College of Language and Cultural Studies also from Taktse in Trongsa proposed to promote 3Rs to reduce waste through reuse, reduce, and recycle in the nearby communities.

Students from schools in Lobesa-Punakha proposed to educate communities living around the habitat of critically endangered White-Bellied Heron (Ardea insignis) on the critical state of the endangered bird. They will also visit schools to educate the students on the importance of the environment.

As alcoholism still remains a major problem in Bhutan, students from Sherubtse College and Rangjung in Trashigang will conduct advocacy on the negative effects of alcohol on health and families. The group will also work towards initiating plans to reduce illegal sale of alcohol in the college premises. We look forward to following the progress of the youth in their specified activities.

The five groups are being mentored to guide them as they undertake the projects.The YI Camp was supported by UNICEF, Bhutan and a group of five volunteers.

Building Active Citizens 

Because democracy was introduced only about 10 years ago, civic engagement and roles of citizens are still new to most Bhutanese.

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) since 2008 has stepped in to educate a cross-section of society on the role of citizens and how to discover their strengths to resolve nagging local issues in their communities. Among many democratic approaches, BCMD has been piloting community mapping in a number of schools in Paro and Samdrup Jongkhar Dzongkhags (districts).

Community mapping is an asset-based approach, which focuses tapping into local resources, expertise, and knowledge to address community issues. This approach involves the community to identify, explore, and plan projects to implement developmental projects in their communities through a participatory approach. The programme aims to model a democratic approach to community development and to enhance civic consciousness in youth and local residents.

“We now have a sense of ownership because we carried out the work and feel the pinch if something goes wrong with our project,” a participant from Paro, Ruth.

In 2017, through support from IDEA International, BCMD successfully trained and implemented five projects in Paro. Students from Paro College of Education and schools implemented the following activities in various communities in Paro.

  • Paro College of Education: Advocacy on Waste Management
  • Shaba Higher Secondary School: Adoption of Spring Water Source at Kesa Village
  • Drugyal Central School: Repair of Poorly Maintained Drainage on School Campus
  • Shari Higher Secondary School: Maintenance of Drinking Water Supplies at Shari
  • Khangkhu Middle Secondary School: Repaired a Canopy on its School Campus.

BCMD in collaboration with Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative implemented four local action plans in Samdrup Jongkhar. Canada Foundation supported the mapping Samdrup Jongkhar and the students from there implemented following activities:

  • Dewathang Primary School: Improved Road Safety
  • Garpawoong Middle Secondary School: Maintenance and Clearing of Drainage 
  • Jigme Namgyel Engineering College: Constructed Four-unit Public Toilets at Dudjom House (A monastery frequented by hundreds of devotees and tourists) 
  • Youth Development Centre: Waste Management Advocacy for Tenants of National Housing Development Corporation.   

Community Mapping Results

  • Trained and Involved Over 470 Teachers and Students
  • Engaged Local Leaders, District and Thromde Officials, and Community Members in community development Through Shared Experience of Community Development
  • Helped Educating Youths, Community Members, and Residents That Their Role as Citizens Extends Beyond Just Exercising Their Rights to Vote
  • Empowered Youth with Skills of Inquiry, Research, and Critical Thinking and Analysis
  • Inspired Young Minds, Community Members, Official from Dzongkhag (districts) and Thromde (municipal) to be Active Citizens and Agents of Change.

 Creating Space for Creativity

Since it was established in 2013, Media Lab has become an important space for youth, civil society organisation (CSO) members to learn multimedia skills in audio, video, communication, debate, and networking. 

Voices and expression are important in a democracy like Bhutan. The lab provides the space wherein youth can pick up skills of self-expression through media production. In doing so, they also learn critical thinking, code of ethics of media and expression. These will contribute to fulfilling the overall objective of the lab that is “To create a dynamic, intentional learning space that engages youth” and “giving youth a voice”. Many activities were conducted in 2017. 

 282 People Trained                               

14 Activities     20 Short Movies Produced

7 Talk Raven Talk Show Held 

1 Music Video Launched

Just in 2017, over 282 youths, CSO members benefited from various programmes such as multimedia training, Youth Initiative, public speaking, basic photography training, google apps training, among others. In 2017, around 14 activities were held at media lab including, media literacy and a number of multimedia training for CSO members, communication advocacy, Google apps, and training of trainers.

Objectives of the Media Lab is:

  • To provide the members with space and equipment
  • To create space to build skills of youth n media production and to amplify youth voice and expression.

Services Available in the Media Lab

  • Basic and Intermediate Photography 
  • Filmmaking and Editing 
  • Media Literacy
  • Open-Mike Night 
  • Talk Shows

Reflecting Civil Society 

Civil society in Bhutan might have taken a huge stride with receipt of a National Order of Merit (Gold) in 2016 from His Majesty The King, but sustainability remains a serious issue with most of the civil society organisations in the country today.

The Druk Journal holds a conversation with the release of every new issue. The last issue of The Druk Journal was on "Civil Society" in Bhutan. 

“Sustainability” of CSOs was one of the main issues discussed during ‘The Druk Journal’ conversation held on February 9 at BCDM’s Media Lab at Nazhoen Pelri Complex. Over 41 people including the CSOs, representatives from Civil Society Organisation Authority, and educationists joined the conversation to share their ideas and thoughts on civil society. 

The lively discussions also touched on the role of civil society, the historical development of civil society in Bhutan and the critical role of civil society as partners with government in ensuring that development reaches the last mile as described in the Sustainable Development Goals. The conversation touched on the need for Bhutan to maintain civility in our democracy.

 “Always learn to say 'Thank You' no matter how big or small the contribution is,” Dechen.

During the conversation sustainability and fundraising were two dominant issues on, which discourse was held at length. One of the writers of the journal’s sixth issue, “Civil Society in Bhutan,” Lam said that the biggest challenge for emerging CSOs is more to do with sustaining their activities.

While proposals seem to be one of the ways to raise funds to sustain CSO activities, some of the prominent figures that worked in donor agencies have pointed out that the Bhutanese lag in writing compelling proposals.
WWF Country Representative, Dechen who also contributed an article said that the fundraising is science and requires a lot of skills. But he also shared that there are enough resources out there if people know how to leverage. “So it’s really about organisations yourselves and the way we do fundraising,” Dechen said.
The other simple trick for fundraising, he said is to be thankful. “Always learn to say “Thank You” no matter how big or small the contribution is,” Dechen said.

Speaking on the similar line, Bhutan Foundation Director of Development and External Relations, Tshering reiterated the need to say “Thank You”. “That’s the biggest part we see missing from a lot of our CSO partners,” Tshering.

“Even writing a simple note directly to the donor saying “Thank You” for the contribution you provided for helping Bhutan, I think that in itself makes a huge difference,” she said.
One advantage that she said the Bhutanese CSOs have is that the donors come to Bhutan to look at their projects. "CSOs in Bhutan have the opportunity to show the donors of what they are doing on the ground," she said.

But international consultant on sustainable development who currently lives in Bhutan, Pio said that CSOs don’t just have to say “Thank You” though it’s very important. But the CSOs have to be in a place where people come and tell the CSOs “Thank You to You”. “That’s where the CSOs want to get to. That’s where the CSOs around the world want to get to,” Pio said. The Conversation was supported by Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation.

CSOs  Talk Collaboration

Civil society organisations (CSO) agreed to come together and work to build the nation through cooperation and collaboration in its annual CSO Retreat that ended on March 30th.
About 45 participants participated in the retreat to reflect on the state of civil society in Bhutan and to identify opportunities and issues that need to be addressed to strengthen the presence of the CSO fraternity in Bhutan. Participants also came together to strengthen networking and collaboration, and to take the CSO mission, vision forward by identifying some strategic directions for the next three years.
During the two-day discussions, the CSO members reflected on their own role in developing civil society in Bhutan and what drives their commitment to the issues they work for. While civil society is facing a number of challenges, they also provide opportunities for developing civil society as the participants discovered. 

  • Enhance collaboration and coordination
  • Improve Leadership and governance
  • Improve Communication
  • Enhance visibility
  • Mobilise Resources (build capacity and finance)
  • Increase advocacy
  • Specialise and focus


  • Strengthen civil society core committee 
  • Advocate for a national level policy for a government to engage with the civil society
  • Develop a communication plan to showcase civil society contributions
  • Develop an endowment fund or trust fund
  • Gain direct access to UN and development partner funds
  • Engage media
  • Enhance leadership and governance.

The retreat was held from March 29-30. BCMD organised the retreat in consultation the CSO Core Co-ordinating Committee with support from the EU/Helvetas Intercooperation. 

Students Trained in Radio 

Members of campus radio station at College of Language and Culture Studies, Rigzhung Lungta FM 91.1 FM were trained in radio writing from 5-7 March.
Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy conducted the training to help enhance on-air, reporting, and radio magazine programme production. The radio station covers most of the gewogs in Trongsa including Drakteng and Tangsibji.

This cohort will further train other members of the college in the radio programme. The newly trained members take over to run Rigzhung Lungta 91.1FM after the present group graduates from the college.
The three-day training focused on the writing for radio, magazine production, and vocal exercises to go on air. CISU supported the training.

Youth Learn to Tell Stories

Members of civil society organisations (CSOs), government, and out-of-school youth were trained in multi-media production from March 24-27.
A total of 17 participants attended the multimedia training facilitated by a member of Friendship Association Denmark Bhutan, Marie Thesbjerg Denmark. Besides filming, the participants learned important elements of production such as framing, angling, script writing, research, and interview. 
The training focused on the three main aspects of multimedia:

  1. Storytelling: Research, framing, angle, sources, and interviewing.
  2. Finding/Identifying Stories
  3. Script Writing
  4. Edit

At the end of the training, five videos were produced on different themes. Following were the five movies. 

1. Changing Faith: A story about a boy who worked hard to make a living to support the woman who adopted him.
2. The Parking Fee Collecter:  It looks at a life of a parking fee collector struggling to make an honest living.  
3. The Toilet Cleaner: The film highlights the struggles about mother cleaning toilets to ensure brighter future for her children. 
4. Karma: Looks at the life of a caretaker in Changgangkha monastery. 
5. Women Empowerment: A story about a woman who became an inspiration to start up a business.

Talking 10 Years Democracy

The Druk Journal held the Conversation on its seventh issue, “Democratisation of Bhutan”, on March 29 at the annual Civil Society Organisation (CSO) retreat in Phuentsholing.
Democracy was selected as a relevant theme with Bhutan holding the third parliamentary elections this year to help the electorate reflect on 10 years of its transition to democracy. The latest issue of the journal looks at various dimensions of democratic change in Bhutan through 18 articles written by international and Bhutanese writers. The Druk Journal provides an in-depth look at the process of democratisation.
The articles describe our smooth and peaceful transition to democracy to the tensions during elections and political debate in a small close-knit society. The issue also features articles on challenges of social media and its impact on the electoral process.  Following the informal launch of the journal at the retreat, over 43 CSO members participated in the Conversation. 
The Conversation inspired CSO members to think about their own role as CSOs in a democracy. The members shared their own understanding of democracy and the role of civil society in an evolving democracy.
Some of the members said that CSOs must make efforts to help government become more transparent and accountable. 
The discussions covered questions like CSOs' roles in the governance of the country, gender perspectives and how social media can be tapped in a year of elections. Bhutan Network for Empowering Women Executive Director, Phuntshok said that the Bhutanese still do not trust women leadership despite the society’s high regard for women and being a gender egalitarian society. “In Bhutan, we run the risk of copying practices from other patrilineal societies, which are not really progressive,” Phuntshok said.

 The members also pointed out a loss of trust as one of the major concerns in the country. “People do not trust media, political parties, or the leadership,” said one member. "We have a trust deficit."

The Druk Journal will be distributed to educational institutions, the parliament, libraries, and subscribers. Thanks to OSF and DIPD for the support of this edition of The Druk Journal.

Students Learn Newspaper Design

Media club members from the College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS), College of Natural Resources (CNR), and Paro College of Education (PCE) were trained in Newspaper design from 17-18 March at Paro College of Education.

The training was organised to help media clubs of the respective colleges design their own bi-annual newsletters without having to outsource it. The training was conducted following a needs assessment survey after finding out that the clubs had difficulty in designing a newsletter because of the lack of design and layout training.
The participants learned newspaper design in Adobe Indesign and Photoshop applications. The training was a first of its kind for the media club students. A participant from Paro College of Education, Tashi shared that it was her first time using these softwares. Designing a newsletter was a new knowledge for her.
A lecturer from College of Language and Culture Studies, Choney said, “I have never been so satisfied after a training. I am excited about teaching my media club students,” Choney said.  
Another participant from CNR, Tashi shared that the training gave her an important knowledge. “After attending this workshop I can say with confidence that we can now improve our college newsletters and magazine. It will help in standardising it, too,” Tashi said. CISU supported the training.

Refresher Course for Nuns and Monks

Nuns and monks from Thimphu who underwent “Basic Photography Training” last year were given a refresher course to enhance their photography skills.

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy conducted the training in collaboration with UNICEF Bhutan at the centre’s Media Lab from 22-23 February. A total of 10 nuns from Drubthob Thangtong Dewachen Nunnery and Dechen Phodrang Monastery and a few other adolescents attended the refresher course facilitated by local photographers.

Most of the time the monks and nuns are left out of such training, but when we are given an opportunity, we do our best...,” Rinchen.

The participants underwent a basic training in October last year. During this refresher training, the facilitators helped the participants review the photographs from an exhibition in 2017 and went out for a shooting. 

The photography training has come as an opportunity to monks and nuns, who normally are uninvolved in such activities. “Most of the time the monks and nuns are left out of such training but when we are given an opportunity we do our best. We will share what we have learned from this training with our friends,” Rinchen, a nun from Thangtong Dewachen Nunnery said.

By enabling monks and nuns to learn photography, we are also giving them an opportunity for self-expression. The group with other adolescents will conduct their second exhibition in April. The refresher course was supported by UNICEF Bhutan.

Teachers Trained in Mapping

For a democracy to succeed, everything cannot be left for the government, but many people do not understand that democracy is also about responsibility as much as the rights of the people. 

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) has been initiating community mapping activities to instill civic consciousness among the Bhutanese people to help build community and sense of active citizenship. After the centre successfully trained and implemented a number of projects in Paro and Samdrup Jongkhar, another group of teachers, out-of-school youths, Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative, and dzongkhag officials were trained in community mapping in February. 

Thank You

Teachers mapping their communities in Paro
Teachers mapping their communities in Paro
The lab is open for membership now
The lab is open for membership now
Sustainability remains a big issue for CSOs
Sustainability remains a big issue for CSOs
Civil society organisations to work together
Civil society organisations to work together
This group will take over the radio station
This group will take over the radio station
Participants during their shooting
Participants during their shooting
CSOs talked about collaboration with government
CSOs talked about collaboration with government
Students will design better their news letter
Students will design better their news letter
Monks and nuns learn advanced photography
Monks and nuns learn advanced photography
Teachers at the community mapping training
Teachers at the community mapping training
Nuns trying out their cameras during the training
Nuns trying out their cameras during the training

Basic Photography for Adolescents

Adolescents from monastic schools, schools, and out-of-school of ages between 14-19 underwent a five-day ‘Basic Photography Training’ with five members of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from October 17-21, 2017 at Nazheon Pelri in Thimphu.

The training was held at Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) media lab at Nazhoen Pelri.

BCMD in collaboration with UNICEF conducted the training to give adolescents including monks and nuns an opportunity to learn ‘Basic Photography’ to be able to express themselves and record issues and concerns affecting their lives and society at large. 

UNICEF has been using training in ‘Basic Photography’ as one of the many ways to empower and enable adolescents to record and document issues and concerns affecting their lives. A total of five nuns from Drubthob Thangthong Dewachen Nunnery and five monks from Dechen Phodrang Lhakhang participated in the training. All the monks and nuns were among the age group of 14-19.

Nuns and monks alike expressed their joy in having been given the opportunity to participate in the training. “I really enjoyed using the camera and meeting new people and interacting with them while taking pictures,” a nun from Drubthob Thangthong Dewachen Nunnery, Tsheltrim said.


Adolescents Conducts Photo Exhibition


Coinciding with “World Children’s Day”, adolescents from monastic schools, out-of-school, and school-going children who have been taking photographs since their recent training, shared their results in a “Photo Exhibition” on November 20-21, 2017 at Royal Textile Academy in Thimphu.
The exhibition was a result of five-day training that BCMD conducted in collaboration with UNICEF Bhutan on October 20-25, 2017 at BCMD’s media lab in Nazhoen Pelri Complex. 

The exhibition, which carried the theme “The World Around Us” #We Are The Future #Children Take Over was an exhibition # By The Children #For The Children to “Celebrate the Creative Spirit of The Bhutanese Children”. 

The exhibition displayed over 40 best photographs taken by adolescents including the nuns from Durbthob Thangtong Dewachen Nunnery, monks from Dechen Phodrang Lhakhang (monastery), school-going, and out-of-school children. 

Besides landscapes, adolescents had documented the myriad of issues such as poverty, sanitation, social media, disabilities, and lack of recreational facilities for children, etc. Speaking at the end of the exhibition, UNICEF Bhutan, Head of Child Protection and Adolescent Development, Aniruddha said that the participants have done extremely well in photography. “They took so many good pictures that we had difficulty in selecting pictures because all the pictures were really good,” he said. 

The same batch of adolescents will conduct another round of photo exhibition in February 2018. BCMD in collaboration with UNICEF Bhutan conducted the training and exhibition for 20 adolescents and five CSO members.


Students Complete Local Action Plans in Paro

BCMD's Community Mapping project in Paro has contributed to the growth of some young active citizens.

Youth were involved in five projects over a span of three months. The Community Mapping was initiated to help build community initiative among the citizens including local residents and students.

After participating in the project, students from Paro schools and college say they have learned to develop a sense of belongingness and ownership in the community they live in. The students say they learned to be responsible, active, and take part in volunteer activities through community mapping.

Khangkhu Middle Secondary School student, Ruth said that their attitude towards the community changed following the community mapping and implementation of a local action plan to address local challenges. “We now have a sense of ownership because we carried out the work and feel the pinch if something goes wrong with our project,” said Ruth. Her school tool up a project to renovate a school canopy on campus.

Students of four schools and Paro College of Education shared their experience while presenting the outcome of their local action plan on December 3, 2017, to the Paro Town Committee.    

Shaba Higher Secondary School (SHSS) student, Kinga shared that he learned the skills to examine more closely the issues affecting the community such as social, economic, and environmental and how to address those issues. The higher secondary school’s initiative has ensured safe drinking water through the adoption of Kesa community’s only drinking water source.

A student from the Paro College of Education, Sonam said that his team had rich learning experience despite the challenges of achieving the outcome of their waste management advocacy programme. “My team had learned a lot like communicating with the stakeholders and community, and tackling issues within issues,” Sonam said.

Students of Drugyal Central School stayed late into the night to complete their project on time. The students repaired the dilapidated drains in the school. The mappers from the school also acknowledged a huge turn out of volunteers, some of whom they had to turn down since they already had enough.

Shari Higher Secondary School took up maintenance of water pipes and taps at Shari. A total of about 120 students from four schools and Paro College of Education were involved in the Community Mapping exercises - a joint pilot project Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy initiated by Paro Dzongkhag. IDEA International supported the local action plan projects.

Community Mapping at Samdrup Jongkhar

Students from schools and a college in Dewathang in Samdrup Jongkhar Dzongkhag  (district) have improved road safety and infrastructures such as public toilets through their community mapping initiatives last year.  

Dewathang is one of the gewogs (blocks) located in the southeast of Bhutan, which is about two days drive from Thimphu via India.

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) with Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative trained students of Dewathang Primary School (DPS), Garpawoong Middle Secondary School, and Jigme Namgyal Engineering College (JNEC) in community mapping. The training was to inculcate civic consciousness in young minds to take up simple local action plans in their community.

DPS put up road safety sign boards along the Samdrup Jongkhar-Trashigang Highway. The students also painted zebra crossings and speed breakers to ensure safety for school children, teachers, and pedestrians.

Garpawong Middle Secondary School carried out maintenance and clearing of 3.5 km of drains along the Samdrup Jongkhar - Trashigang Highway through mobilisation of about 300 volunteers from the school. Trashigang-Samdrup Jongkhar Highway is the lifeline for people of the east, which connects the region with the rest of the country.

The other group from Youth Development Centre and out-of-school carried out advocacy on waste management and cleaning campaign at National Housing and Development Cooperation. The advocacy programme helped 56 households in understanding waste management and segregation.

Students of Jigme Namgyel Engineering College built 4 units of public toilets for Dudjom House, which is a popular picnic spot and also most visited the place by outsiders.  

The project involved more than 350 people including students and community people. Canada Fund supported the community mapping exercise of Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative.

Training and Empowering CSOs 


Members of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and media professionals were trained in recognising sensitive issues and effective story-telling to advocate for issues considered “sensitive” at Media Lab in Nazhoen Pelri Complex in November last year. 

Some of the difficult and sensitive issues covered were substance abuse, domestic violence, even suicide and other issues that pose difficulties for the CSOs that work on them. 

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) organised the training, “Communications and Advocacy Workshop” on November 27-28, 2017 for CSOs and media houses. On the first day of the workshop, panelists from Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency, RENEW, National Suicide Prevention Programme, and Kuensel shared their views on what is considered sensitive in Bhutan and how different organisations including the media dealt with these tricky issues. 

“ I realised that we used to simply report on our work, but now we can find the compelling story to show our impact, “ said Cheychey from Abilities Bhutan Society. 

The participants were then introduced to different elements of effective storytelling - how to tell stories that inspire target groups to take action. On the second day, the participants developed advocacy strategies related to their respective agencies’ mission and vision, which they shared at the end of the workshop. 
Another cohort of 12 CSO members was also trained in finance for non-finance, which was conducted to familiarise and educate language finance for professionals from a non-financial background. The training was held from October 28 to November 3 last year. 
Between December 18-29, 2017, BCMD organised another training to empower the civil society organisations (CSOs) on finance management, accounting, and auditing.  The training provided hands-on training in auditing, prudent investment for organisations and methods to establish appropriate internal financial control systems through putting in place regulatory provisions.
The Druk Journal on "Civil Society in Bhutan"

A strategically timed issue of The Druk Journal on “Civil Society in Bhutan” was released on November 23, 2017 to help the Bhutanese understand the importance and the role of Civil Society. 

As Bhutan moves away from its traditional self-help society, little is known about the importance and roles of the civil society organisations (CSOs) in the country. 

While the foundation of strong governance have been laid and corporations and private sector are growing, these sectors usually do not provide for everyone in the society. Many, mostly the vulnerable groups such as people living with disabilities and HIV AIDS, LGBT community, impoverished rural communities, vulnerable women, and children are left out. 

This issue of The Druk Journal looks at the emerging role of the civil society in Bhutan, which began more than 44 years ago with a group of youth opening radio news and entertainment station to today’s 22 CSOs that received a National Order of Merit (Gold) from His Majesty The King in December 2016. 

With contributions from a number of international and Bhutanese writers, this issue also delves deeper into internal challenges of the CSOs such as funding and human resource constraints as civil society strives to strengthen its role in an emerging democracy. 

Teachers Trained in Media Literacy Training 

Teachers from schools in Thimphu, Paro, Wangdue Phodrang, and Chukha Dzongkhags who attended the three-day Democracy and Literacy Training found the BCMD's training relevant as it comes at a time when there is a proliferation of information through media.

“We would like to thank BCMD for a very insightful and eye-opening session on democracy and news and media literacy,” one of the teacher participants, Kinley said.

Others said that media literacy has become a day-to-day need more than ever with increasing number of children and villagers gaining access to Smartphones, which is a source of infinite information. “I think it's high time that news and media literacy is spread to the villagers since this is where people need it the most,” said another participant teacher.

Democracy and Media Literacy was the first such pilot training for teachers that BCMD conducted from December 19-21, 2017. The three-day training was conducted for 24 teachers. The workshop enabled teachers to explore democracy and roles of active citizen and news media in a democracy.

Though the country saw a growth of newspapers since the inception of democracy, people are yet to understand the power of information and benefits of an open society in a democracy.

Many still express reservations to express their opinions freely. Sharing information even for constructive reasons remains a challenge. BCMD’s training was a small initiative to help people open up and accept different culture, class, ethnicity, and views with respect.

The democracy and news media literacy training was funded by Bhutan Foundation and DIPD.


Public Service Announcements on Democratic Values



Bhutan is going to the polls next year, but many people still do not understand fundamental democratic values like equity, equality, mutual respect, and civic engagement, among others.

Most people still confuse equality with equity. Bhutanese, in general, are also yet to learn mutual respect and how to respect freedom of expression and be inclusive while democracy becomes competitive with election campaigns.

To help people understand and learn about the fundamental aspects of democracy, BCMD in collaboration with IDEA International produced a series of Public Service Announcement (PSA) on eight core values of democracy. The eight short PSAs are on equity, equality, inclusiveness, mutual respect, freedom of expression, transparency, accountability, and gender equality.

The PSA on mutual respect talks about the increasing culture of taking pictures and sharing it online. The film raises the question of whether it is right to take pictures of accident victims to share it online and how posting such inappropriate and disturbing visuals can impact the victims and their families.

The other PSAs also raise a number of questions about democratic values. The film on freedom of expression talks about inculcating a culture of healthy debate to develop tolerance to opposing views.

All eight PSAs that were produced last year were aired on national television, Bhutan Broadcasting Service and were uploaded to our youtube. 

Photos taken by adolescents on display
Photos taken by adolescents on display
The students ensured safe drinking water
The students ensured safe drinking water
CSO members attending the non-finance training
CSO members attending the non-finance training
The Druk Journal on CSOs being printed
The Druk Journal on CSOs being printed
Students clearing the clog in Metsina Stream
Students clearing the clog in Metsina Stream
Teachers found the MDL insightful and useful, too
Teachers found the MDL insightful and useful, too
Community Mapping in Samdrup Jongkhar
Community Mapping in Samdrup Jongkhar
A footage from mutual respect PSA
A footage from mutual respect PSA
Students work in groups in youth summit
Students work in groups in youth summit

Youth Summit (Youth as Change Makers)

BCMD organised its annual Youth Summit: Youth as Change Makers from July 26-28 for youth across the country. Youths from various schools like Rangjung Central School and Sherubtse College in Trashigang, and Yebilaptsa Central School in Zhemgang attended the summit.

Students from College of Natural Resources, Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Science (KGUMS), and other youths from nearby schools and graduates also took part in the Youth Summit. Few teachers from these schools and faculty members from some colleges also actively participated in the summit as facilitators. 

During the three-day summit, the 91 youths who were divided into six different family groups proposed six step down action plans. All the six action plans are oriented to the communities around their colleges and schools.

Six action plans were proposed by six family groups, which were formed regionally for the ease of implementation of the projects.

Names of the six groups were derived from the word “Change” since this year’s summit was themed “Youth As Change Maker.” Each group had its name from a letter each of the word change.

Creative (Yebilaptsa Central School, proposed to protect drinking water source. 

Hope (KGUMS): Make pre-hospital First Aid training to students.

Accessibility (CNR Graduates): Work towards reducing automobile workshops effluents from running into a stream at Metsina in Punakha.

Nightingale (CNR Students): Work towards reducing automobile workshops effluents from running into a stream at Metsina in Punakha.

Gender (Students from different schools and LGBT members): Teach English in nunneries.

Explorers (Sherube College and Rangjung Central School): Help the unattended old people in the villages of Trashigang with clothes, food and medical care.


Youth Initiative Camp Trains Youth 

A teacher trainee from Paro College of Education wanted to use texts, audio, images, and video skills she acquired from YI Camp conducted from July 17-21 to improve her teaching skills.

 Inspired by the training, she said that using multimedia skills could be one way to make classroom environment livelier. “I can use these skills to make teaching more attractive to students,” the teacher trainee said.

During the three-day training, participants were taught multimedia, which includes the use of texts, images, film, and audio. At the end of the training, each group produced a one-minute long programme on different subjects.

Other participants also had different ideas to use these skills to bring out struggles of farmers. Some college students wanted to hold a documentary competition to keep them in touch with their skills.

The YI Camp also covered sessions on News and Media Literacy. This session included news neighbourhood and power of information. Participants were also educated on judging news credibility and how verification, independence, and evaluation actually separate journalism from rest of the news outlets.

Participants also learnt about fairness and bias, the two vital aspects of journalism. Since social media is become an indispensable part of modern media, the session also covered the issue of social media and ethics surrounding it.

Multimedia Training of Trainers

Fourteen participants from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Youth Initiative (YI) members and teachers produced four two-minute audio-visual productions with the theme “local hero” during a training from July 12-14.

They featured four different characters that were locally inspirational. They included a specially disabled man practicing woodcarving, a man selling balloons for a living, and another physically challenged man pursuing body building and the life of a young musician, rapper.

All featured characters were from Thimphu city. The Training of Trainers included photography, scripting, story pitching, research and interview, among others.

BCMD trained 14 participants from Civil Society Organisations, Youth Initiative Members and teachers on multimedia production to enable them to conduct such trainings at their own respective organisations and schools in future.

TV Series, ‘Jurwa’ and Music Video ‘Dear Prime Minister’ Launched

Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) launched its first ever television series on “Jurwa” and released a music video “Dear Prime Minister” to commemorate the International Democracy Day on September 15, 2017, as the country’s young democracy entered its 9th year.

Representatives of all the five political parties and Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) came to talk about the state of Bhutanese democracy at the launch to mark the democracy day. The National Council members, government officials, foreign delegates, press, and members of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) graced the occasion.

Teachers and students of democracy clubs from various schools in Thimphu also came to observe the launch to celebrate the democracy day. Both music video and Jurwa TV series were launched as independent productions on democracy to educate people about democracy and its values such as the rights, duties, and civic engagement.

“Jurwa, Changing Times” is a television series filmed in a rural setting of Gakithang village, a hamlet in the fringes of Thimphu. As the series unfurls, an election is around the corner. A young civil servant, Sangay Penjor, the lead character in the story sees an opportunity in politics.

But his political journey isn’t going be a walk in the park. Scepticism looms from the start as the news of Sangay’s wish to contest the elections spreads in a traditional village largely dominated by the elders. Sangay’s love, Yeshey Tshomo doesn’t seem to like the idea of him leaving a secure government job for murky politics, either.

Her father, Ap Doley’s distaste for Sangay further deepens when he hears about the former’s intentions to compete against the latter’s nephew and the incumbent Member of Parliament from Gakithang, Sonam. Sangay’s own childhood friend, Kuenga Rabten who is also in love with Yeshey Tshomo and is in the good books of Ap Doley is seething with jealousy when he hears the news of Sangay’s political aspirations.

But Yeshey’s mother feels otherwise. She thinks Sangay could prove to be a better leader despite his disadvantaged age. She feels Sangay could even be a better man than Kuenga Rabten for Yeshey Tshomo.

As democracy lets its frenzy times lose, the small close-knit community is gripped with tumultuous political events. Subsequent political events push everything including their relations with family, friends, and neighbours to the brink. Opinions are divided even among the family members. Chaotic is the new times of democracy.

As Sangay Penjor ventures into politics, his political voyage highlights some of the challenges Bhutan is facing as a young democracy, today. Much of his experience can be related to issues, political and social ills, we face in everyday life, since Bhutan’s venture to the new form of government in 2008. With elections bound next year, in 2018, there is only so much we can learn from Jurwa.

Dear Prime Minister” is a music video informing people that our ties of family, relatives, friends, community, and nation are far more important to be divided by mere political differences.

As the song is played out – a number of questions are raised about democracy and politics, that everyone can relate to their lives. It relays a message that the Bhutanese democracy can be a vibrant and unique one, in a sense – it should rather blend people together as families, friends, community and nation than divide.

During the launch marking the International Democracy Day, ECB representatives and members of the five political parties spoke about the state of the Bhutanese democracy to over 200 participants.

Paro Town Committee Attend Local Action 

Students from Paro College of Education (PCE) and four schools from Paro presented findings of their community mapping exercises to Paro Town Committee during a seminar on September 8.

The second town committee meeting in Paro was held with a seminar on “Supporting people-centred community development through action research” led by the Faculty of Sociology, Kansai University Professor Takayoshi Kusago. Dzongkhag sector heads, CSO members, teachers, students and residents attended the seminar of lessons on how action research community development has contributed to community building in Japan.

Following the seminar, teachers, and students from schools including, Shaba and Shari Higher Secondary Schools, Drugyal Central and Khangkhu Middle Secondary Schools, and the Paro College of Education shared their experience and knowledge of having engaged with the communities. They also presented findings from the mapping exercises to the Paro town committee.

The mappers have identified relevant and urgent issues in Paro communities and pitched ideas to address the problems. The schools are going to work on the following projects in coming months:

  • Shaba Higher Secondary School – Conservation of Spring Water Source
  • Khangkhu Middle Secondary School – Renovation of Canopy on the school campus
  • Drugyal Central School – Construction of Drains in the school
  • Paro College of Education – Construction of Public Toilet at Bondey
  • Shari Higher Secondary School – Advocacy on Water Shortage at Shari.

 Celebrating Civil Society

Little is known and covered about the contributions of Civil Society Organisation (CSO) to towards the nation-building. Many still misunderstand CSO as one of the government entities mostly either because of ignorance of the people or because it fairly is a new organisation to the country largely dominated by governmental support. 

But CSO Fraternity is making a consistent effort to reach out to a larger audience and create awareness of civil society. Last year, CSO fraternity has come up with an annual event called CSO Fair. This year, maintaining the previous year's theme "Celebrating Civil Society," over 33 CSOs including the Mutual and Public Benefit Oganisations came together to mark the event on October 13-14, coinciding with the Royal Wedding Anniversary of Their Majesties. 

During the two-day fair, CSOs displayed some of their products to generate some revenue through the sale of their products. While few CSOs like Bhutan centre for Media and Democracy put up on sale some of its publications including, The Druk Journal, Monarchy and Democracy in 21st Century, other CSOs like RENEW, Tarayana and YDF tried to sell some of their handicraft products. Lhomon displayed some of its bags and purses made from the recycled pet bottles and plastic wrappers. 

 The event also conducted a photography contest on the themed "Our Gyenkhu" translated in literal meaning as 'Our Responsibility.'

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay enjoys music video
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay enjoys music video

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Organization Information

The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD)

Location: Thimphu, N/A - Bhutan
Twitter: @Bhutan_CMD
Project Leader:
Pek Sioksian Dorji
Thimphu, N/A Bhutan
$1,570 raised of $10,000 goal
53 donations
$8,430 to go
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