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

Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy (#21600)

 

Transforming Planning Processes at the Grassroots

The highland communities of Merak and Lumang in Trashigang brought community residents beyond the regular “head of the family” to discuss community development needs. The consultation used the Gross National Happiness-Based (GNH) Participatory Planning Toolkit of BCMD which provided multiple lenses to co-investigate community issues in an inclusive setting.

A local leader from the Lumang community stated that it was the first of its kind in the region and helped the community ideate new developmental plans.  

 

The year ended with a 5-day Training of Trainers (ToT) on GNH-Based Participatory Planning and Community Analysis with 12 diverse participants from Trashigang and Monger on 26th November 2022.  

Check Kuensel’s article on the event: https://kuenselonline.com/gnh-based-planning-for-lgs/

 

 A Collaborative Policy Review for Social Protection 

Over twenty public officials and civil society organisation members representing vulnerable groups (women, People With Disabilities, LGBT+ and youth) underwent a week-long training of trainers (ToT) workshop on Design Thinking.

A mental health worker remarked, “As a civil servant, we rely on our experience and qualification to develop policies, but this doesn’t necessarily encompass the experiences of the vulnerable groups. The Design Thinking workshop made me realise how dangerous it is to look at the world from our desks alone.”

Following the ToT, in October, close to seventy participants from vulnerable groups - women, people with disabilities, single mothers, recovering addicts, and LGBTI community members - including government officials attended a week-long workshop to look at social protection issues through Design Thinking processes. 

On the last day of the workshop, a participant shared that the workshop was an ‘awakening’ experience for her as she got to hear lived experiences of PWDs, youth and women and it made her understand the purpose of her work.

 

 Bringing Youth to the Centre Stage

The 2022 Youth Summit focused on promoting child-friendly local governance. Thirty-two youths and 12 local leaders, including district administrators, attended the 5-day Youth Summit in Tsirang. The Summit saw the budding of a trusting relationship between the Local Government leaders and the young participants. 

Check out this article by Kuensel covering the event: Empowering youth to build child-friendly LG | Kuensel Online

Here is the link to the news covered by Bhutan Broadcasting Service (Dzongkha news: 1:11:36 – 1:14:55 English news: 3:14:35 – 3:17:58) 

Tendrel- a Citizen Engagement Platform was launched on October 15th to crowdsource citizen views on pertinent issues. Kickstarting the platform, over 4,436 youths and citizens took part in a poll on “How should Bhutan balance economic development and environmental conservation?”

 

Nurturing a Media-literate Society  

Cyberbullying, phishing, misinformation and personal data breaches are growing concerns in the digital world. Forty-two local leaders from Thimphu and Paro attended a 3-day workshop to raise awareness on such issues and to prepare the local communities to navigate the digital world more safely.

Thirteen participants including Members of the Parliament, Assistant Research Officers, and officials from constitutional agencies received a three-day workshop on media and democracy literacy. An official from the government agency surmised, “Information as a public good is essential for making decisions. However, when authoritative sources do not engage the media, the danger is the consumption of misinformation and disinformation by the masses.” 

 

 Nurturing Democratic Student Representatives 

Democracy is best taught when it is lived. To infuse the school culture with democratic values, BCMD organised a “Nurturing Student Representatives” workshop for middle and high school teachers of nine schools.

One key takeaway for many participants was that student leaders are more than information disseminators and it is necessary to involve them in decision-making in school activities. Referring to the workshop developed for schools, a participant noted that “the workbook is the immediate resource that will help them ‘materialise’ the democratic culture in schools, and prepare students for the future”. 

 

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A photo session from the Bhutan Democracy Forum
A photo session from the Bhutan Democracy Forum

Strengthening decentralised planning at the Local Government level

As the planning process for the 13th Five Year Plan commences by mid 2022, 61 LG office bearers and community residents from Thimphu, Paro and Trashigang are equipped with community analysis tools and facilitation skills. A planning officer noted how the tools would be useful in gathering the ‘actual needs’ of the people and enable a shift from the current infrastructure focused developmental plans to addressing social issues. A Tshogpa  from Genkha remarked on the timeliness of the training as  22 out of 44 participants were newly elected members. 

 

Conversation on “Democracy Today”

Keeping up with the biannual publication of The Druk Journal, two Suja Dzaw Conversations were held on the theme ‘Democracy Today’. The Conversation’s attendees involved a diverse group that included the political parties and the media. The Conversation discussed a wide range of topics from political ideology to the teaching of civics in the Bhutanese Education system and democracy as a means to realise Gross National Happiness: 

 

Looking towards equitable growth after pandemic

As the country emerges from the whirlwinds of the pandemic, the Bhutan Democracy Form 2022 was organised on the theme “Equitable Prosperity through Inclusive Growth.” 

The Forum deliberated on numerous and pressing issues such as the need to stabilise the volatility of Bhutan’s economy, diversify the economy from hydropower that is vulnerable to climate change, and the need to invest in R&D to forecast economic opportunities and shocks. 

About 130 participants from government agencies, political parties, civil society organisations, the media, academic institutions and schools attended the Forum.y

 

Sharing ideas in the Bhutan Democracy Forum
Sharing ideas in the Bhutan Democracy Forum
Local leaders with their cob-web exercise
Local leaders with their cob-web exercise
A local leader presenting in the Gallery walk
A local leader presenting in the Gallery walk
A Conversation attendee reading The Druk Journal
A Conversation attendee reading The Druk Journal

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Integrating media and democracy literacy
Integrating media and democracy literacy

Teach one, Reach all - Multiplier Effect of Teachers 

BCMD conducted training for over 150 teachers from 5th January to 23rd March on media and democracy literacy. The in-person and virtual training included teachers from Tsirang, Thimphu and Tashigang districts from both public and private schools. The sessions included how to verify information in an age of infodemic, safe and responsible use of social media as online learning becomes the new normal during the pandemic, how to distinguish fake from real news and so on. 

The teacher participants prepare to conduct in-school professional development sessions to spread media literacy and start media clubs in the schools.

Youth Engagement for Inclusive Decision making

The winter camp of Youth Initiative 2022 began in January with 26 youths deliberating on the theme of climate change. The youths identified mitigation and adaptation strategies to tackle climate change. These solutions from the youths are uploaded on Youth Conversations Platform, a digital platform, to crowdsource ideas and seek citizen views on the poll question, "What can Bhutan do to tackle Climate Change?" The findings of the poll would contribute to informing programmatic decisions for parliamentarians and policy-makers.

Continuing to put the youth at the heart of our discussion, 46 teachers, youth and members of civil society joined the Suja Dzaw conversation in December to talk about the role of the youth in tackling climate change, children in difficult circumstances and what our youth learn. 

In the same month, BCMD supported Camp Rural Urban Friendship (RUF) with 130 copies of Jurwa: Changing times (parts 1 & 2) - a graphic novel on Bhutan’s transition to democracy. The novel follows the difficulties and triumphs of the protagonist, a young civil servant, as he aspires to stand for a seat in the parliament.

“I finished both Jurwa novels in one day. I liked the book because it followed the story of a youth who wanted to do something that usually adults are seen doing. I learnt that women and youth should also stand for elections and that they are equally qualified to become leaders of our country”, shared a high school student at the Camp. 

Cultivating a civic mindset and civic action

Civic education is vital to democratic forms of government. It equips and empowers citizens with the agency to influence and shape society and be active in democratic processes. The ongoing pandemic demonstrates the complex nature of social issues that require different sectors, organisations and individuals to join forces for effective responses. To contribute to shaping a democracy that serves Bhutan’s needs, BCMD organised a webinar on Cultivating Civic Mindset and Civic Action on 25th March 2022.

Over 800 people from diverse backgrounds – secondary and tertiary educators, students, policymakers, district administrators, local and international NGOs along with engineers & planners, police officers and doctors – and from all over Bhutan registered for the webinar. 

With perspectives from international and national academia and practitioners from the school and civil society contexts, the webinar shed light on the status of civic education in Bhutan and how to harness it to address societal needs. The webinar also called attention to the role of parents in developing a civic mindset and how it is related to spiritual practices. 

  

Winter Youth Initiative in action
Winter Youth Initiative in action

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Closing of #FutureIsNow Advocacy Campaign
Closing of #FutureIsNow Advocacy Campaign

Celebrating the Closing of the #FutureIsNow Advocacy Campaign

Reaching almost 600,000 people (total country population is approx. 770,000) within the span of five weeks, the closing ceremony for the #FutureIsNow advocacy celebrated the progress of the campaign. Bringing together the youths who worked on the campaign and important stakeholders from the government and parliament, the closing also created a rare opportunity for youths and adults to inhabit the same space and discuss issues surrounding youth realities in Bhutan. Both youths and guests alike commented repeatedly on the need to work with each other to tackle youth issues that are cross-cutting in nature.

The Secretary from the Ministry of Information and Communication had this to say: “Sometimes as a senior bureaucrat, I tend to get my priorities mixed up. So I think such events try to put things in the current perspective… Today we have multiple agencies whose independence and autonomy seems to be more important than… putting issues in the middle of the table and discussing to find a path forward”.

The closing which was graced by His Excellency the Foreign Minister also saw the official launch of the ‘Youth Voices: Youth Matters’ report which captures the voices of the youth reflecting on their realities and aspirations. Lauding the efforts of the youth and BCMD, the Foreign Minister remarked that this would be a current and up-to-date resource for the government to utilise as they continue their work on addressing the youth issues in the country. Thank you to UNICEF and CISU for the support in carrying out this campaign. 

 

Harnessing the Power of Civil Society

This year’s Roundtable built on the previous one from 2019 titled, ‘Civil Society and Nation-building’, to explore in-depth, what “an enabling environment” for civil society organisations constitutes and its benefits to society. The three speakers brought a range of perspectives to the question of how we “harness civil society potentials”; from explicating how civic action is embedded in traditional Bhutanese culture to how civil society inheres potentials for greater contribution to development as evidenced during the pandemic, to the need for aligning goals with larger issues of climate change for effective fundraising.

The roundtable also unearthed current restrictions placed on CSOs especially at the registration process and how that has negative implications in creating a vibrant and giving society. A panellist, Dr Karma (one of the country’s respected intellectuals and historians) proposed that the registration should be made very easy but should be complemented with effective and strict monitoring of funds afterwards. Other discussions revolved around the comparative advantages of CSOs as small and nimble actors that have effective reach and understanding of their respective niches.

“From the Ministry of Health, we look forward to and see the opportunity to work together with CSOs because there are lots of emerging health challenges coming up. So far we have been working together with CSOs on advocacy mainly but if the capacities of the CSO can be built up further, they can even contribute in technical areas… They are also more closely and have better reach at the grassroots level so it is an area where we can work together”

– Dr Pandup, Secretary of Ministry of Health

The roundtable was attended by a total of 49 participants from various ministries, constitutional bodies, political parties, local government, parliament, media, judiciary, academic institutions, and fellow CSOs. As the civil society Act is due to be tabled for amendment in the 2021 parliament session, we thank CISU for making the roundtable possible.

 

Learning to Care about One’s Community

“The workshop inspired me. I had never cared about anything other than myself but now I know I am responsible for my community too.”

        – Student, Sherubtse College

Earlier in October, 50 students of Sherubtse College completed a four-day asset-based community mapping workshop. Asset-based community mapping is a tool that puts community members at the forefront of community development. As the participants mapped assets and shed light on issues in their community, they shared that they felt empowered to engage in their community’s development. The workshop ended with participants sharing creative ideas to address issues they care about.

Throughout the four days of the workshop, the participants were also accompanied by 13 other students who were trained in peer facilitation in July 2021. The peer facilitators were able to share their earlier mapping experiences and helped facilitate the learning process of their peers. “I was a timid and shy person. But now I’ve gained confidence and am able to share my opinion without hesitation. Also by learning to respect others’ opinions, I think I’ve become a better person”, shared peer facilitator, Tsheten.

With support from the peer facilitators, participants are currently designing local action plans to address highlighted issues. The local action plans will be implemented in the following months. 

 

Practising Democratic and Inclusive Public Consultation

Tshering, a De-suup (volunteer corps raised to respond to emergencies) said, “I have gained a better understanding of some of the community’s issues and how community development plans are presented as a result of this consultation. We youths have never been included in any community meetings before, but today’s consultation provides us with a chance and a platform to express our issues and challenges. As a result, I believe that young engagement in this type of dialogue will become increasingly essential in the future.”

Participants who were earlier engaged in the participatory planning and decision making workshop in August worked in groups to practise inclusive public consultation in unravelling community issues and assets, prioritising and drafting their community development plans. A total of six consultations were conducted in six localities across Thimphu and Paro.

The consultation was carried out using BCMD’s Gross National Happiness-based toolkit, which uses the four pillars of Gross National Happiness philosophy as a framework of holistic analysis. In the following month of October, the above development plan will be presented at an appropriate forum to influence the community development plans and policies. This project to enhance decentralised planning at the local level was made possible with support from the Asia Foundation.

 

Bringing Monks, Nuns and the Women of the Armed Forces up to Speed with Digital Literacy

In two rounds of workshops, 28 monks and nuns from the central monastic body and 40 women from the armed forces were engaged in a Media and Democracy Literacy (MDL) training. During a critical time when misinformation is rife and countries struggle with disinformation, this training is equipping vulnerable citizens with the skills to verify news, stay safe online and use media as a tool for constructive feedback and discourse.

I was inspired by His Majesty the King’s message that to excel together as a community or country, we need to catch up with the rapidly digitising world. So, I reached out to BCMD to provide this training for our monks and nuns, who are very vulnerable to the abundance of fake information on the internet”

            – Lopen(Sr. Monk) Thukten, the media focal person at the Central Monastic Body.

The participants were trained to judge the authenticity of news articles and reflect on their social media habits. The monks and nuns also developed social media guidelines from what they had learned over the three-day training. His Eminence the Laytshog Lopen, graced the final day of training and instructed the Media Officer to compile the guidelines so that they could be further refined and distributed across the country to other monks and nuns. Numerous monks and nuns expressed their joy of learning to become media-literate; “This is something new for us. We’ve been using Social Media but we didn’t fully understand the privacy and security risks that we are vulnerable to”, a nun said. 

Likewise, a woman from the armed force group shared how her “teenage kids have Facebook accounts but I don’t know what they use it for”. The 2-day Media and Democracy Literacy training with 40 other women from the armed forces colonies engaged them on topics such as the advantages and disadvantages of social media.   

Pema, police personnel and mother expressed gratification for having been able to attend the training and added, “Just like how this training was given to us (mothers), I would like it if this training was also given to teachers in schools. Because these days, children seem to approve more of what they hear/ see at school than at home.” This project was supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund.

 

Educating Future Educators on Proactive Citizen Engagement

Trying their hands in community mapping for the first time, on 25th October, 20 first-year students from Paro College of Education presented their project ideas to address community issues in their localities. Issues of plastic waste, ill-maintained community landmarks and lack of housing for college students emerged as a result of their mapping exercise. 

The mappers had the opportunity to interact with and receive feedback from diverse members of the community, such as teachers, local leaders, district administrators, civil society members, etc. who constitute the Paro town hall. Together with the town hall members, they also reflected on the practicality, necessity and sustainability of their local action plans within the Paro district which will then be implemented in the weeks following. 

 

Making Public Consultations Inclusive at the Local Level

With the goal to contribute towards strengthening decentralised planning processes through modelling citizen participation and evidence-based decision-making at the local level, local leaders, administrators and residents in the year 2021 successfully engaged in a series of capacity development workshops and conducted public consultation with their respective localities. The resulting community development plans and findings were shared with relevant stakeholders from Helvetas, JICA, Department of Local Government (DLG) and Gross National Happiness Commission.

A total of 7 localities - 4 in Thimphu and 3 in Paro - engaged in public consultation where the residents and the project participants co-developed community development plans encapsulating citizen priorities and voice. Mr. Passang, Senior Program Officer at DLG shared that seeing the participants’ engagement in formulating plans using tools developed by BCMD can lead to better consultations and planning. He also highlighted the issue of replication of community development plans and the need for better consultations that can help change this. 

The Gross National Happiness-based toolkit, which uses the four pillars of Gross National Happiness philosophy as a framework of holistic analysis. Along with the translator and the project participants, the toolkit will be translated into the national language, Dzongkha to make it accessible and create inclusive knowledge resources for diverse groups of community members. Ultimately the toolkit will help build the capacity of local government office bearers to be democratic, inclusive and consultative in conducting public consultations for planning and decision-making. We thank The Asia Foundation for supporting this project.

 

Creating Platforms for CSOs to Engage with the Government 

The CSO-Government Meet 2021 marked another important milestone in the efforts of CSOs to have a structured and sustained platform to engage with the government. It was particularly timely with the Amendment of the CSO Act which has been tabled for the upcoming parliamentary sitting as well as the CSO-Government Collaboration guideline that is currently being reviewed by the Committee of Secretaries.

Tax exemptions to incentivise private donations, relook into the yearly CSO registration and collaboration through outsourcing relevant work and in areas of fundraising, especially in light of the LDC graduation were discussed. More broadly, the Meet brings together different players in the country’s development landscape to ensure that efforts converge towards realising national goals and priorities and establish better understanding and trust.

“The LDC graduation will have one big impact since the government will no longer have access to the same funding sources as before. So the government and CSO need to work together to explore new funding sources in the future”

– His Excellency the Prime Minister of Bhutan

In addition to His Excellency the Prime Minister, the meet was graced by 3 ministers, secretaries, 15 Members of Parliament and fellow CSO members. We would like to thank CISU for making this meet possible!

 

Druk Journal Conversation on Bhutanese Youth-Their Aspirations, Concerns and Mandate

The 14th issue of The Druk Journal was released with 17 articles on the theme “Bhutanese Youth – Their Aspirations, Concerns, and Mandate”. As with all editions of the journal, an accompanying conversation was held on 30th November with close to 30 participants to deliberate on the theme. The panel consisted of an eclectic mix of 4 speakers who contributed articles covering themes of mental health, children with special needs, LGBTI and technical and vocational education.

The conversation touched on the very personal experience of parents living with children with disabilities, the various social and emotional turmoils, the LGBTIQ experience and adverse childhood experiences as the underlying causes of mental health issues. On a lighter note, the Conversation also dwelled on some of the changes the TVET reform plans to bring forth.

For more, visit www.drukjournal.bt website where you can also subscribe to Druk Journal. Thank you to Asia Foundation & UNICEF for supporting the conversation.

 

Celebrating the Ending of 2021 Media Lab Class

Students and faculty from Motithang Higher Secondary School (MHSS), a local school in the capital city gathered together in November to celebrate the closing of yet another successful series of multimedia classes conducted at BCMD’s Media Lab. This initiative was a result of the wonderful friendship and shared belief in making learning experiential between BCMD and Motithang Higher Secondary School.

The closing also provided the opportunity for the students to showcase their work, where groups and individuals shared their videos and photos to 71 students in media studies and the faculty of Motithang Higher Secondary School. A member in the audience shared her insights on the importance of understanding media and using it as a tool to express oneself. Some students shared that the media lab classes sparked their interest in media, while others were empowered to use it as a medium to express themselves. The principal of the school, Madam Jigme said, “I am impressed with the creative work shared today, which displays your learnings from the sessions and I hope you all continue working with passion on building your capacity.”

Media lab with its equipment and experienced instructors provides a nurturing environment for young media enthusiasts and inquisitive learners to use the space and equipment to learn media production aiming to cultivate their creative capacity to interact with the world.

 

Capacitating Youths to Become Audio Storytellers

This year’s podcasting training engaged 17 participants to become storytellers by focusing on youths of Bhutan along with their hopes, concerns, dreams and responsibilities as young citizens of our democracy. The topics covered include mental health, employment, child sexual abuse and LGBTIQ. The training not only built the technical capacity of youths but also heightened their interest in social issues. At the end of their respective projects, the participants realised the need for them as citizens to be proactive and remain engaged in issues around them.

The podcasts will be uploaded on the BCMD Soundcloud channel. Check out our previous podcast series, ‘Dha rei na ba’ (trans. Nowadays) produced by the 2019 cohort here: https://soundcloud.com/bcmd/sets/dha-rei-na-ba

On harnessing the potential of civil society
On harnessing the potential of civil society
A monk presents his group's social media guideline
A monk presents his group's social media guideline
Local government leaders present their plans
Local government leaders present their plans
Druk Journal conversation on youth
Druk Journal conversation on youth

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Media and Democracy Literacy Reaching the Unreached

Bhutan’s fledgling democracy remains vulnerable as global social media introduces new values to unsuspecting Bhutanese society. The last two elections demonstrated how social media can shape perspectives, influence decisions, create divisiveness and spread misinformation. As we experience the pandemic, fake news, misinformation and malinformation have also been on the rise. 

Responding to the need of the hour, BCMD has planned a series of workshops on Media and Democracy Literacy (MDL) for citizens from diverse backgrounds, including but not limited to parliamentarians, local leaders, teachers, and vulnerable and underserved groups such as taxi drivers, women in entertainment, and people with disabilities.

In the month of May and June, 42 female artists from RAPA and various Drayangs and 32 taxi drivers from Thimphu gathered to reflect on their news and social media consumption habits through two MDL workshops. “Before this, we never had the opportunity to learn how to protect ourselves online. We did not know privacy settings were even possible. It seems we used everything without realising how vulnerable we were.”, shared Gelay, a taxi driver from Thimphu city

Dechen, a participant from Thimphu, said: “Since I learnt about the concept of Digital Footprint today, I’ve been reflecting on what kind of footprint I’ve left behind. I realised that we need to be very careful about what we share online. Something posted by me can linger online long after I’ve forgotten about it and can impact somebody negatively. The abundance of information made available to someone through algorithms can worsen someone’s mental health. We need to learn to consume the information we see [critically]. I think everyone needs to be trained in media literacy irrespective of their age or educational qualification”.

These groups interact with a large number of people on a daily basis and are currently outside the radar of formal public institutions and deprived of capacity-building opportunities. The workshops gave them access to knowledge and skills on the role of citizens, media literacy and online safety. 

On her experience in the workshop, Changlo, a participant, shared: “The three days I spent here were very enlightening and relevant for me as an artist and as a person. Many times, I’ve shared information I came across on the internet without even reading the full content, causing an unnecessary stir among people in my social circle, even among those far away in my village. What I learnt is that I’m supposed to check the credibility of anything I see or hear before sharing. Because one sentence I share can be interpreted in multiple ways by somebody else and then further shared with their own agenda.” 

Past training participants say that they trust social media more than traditional media because social media provides a platform for citizens to author and access all kinds of information. During a critical time when misinformation is rife and countries struggle with disinformation, BCMD is equipping citizens, including vulnerable and underserved groups, with the skills to verify the news, stay safe online and use media as a tool for constructive feedback and discourse through a series of MDL training. 

These activities were conducted with support from the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF). BCMD will continue to provide MDL opportunities to diverse groups of the Bhutanese population in the coming months/years. 

 

Orienting Elected Local Leaders to Asset-based Community Mapping & Media and Democracy Literacy

The five-day training on Community Mapping (CM) and Media and Democracy Literacy (MDL) was an eye-opening experience for the 18 participants - “one of the most rigorous workshops”  according to Minjur, Hongtsho Tshogpa.

During the training, the local leaders and community representatives of the four Gewogs -- Chang, Mewang, Kawang and Dagala -- in Thimphu were engaged in group activities, role-plays, discussions and reflective sessions. The learning environment encouraged them to exchange their insights on their community and to reflect on how to utilise the learnings of the training to tackle community issues.

During the session on Media and Democracy Literacy, Cheki, a Teacher from Kuzuchen shared, “I am more informed about media literacy after attending this training, and I am in a better position now as an educator to share this with my colleagues and my students.” In addition to evaluating news, the participants also developed their social media guidelines and were enthusiastic to share this with their family and friends. 

At the end of the CM training, the participants concurred that they have always approached planning from a “deficit mode” inadvertently creating a complacent mindset. In the words of Lemo, Gewog Administrative Officer of Kawang Gewog who has been an active learner: “We collect data on the community only when we receive instructions. Now I realise how important it is to continuously map communities and update the data. We have always asserted that we involve everybody in zomdues (community gatherings), but after the role play, I realised that we do not make concerted efforts to invite differing voices... From now on, I plan to include youths in our community in decision-making and take care of them. I also learned how to plan projects...I realised there are many missing pieces to our proposal.”

The series of training is supported by The Asia Foundation, which aims to strengthen the analytical and participatory planning skills of the participants and work towards developing existing Gewog consultation plans and the decision-making processes. 

 

Together with Children - For Children’s Rights 

Having been recognised in the region for BCMD’s approach towards youth engagement in revising the National Youth Policy (NYP) last year, BCMD collaborated with UNICEF to conduct consultations with the children of Bhutan. The objective is to produce a childrens’ report on the state of childrens’ rights in the country whilst educating children about their rights and empowering them to become active young contributors to a vibrant democracy.  

A total of 604 children from four regions of the country and 53 children from vulnerable sections of the population were engaged in order to produce the Bhutan children’s report for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This report will supplement the alternative report produced by RENEW and Nazhoen Lamtoen, and the country’s report to provide the CRC committee in Geneva with a comprehensive picture of the child rights landscape in Bhutan during the upcoming periodic review.

The Children’s report highlights the most prominent issues of the day that children face in Bhutan which emerged during the consultations; the issues include access to e-learning, lack of importance for co-curricular programmes, quality of family and alternative care environment, and the intergenerational digital divide. A child from a shelter home shares this about his experience with e-learning:

“These days when we get classwork, the teachers send it on WeChat. The computers at school don’t work and we can't use our phones because when they break/stop working, there is no one to fix them. This is why we need phones and laptops. We cannot keep up with the notes they send us, we are always 5-6 pages behind.” 

These findings are synthesised with data from the survey which covered all four regions of the country. Special attention was given to vulnerable children such as children with disabilities, children in shelter homes and children in monastic institutions so that their experiences are also captured in the report. 

You can read the report here:  

 http://bcmd.bt/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/State-of-Childrens-Rights-Report.pdf

 

The Druk Journal and Suja Dzaw Conversation on Bhutan After the COVID-19 Crisis

BCMD is committed to building a community of local writers who are encouraged to think and debate on issues of national importance. In creating this community, we are also producing resources that are Bhutan-centric to encourage readers whilst also building a repository for the social sciences. 

More than 400 copies of the latest issue -- Bhutan After the COVID-19 Crisis -- have been distributed across the nation to ministers, parliamentarians, government agencies, constitutional bodies, development agencies, colleges and secondary and high schools. 

Following the publication, the Suja Dzaw Conversation was held on 12 July. The conversation had four speakers who contributed to this issue of TDJ discussing the themes of anticipating the social security, civil service, education, and health sectors. Dr Bjorn's praise for Bhutan's multi-sectoral approach in dealing with the pandemic comes at the right time as Bhutan marks the end of a successful weeklong nationwide campaign for the second dose of COVID-19. But he also cautions the nation to carefully assess the lifting of restrictions as the virus still poses a high risk in the Southern borders. 

Rabsel highlighted the importance for the public sector to anticipate what the future would look like and then identify who the key drivers of change would be for that future. He also said that the development planning process should be made consultative not just within the government agencies but also with the private sector, civil society, academia and the citizens, and for the government to play the role of an enabler rather than sole implementer of services.

Chencho stated that the curriculum was too narrow and needed to be diversified to cater to the students' interests and also to explore the full potentials and capabilities of students. In sync with the global trend, she emphasised the importance of digitising education to transform pedagogies and to minimise future disruptions to education for emergencies. 

On the topic of social protection, Leki reminded us that with a large youthful population, it was the perfect time for the government to think about how the country’s population is going to migrate through the different stages of life and what kind of intervention would be needed at what time. She acknowledged that the current social protection system is exclusive to those in the formal public sector. 

The conversation was attended by 14 participants which included key stakeholders from the Ministry of Education, Royal Education Council, National Council, UN and the Media. To ensure wider reach, it is available on our YouTube channel and it was also aired on BBS, the national television.

Check out www.drukjournal.bt to stay updated on current and emerging issues covered by the Journal.

We would like to thank UNDP Bhutan and CISU for supporting this conversation.


Communicating Effectively

“Learning about communication plans stuck with me because it's important for CSOs to communicate their strategy to others. Communication is crucial to help raise funds and garner attention from the general public. A strong communications plan would benefit Bhutan Transparency Initiative (BTI) a lot and for all other CSOs, a strong communications plan can help generate enough publicity and they will be able to raise [funds properly].” shares Jigme from BTI.

The two-day training on Effective Communications for 12 participants from 10 Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and the Bhutan Nuns Foundation provided the organisations with an opportunity to learn how to develop a communications plan and the importance of messaging. Understanding how to communicate effectively with their beneficiaries and developing social media guidelines for their organisation was a major learning curve for participants from the newly registered CSOs.

A total of 46 participants from various CSO’s and national society were trained by BCMD, Journalists’ Association of Bhutan and Media Media Foundation in 2020 and 2021 under the ‘Building the capacity of civil society organisations to be strategic users of media’ project supported by HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Bhutan.

 

Growing Civil Society

The civil society fraternity has been instrumental in contributing to a healthy and vibrant democracy where citizens are able to contribute to policies and influence decisions that affect their own lives. Civil Society Organisations (CSO) are also an essential building block of development as they provide opportunities for people to volunteer, mentor, and advocate for change -- all of which strengthens the well-being of Bhutan. They also help society by empowering citizens and promoting change at the grassroots. 

Therefore, BCMD has produced a short video to celebrate the growing civil society fraternity in the country and also to show how far we have come to be effective agents of change in Bhutan.  

You can find the video here: https://youtu.be/sP25-yO27fw

Thank you to HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Bhutan for funding this project.

 

In Conversation with Chencho 

Listen to our Executive Director, Chencho, in conversation with Tshewang, the Executive Director of Bhutan Foundation as they discuss BCMD's Project Mi-Khung, a project aimed at enhancing civic consciousness in citizens and increasing their participation in a democratic approach to community development and decision-making.

Find the conversation here: https://fb.watch/6tiaA0filJ/

 

Learning to Map Communities

“Learning about community mapping encouraged me to look at my surroundings in a different light. I can identify dormant and active assets and am learning how to use them to solve existing issues” said Ugyen, an English studies student at Sherubtse College. Asset-based Community Mapping is a tool that puts community members at the forefront of community development. 

For the Youth Summit East Programme, 14 participants were trained in asset-based community mapping over the course of 5 days at Sherubtse College. They actively participated in identifying assets and issues in two different areas - the Sherubtse College Campus, and the Kanglung lower & upper markets. In the first phase of the mapping process, participants identified dormant assets such as underutilised resources, which can be revived to reach their full potential, or disaster-prone areas that the community should be aware of. Sangay, a Media student, felt empowered to know a young person like him can be the main actor in community development. 

In the following months, participants will continue to thoroughly map the above-mentioned areas using digital apps and ultimately share their findings with relevant local leaders and stakeholders such as the College and Dzongkhag administration to contribute to inclusive planning processes.

In addition to community mapping, the participants were also trained in peer facilitation for two days, where they learnt to communicate effectively and foster a safe learning space. “The skills I’ve learnt today would help me become a better teacher; someone who puts students first and gathers their diverse views and someone who fosters an interactive learning environment rather than a linear one”, said Prakash, a History student, who aspires to become a Teacher. The participants will use the skills learnt to peer-facilitate an upcoming Community Mapping workshop for their peers at Sherubtse College.

The project was funded by Bhutan Foundation & CISU. 

 

Learning to Live Sustainably

The Youth Summit (YS) 2021: Food Security & Sustainable Living helped introduce important issues surrounding food security, sustainable fashion and mindful consumption of technology. For most of the 47 participants including peer facilitators, these concepts were entirely new; nevertheless, at the end of the Summit, they were able to relate it to their individual lives and become better citizens who consume these essentials more mindfully and sustainably. 

"The topic on clothes... I didn't have an idea about that when I came here... After that session, I realised that I'm also responsible for the condition the workers are facing in Bangladesh… because I am demanding more. When the customer demands, the owners pressure their workers. Now I think I won't buy unnecessary clothes." Karma, participant at the Youth Summit

The YS 2021 comes at a much needed time as youths have been deprived of meaningful engagements and deep learnings that become possible only when there is a community of learners created. Creating such a space for youths at the Summit, they come to see each other as treasured reservoirs of experience and also the value of working together to draw out each other’s best selves.

“[Youth Summit] is testing how much I know, how much I can give and how much I can learn again. I can test out skills I’ve already learnt, refine it and improve it... This environment is a great way for me to put the skills I've learnt to use and also learn from others as well.” Jimmy, Peer Facilitator

Ultimately YS strives to awaken youth to social issues and realities so that these ideas grow along with them as they mature and become citizens who are aware and proactive in tackling challenges. 

The YS 2021 was supported by Give2Asia.

 

Youths Begin Advocacy Training

The Youth Initiative Summer Camp has kicked off to equip the members with theoretical skill and knowledge in advocacy but also with public speaking and effective communication to be able to deliver the advocacy content with conviction and impact. Five themes have been taken up: Education, Mental Health, Social Media, Youth Participation and Unemployment. The members will strive to advocate the core issues within the five themes and be able to reach their target audience. 

The campaign kicked off on 12 August 2021 marking the International Youth Day, in partnership with BBS. Through the campaign, the members will seek to offer a youth-centric approach towards issues that matter most in the present time. The members have adopted the campaign slogan #FutureIsNow as a response to the oft-cited ‘youths are the future’ rhetoric; the members believe that they are not simply the ‘future’ but they are ‘here’ in the present, and insists that as long as the ‘now’ is worked on, the ‘future’ will simply follow. 

This project is supported by UNICEF.

 

Media Literacy for Paro Community Members

Local leaders, teachers and community members of Paro are currently engaged in a two-day media and democracy literacy training, which began on July 30th. The training begins with a discussion on democracy and the role of news and media in democracy and will cover evaluating sources so that responsible use of social media is encouraged. 

Samten, working as a case management officer at Nazhoen Lamoten in Paro shares his expectation to learn about the responsible use of social media, so that he can educate and empower children and youth.

This training is a part of a series of interrelated activities of the Building Community Initiative supported byThe Asia Foundation. The project aims to enhance participatory planning skills and contribute to decentralisation and sustainable community development.

 

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Organization Information

The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD)

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