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Bhutan’s first woman Gup leads the way for a new generation of women leaders
an article by UN Women Watch (abridged)

When 28-year-old Namgay Peldon was elected as the Gup of Tashiding Gewog in Bhutan’s Dagana district, she made history of sorts, becoming the first woman Gup or block leader in Bhutan after the nation first went to polls in 2008. Gewogs are official administrative units in Bhutan, each headed by a Gup.


Namgay Peldon was elected as the Gup of Tashiding Gewog in Dagana Dzongkhag. Photo Credit © Gurpreet Singh/UN Women

click on photo to enlarge

The feat adds another feather in Bhutan’s cap. Three years before her election, the Himalayan kingdom ended more than a century of royal rule and moved towards a democratic system of governance – a peaceful transition that is almost unprecedented in global history.

Gup Namgay Peldon attributes her win to the overwhelming support she received from the people in her village. For over ten years, Gup Peldon worked as a non-formal education instructor, which helped her to establish a close rapport with the villagers. “As an instructor, I interacted very frequently with people. I was always in touch, and helped them to draft applications and letters. I also participated in community gatherings and meetings. So when I expressed my interest to stand for elections, people were also very supportive of my idea,” she explains. . .

Initially during her campaign there were doubts about how she would balance her personal and professional responsibilities, those have quickly been assuaged.“We have equal and just opportunities in Bhutan so everyone should come forward. One may win or lose but it is important that one participate. If one comes forward, there is no law that can deny any women,” she says.

The residents of Namgay’s district now appreciate the contribution made by their new leader. "Though she is a woman, I have not seen any difference between her work and the work of a male gup. She is handling all the activities that a male gup would perform. She takes full responsibility for all her actions," says a Gewog Administrative Officer who works with the Gup. Currently, Gup Peldon focuses on getting farm and feeders roads constructed and ensuring water supply and sanitation.

The Royal Government of Bhutan, with support from UN Women and the United Nations, strengthens the skills of leaders like Namgay through much needed training programmes. At a first ever event of its kind in Paro on 16-17 March, Ms. Peldon and 72 women including tshogpas (village representatives), mangmi (deputy block leader) and 3 women Members of Parliament come together to create a Women’s Leadership Network.

Speaking of the Network, Ms Peldon said she “greatly appreciated this initiative, such kind of forums help us network amongst one another, allow us to gain greater confidence and be more committed to serving our nation. There are still few women leaders in Bhutan today, at the national and local levels, so the establishment of the Bhutan – Network of Elected Women will help elected women leaders and aspiring women leaders to come forward”.

DISCUSSION

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Prospects for progress in women's equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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The following figures, very revealing, come from the website of the American White House.

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This report was posted on June 3, 2012.