Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the esteemed Royal Patron of RENEW (Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women), successfully concluded a dynamic two-day initiative focused on women’s and girls’ empowerment, as well as public health in the picturesque locale of Tsirang.
A remarkable turnout of more than 400 individuals from 12 gewogs of Tsirang, which included local governmental dignitaries, enthusiastically participated in the advocacy program that addressed pivotal issues related to women’s and girls’ advancement.
The central objective of the advocacy was to amplify consciousness about the significance of empowering women and girls, alongside fostering awareness regarding public health aspects encompassing sexual and reproductive health and rights. Pertinent concerns within the purview of public health, ranging from communicable and non-communicable diseases to mental well-being, were diligently presented by officials from the Ministry of Health.
Karma Jamtsho, the Director of Public Health, spotlighted major risk factors such as alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy dietary practices, and sedentary lifestyles. “By sensitizing the public to adopt healthier lifestyles and urging them to seek guidance from relevant healthcare providers,” he said, “we are striving to promote a health-conscious society.”
The significance of the advocacy event was underscored by Tashi Namgyal, Director of the Education Program Department, who voiced growing concerns about issues like teenage pregnancy, suicides, substance abuse, and gender-based violence among the youth. He detailed the integration of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) into the national school curriculum, aimed at offering scientifically accurate and age-appropriate information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), while fostering discussions on gender equality, relationships, and consent.
This approach, Namgyal asserted, has already manifested positive changes in youth behaviors. The Ministry of Education is further embarking on multifaceted initiatives like health and well-being focal points in schools, mentor-mentee programs, school parenting initiatives, and online counseling services.
Highlighting the advocacy’s profound impact, Her Majesty the Gyalyum inaugurated the RENEW’s new community service center on August 13, marking a significant milestone towards facilitating access to gender-based violence services within the community. The center, the first of its kind initiated by a dzongkhag administration, stands as a testament to the unwavering commitment to addressing gender-based violence.
RENEW’s recent report documented 80 cases of gender-based violence in Tsirang over the past year. These included 48 cases of emotional abuse, 16 physical abuse cases, five sexual abuse cases, and four instances of economic abuse. Adolescents, divorced women, single women, and social orphans emerged as the most vulnerable groups, with contributing factors encompassing issues like adolescent relationships, extramarital affairs, and substance abuse.
RENEW’s dedication was reflected in their temporary service provision within the hospital premises from April 2022 to February 2023. As part of her comprehensive engagement, Her Majesty the Gyalyum interacted with over 800 students and 141 staff members from Damphu Middle Secondary School and Damphu Central School, including 26 children with disabilities.
Encompassing a range of dialogues, officials from RENEW, the education and skills development ministries, and the health ministry held interactive sessions with students. Themes such as public health and Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) were delved into, where discussions spanned gender dynamics, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights, cultural values, and more.
Additionally, Her Majesty the Gyalyum convened with members of the multi-sectoral task force and DAISAN networks, aiming to fortify partnerships and ensure enhanced services across the nation. Operational guidelines were presented by RENEW to bolster these collaborations.
Notably, Her Majesty the Gyalyum visited the Tsirang dzongkhag hospital, interacting with approximately 90 healthcare staff. A special focus was placed on the mother and child health unit, as well as the inpatient ward.
Her Majesty the Gyalyum, an esteemed UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador since 1999, has consistently championed the rights of women and girls. Accompanied by officials from the Ministries of Education and Skills Development, Health, RENEW, UNFPA, and UNICEF, this endeavor marked a significant stride towards collective empowerment and public health awareness.