In Bhutan, the Himalayan Kingdom renowned for the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH), half the population has reason to be less than satisfied. Women generally do not hold leadership positions in the country — only 7% of elected officials are female, and men typically dominate decision-making in families and communities.
The Women Represent program uses libraries as platforms for women’s groups to discuss important issues in the community, holds training programs to build public speaking and leadership skills, broadcasts listening programs on the radio to reach illiterate women through stories featuring female leaders, and offers art therapy to empower women and girls through introspection about their lives and dreams.
“For us, the starting point is the grassroots level community,” said READ Bhutan Country Director Thinley Choden. “Our aim was to bring information, to bring certain skills, and really to get the women out of the household realm into the public realm and make them understand what role they can play at a community level, with the hope that eventually… it will percolate up to the national level.”
READ Bhutan’s new documentary shows the impact of Women Represent on these communities, changing cultural norms and boosting women’s participation in the public sphere.
“I think men and women have no differences now,” said Karma Choden, a woman farmer in rural Bhutan who participated in the program. “My biggest wish is that [my village] will have a woman leader in the future.”
This blog post was originally published by READ Global.