Except for the works and human settlement minister, who will go down in the annals of Bhutanese history as the first woman minister, results for most women in these elections came out quite unexpectedly.
It is, therefore, heartening for Bhutanese democracy that organizations related to women last week have taken the lead to prepare women and encourage them to come forward for the local government elections in 2016 and take part in the democratic process.
A workshop to encourage more women participation in the next local government elections ended in Punakha last Thursday with about hundred women from six western districts taking part in the workshop.
Similarly, another event titled ‘Bhutan Women Forward’ was held here in the capital yesterday, targeted towards more inclusion of women in politics and democracy.
These indications, therefore, bode good news for our democracy as an increased women’s representation in Parliament or local governments for that matter will ensure that women’s voices are heard equally when it comes to making decisions that most affect their world.
The numbers are presently dispiriting in the Parliament as well as the local governments, with the current statistics of women reportedly at 6.9 percent in the local government level. And as such, whether the present number would change is definitely something to see.
Many purport the notion that politics is a male dominated field. This notion should subtly change if women are to make a difference or if this meager number is to change. If instances are anything to go by, stereotypical attitude against women, which is rampant in rural areas, perhaps has also obstructed women from being elected in politics. This is sadly true.
Because of such attitude, how often women without even realizing it stop reaching for new opportunities is also described profoundly by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg in her book ‘Lean In’, who says that from an early age, girls get the message that they will have to choose between succeeding at work and being a good wife and mother.
She argues that women internalize the negative messages they get throughout their lives – the messages that it is wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men, and pull back when they should lean in.
We need to do more than facilitating women’s entry into politics. A thing for a start could be with changing this attitude. And thereon, we could also envision a prospect akin to that of Sandberg, where in the future there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders!