Nestled in the Himalayas, the Kingdom of Bhutan is a country in the midst of reconciling centuries old cultures with rising modernity. As Bhutan maneuvers through the process of development, RENEW is dedicated to ensuring that the rights of women and families remain a priority. In an effort to achieve the objective, RENEW places significant emphasis on forging gender equality and improved sexual reproductive health and rights of women and girls in Bhutan. Bhutanese population is scattered across difficult terrain and to reach the unreached is what RENEW strives to achieve.

Across Bhutan, RENEW raises awareness and provides support services in response to acts of gender-based, sexual, and domestic violence. This is possible in large part due to the ongoing efforts of nation-wide networks of highly trained volunteers; the Community Based Support System (CBSS), and the Druk Adolescent Initiative for Sexual Awareness Network (DAISAN) – RENEW’s youth volunteer network. The CBSS and DAISAN volunteers are critical voices in the continuance of RENEW’s advocacy programs for the promotion of gender equality, and provision of sexual reproductive health and rights awareness trainings throughout communities, and in schools and institutions throughout the country.

Through the aspirations of Gross National Happiness (GNH) the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) has committed to achieve gender equality for the Bhutanese people. The Constitution of 2008 ensures equal rights to all citizens, regardless of sex, and state policy stipulates the “enjoyment of life by all citizens”. The principles of the Bhutanese state policy include a commitment to the creation of a state free of discrimination, including measures to eliminate the discrimination and exploitation of women.

Bhutan signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1981. Since this time, promoting action to ensure gender equality has become a part of the institutional structure in the governmental ministries. Since the year 2000, Bhutan‘s Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) has taken on the important role of initiating and coordinating action on gender equality issues. In 2004, the GNHC established the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) to stimulate and support the implementation of Bhutan’s aims and obligations towards women’s equality and protection of children.

In 2008 the GNHC and NCWC established the National Plan of Action for Gender (NPAG). The NPAG developed an action plan for seven critical areas on gender and led to the establishment of the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA 2011), the Child Adoption Act (CAA 2012) and the critical Domestic Violence Prevention Act in 2013 (DVPA 2013). Each of these Acts is a significant step towards the enhancement of women’s rights in Bhutan.

RENEW realizes that continued support is essential for the comprehensive reality and legality of achieving rights and security for Bhutanese women. With limited legal aid available in Bhutan, accessing justice remains prohibitive. Thus the policy initiatives taken by the government are still not fully actualized by most citizens. As a result, the agenda of gender equality remains a mandate of the state without appropriate societal understanding, ownership or implementation. With RENEW’s support, efforts are underway to widely communicate these legislative measures, to narrow this gap and bring a broader understanding and accessibility to individuals throughout the nation.