Thursday, December 31, 2009


Let the New Year open new doors for opportunities, happiness and love for every one.

Happiness is what matters. Whether it is between two persons, family, among the communities or nations, happiness is something that really matters. Yes, while we talk of happiness, we have never lived by the principle of happiness and co-existence.

This is not the thing to talk about on this day. Yet we do need to talk about it.

For too long, we have been fighting each other. Bombing each other’ villages. Killing each other. Coveting what the other country owns through political and other means. Why should big countries make all the money and leave us behind?

Who are they to dictate those terms by which we have to live by? We are also the equal inheritors of this earth.

The third world always had the worst of everything. The so-called modern world today never realised that the Asians or other third countries were even worth giving a second thought to. And they have said so. With Copenhagen.

What do they know about a small country struggling to survive? What do they care if the streams in the mountains dry up because of the carbon emission or a lake bursts g its dam? Why should they care if some island nations go under the sea? The point is, does any one really look into what is really important?

It’s all relative. If it affects me, I should be concerned, if not why should I be? Simple logic? Some one is spewing more carbon and why shouldn’t I? And that’s where the problem begins.

No matter how big an issue it is, it will ever be considered as one. It is how you present it and who listens. That is another story.

More important is that fact that democracy has brought our people together.

The monarchy, after having consolidated the kingdom for the last hundred years, have finally handed over the management to the people. Isn’t it time that we should take it with a sense of pride and responsibility being bestowed from above, not as just a right by birth.

Like we always pay our respects to our elders, we should also learn to pay for what we have been bestowed on.

His Majesty, the King Jigme Khesar has been at the helm of the state affairs for the last two years. He had been taking the burden of the nation because he cares. Shouldn’t we also make a small start by taking part in it. Now the question is HOW?

There are lots. The only problem is we don’t know where to look and how to go about it. But LOOK is the catchword.

We don’t have to look afar. Every time we come out with project, we think of a donor agency.

Similarly, every time we want to chew a doma or smoke a cigarette, think how much that would help our country and of course ourselves.

Most of all, we don’t have to shamelessly extend our social service begging bowl.

These are something we Bhutanese can do ourselves. But we never do.

We, in Thimpu, watch on TV, Sherubtse or other graduates come and clean our streams once in while. We have never even thanked them properly.

We have to learn whom to thank for what we are today.

That’s the resolution that Bhutanese should make on this day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The more, the merrier?

The journalism fraternity has increased. Now we can boast of one newspaper for every 100,000 population with The Journalist in the scene.

That of course doesn’t take into account the launching of magazines like Druk Trowa, Yeewong and of course the much-talked about Drukpa. We have some nine publications going around the country now.

Yeewong, the first women’s magazine launched on 30 September, is about embracing every aspect of Bhutanese womanhood that makes Bhutanese women special and different. It would also be focusing on youth and child issues, according to its editorial stance.

Then on 9 November, Bhutan’s first film and entertainment magazine Druk Trowa came into the scene. For the first time, our film stars received publicity to their heart’s content, besides the weekly snippets that the newspapers wrote about them to cover their entertainment pages.

Then came the much talked-about Drukpa on 17 December: it plans to address the gap in the Bhutanese media and give readers something different in the process. Every issue of Drukpa will be based on a specific and special theme, which will be covered in an in-depth and comprehensive manner.

Now following on their heels, comes another weekly. It is run under the supervision of a man who is a writer in his own rights, and he has a bunch of reporters/writers who cut their teeth when Bhutan Times came into operation. Gopi knows what he is doing. So do his staff members.

The birth of this paper can be traced back to Tenzin Rigden, who may not have direct connections with this paper, but has much to do with why it came about in the first place. The end of his term, which resulted in a new management, caused the reporters to resign, and begin a paper of their own.

Tenzin Rigden started off with Bhutan Media Services, before plunging into newspaper when government decided to liberalise it, is a good writer and an organizer too. He has a knack of the business of media. But then like all journalists and writers, he is also susceptible to chew what he cannot swallow.

But then, that sounds like making remarks in retrospection. We all know the CICCC bid to make a name and fame clipped his wings.

Other members of the press fraternity looked on him with awe. Sadly, at the end of it, his board of directors and shareholders were not impressed.

Though the Bhutanese media scene is booming, one criticism has been the lack of depth on issues covered in newspapers. That is correct. But how do we go about correcting this problem? This will happen only when, if not all but most of the literate members don’t wrinkle up their nose, read the Bhutanese product and give fair comments to encourage its development and growth.

Despite the courage it has taken to plunge into it, Bhutanese media still needs time to build itself into an institution that the country will look up to.

But then, the new media organizations joining the fraternity means that the government is open about it. After all, media and democracy go hand in hand. That obviously is the reason why free media was allowed in Bhutan even before the first democratic elections were held.

In some countries, the newspaper and magazine business is almost like cottage industry.

We in Bhutan haven’t come to that sad stage. The possibility is very near. Yet despite all that possibility, let’s look up to the brighter side of new news organizations coming into operation. Whatever is happening is for the good, like one journalist said.

The more the merrier.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How soon can we infuse GNH into the curricula?

(Note: This is something that happened somewhere around 13 December, I am uploading it only for information.)

With the workshop on Educating for Gross National Happiness that ended Saturday, the kingdom today stands at a remarkable crossroads in its history, in terms of its education policy.

Once the GNH principles and approaches are embedded in the structure of the country’s educational system and curricula, GNH will be a living reality in Bhutan. This is a decision that will influence the future of the country for generations to come.

And it should rightly be so. GNH, the country’s guiding philosophy since 1972 has sought to integrate sustainable and equitable economic development with environmental conservation, good governance, and preservation and promotion of the country’s ancient culture and profound traditions.

What does this mean in practice? First, sustainability principles, values, factual knowledge, and behavior would not only be taught in dedicated courses on environmental science, protection, and conservation, but they would also serve as examples in mathematics exercises, grammar texts, science experiments and more.

Noted educators like David Orr have critiqued conventional science texts for neglecting and underplaying human dependence on the natural world, and in some cases implicitly promoting environmentally destructive behaviors by implying the potential dominance of man and technology over nature.

A GNH curriculum would correct that present imbalance by focusing more on the interdependent nature of reality, including human interaction with natural forces.

It would also promote and teach respect for indigenous human cultures, languages, and knowledge. A few Bhutanese educators have been inspired to take students into the country’s old-growth forests to show and teach youth about the medicinal value and uses of local herbs and plant, which are in danger of being lost if not incorporated into formal educational curricula.

Of course, much discussion had taken place between our leaders and the educators before this concept of incorporating GNH into the education system ever came into being.

Our Education Minister himself has emphasized that genuine GNH curricula would go beyond mere conceptual and intellectual learning but attempt more effectively to integrate heart, mind, spirit, and behavior. In other words, such curricula would incorporate learning that draws not only on reasoning alone but also on experiential, artistic and feeling faculties, and that attempts to translate knowledge into action.

The first step in designing GNH curricula has already been taken. The assembly of a top international team of educators has contributed all they could for the system. Now the real task is to put all those points, depending on what fits where, breaking them down to subjects, topics and activities.

The workshop has provided the education ministry with a road map and a plan of action to begin the process of incorporating GNH values and principles into the school system by the beginning of 2010. Lyonpo Powdyel himself expressed confidence and optimism when he said that we know now what we should be doing in the next couple of weeks and months. And a national task force has been constituted to implement the plan.

Confidence and optimism is one thing, but it takes time to arrange things. Logistics take time. First and foremost would be to orient the principles to the new concept and approach.

The concept is beautiful, but how does one go about integrating it each subject. That calls for experts and cannot be left to the individual teachers, without proper guidelines.

Besides, incorporating the GNH principles and approaches to the syllabi involves a revision. Revising the text books on various subjects calls for time and lots of experts in a particular subject. This is particularly interesting when we realise that our school text books haven’t been revised for the last five years or so.

The People’s King

He is regal. He is humble. He knows the past and he understands the problems of the present. And he tells us what we should bequeath to our children. And he is right.

He walks in the rain, sleeps in a tent and plays football barefoot with children. And he has even cooked for them. He is the ultimate father.

For the last so many months, he had made his headquarters in the east. While in the midst of comforting people, affected by the earthquake and fires, he made it a point to run back to the capital to see how things are going: attending to both national and international events.

His Majesty, King Jigme Khesar is the real people’s king. It is presumptuous to even to think how he manages. Can we do it even if we are of his age? No, we have had rather a very easy life. But then that was another generation.

But then, what is beautiful is that King Jigme Khesar knows how to bridge that gap between all the generations that may be living. As he pats and kisses the young children, or bends down in reverence and respect t for the elderly, from all walks of life, is a testimony of his great feeling and love for the people.

May be, we have forgotten to show respect to our elders. But His Majesty has not forgotten it, as he bowed to his father, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo yesterday at the National Day celebrations. Of course, as parents, we shouldn’t forget our responsibilities to our children.

Addressing the nation, His Majesty the King said that we should be in a position to hand over our country intact to our children and they should be in a better position than us to manage it.

The youth has the strength. For, it is the present that moves into the future. But then the present relies on the past to chart the way for the future. That is what His Majesty had always being telling us. For the wisdom of the past shows the way into the future.

It takes every one big and small to make up this great nation. This year’s honour list reflected that. His Majesty conferred the national order of merit to 16 private individuals, school teachers and an association of film makers. The awardees were nominated on two themes- dignity of labour for the general public and an excellence for quality education for teachers. (HIGHLIGHT THISPARA)

His Majesty the King expressed his appreciation to all the teachers of the country for the efforts that they have undertaken for the education of the future. Gaur Hari Manna, from Kolkotta, working in Yangchenphug High School, was one of the teachers who was conferred the national Order of Merit among other four Bhutanese teachers.

All buildings have to start with bricks and stones. It is the small man who makes a great nation. This year’s honour list salutes these small men.

What makes this small but great nation going?

It is the personality of King Jigme Khesar’s stature that makes us a part of this great nation. That is what makes us going. More than that, it is the hopes His Majesty the King has reposed in our youth that keeps us going.

We have a great hope for the future; for the King has always said the youth and the children are our future. And he keeps a great store by them. The youth of the country should rise to the occasion and rally behind his cause.

For that is where the destiny leads.

The supreme law man?

If you catch him in a roomful of people, he will look like any other prosperous and satisfied civil servant, mingling with other guests. He has a smile and something nice to say. It is not put on, as someone who doesn’t know him may think.

Some may even allege he is slow. But no, he is thorough. As a judge, he doesn’t give the judgement before hand. Once he is sure everything is in order, he will implant his signature on the document. That experience had been shared by many.

Well, there was this case of some one who had to get the documents signed by the High Court Judge, that he was then. But before the documents can be signed, they had to be investigated and ascertained. Meanwhile, he had to leave on a tour of the southern dzongkhags. But before he left, he asked the person to get all the relevant documents that were required. It took the person as long as it took the Chief Justice to complete his tour.

One fine morning person went to the High Court to find all the papers signed, with instructions that certain missing ones should be attached. Now, who would have even bothered to give that instruction? But then, lack of those documents would have meant a delay.

And to whim, justice delayed is justice denied.

So having served the Tsa-wa-sum for the last 38 years, of which 25 years were spent in the judiciary and 19 years as the Chief Justice of High Court, he retired. But then before he could even think of a peaceful retired life, he had been called back to duty.

Well, good men are rare. And the opportunities to fill in the blanks in history is even rarer. We always have to look for the best who would serve the nation. That sounds almost like the elimination game. But then to the discerning ones, it isn’t so.

At this point in history, we do not have the luxury of choice or experimentation. We have to go for the one in whom we can repose our confidence and faith. For that we have to go by the track record. This is not to say that there may not be others who are equally competent enough.

The post calls for not competence, but also sagacity and experience, and some one with a track record of consistency, knowledge and loyalty and dedication. And who would be more appropriate than him, considering the duties and responsibilities of the Chief Justice of Bhutan’s first Supreme Court.

He piloted how the judicial system should move in consonance with the political, economic and social developments taking place in the country. He supervised the drafting of the constitution and worked on the preparation for the introduction of the democratic process in the country.

The Supreme Court of Bhutan is an integral and critical entity of the democratic institutional framework mandated by the Constitution at this point in the political history of the country. The Supreme Court must ensure that the actions of the Legislature or Executive or any entity are in full consonants with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

As he himself said, the Supreme Court, being the guardian of the Constitution, must be guarded well consistently, consciously and constantly by adhering to the inalienable principles of the Constitution which should give decision on all matters without fear and favour.

Who would know that better than the man who steered the development of the judicial system in the country for the last 25 years.

GNH and Copenhagen climate conference

The conference: Educating GNH that ended exactly a week before the signing of the Copenhagen Accord, had requested the participants to use the pool bus service that was being provided for the national participants.

The message in the invitation card said: Leave your car home and use the pool transportation service and of course thereby lessen the carbon emission. We don’t know how many of the participants agreed to the suggestion.

Though the Prime Minister did mention at the GNH conference about providing free bicycles to many of the citizens as a mode of transportation, to cut down on the carbon emission, many world leaders in his position, meeting in Copenhagen and spending millions of dollars to be just there, refused a simple solution that might prevent the world from being swamped by ocean waves, or just blowing apart the world in one big bang.

Ah, the world, according to the scientists, started with a big bang. Are we also going out in a bang – a flash of blinding light and smoke? That is what it is going to result in taking in all the intransigence that developed nations have displayed at the Copenhagen climate conference.

Perhaps, they would like to go to the moon or even Mars for holidays when all the beautiful island nations around the world go under the sea and the Himalayas, the Alps, Rocky Mountains and the Andes are bereft of glaciers and snow.

A climate writer even mentioned that a lot of animal species that are in the food chain, along with other fruit species might be lost to the world, if the soaring temperature is not kept in check before it is too late. This is something that had been happening since the pre-industrial days; we cannot reverse the process and put it back, but at least we can contain it and stop it from becoming worse.

At Copenhagen, the world leaders only came out with the motion that they were “taking note” but never agreed on the specifics for carbon emissions, which even Obama conceded, was “not enough.” Like Obama added, we have come a long way but we still have much further to go.

How much further? And what will happen during that period is another question?

The plea of the V-11 (vulnerable countries) has fallen on deaf years. Nepal’s cabinet going up to the base of Mount Everest and Maldives’ under the sea to hold cabinet meetings to express their concern will go into history as another gimmick that failed. But then, those acts were not mere publicity device to attract the world attention. For Maldives, it was a matter of survival if the world temperature went up by 2C.

How much carbon can Bhutan sink that the world is producing with its 72 per cent forest coverage? Our Prime Minister even mentioned the possibility of providing free bicycles, if there were any takers, and the opposition leader was already reported to be trying to ride a bike at the centre of Thimphu town.

That is a natural step when you think that preservation of natural environment is one of the pillars of Gross National Happiness. It will not only cut down the carbon emission but also noise pollution.

Yet, while more and more Bhutanese are queuing up to buy cars, with so many new car agencies offering different brands of different makes, shapes, colour and sizes, it is good to note that the agriculture minister, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho and his staff members are still walking to the office every Tuesday.

That is just one small step towards reducing carbon emission.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

“Tiger, Tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night……”

So said William Blake, the famous poet. May be they are not burning as bright as they used to do in the days of Blake. Perhaps, Jim Corbett is to be blamed for all his killing that eliminated the man-eaters of Kumoan region. But those were the days, when it was a matter of wild animals and the humans.

In some ways, it hasn’t changed much even today. While the rest of the world is clearing large tracts of forests to resettle people or to accommodate industrial expansions, we, in Bhutan had been coming out with legislation to save the wild life.

Every year we have reports of wild predators destroying our crops and fields and the farmers had been requesting the government to give them some sort of means to handle them. But no! They have to abide by the forest and wild life preservation rules and regulations.

To be quite frank, tigers are no big menace as predators in our country, unless and until one may take the matter of a bear being killed in the high mountains, where tigers were not supposed to be. Of course, there was a big talk about the effect of the climate change that led the tiger to move to new areas.

Why did it go to areas where it is not suited for and where it doesn’t have the right type of food? It certainly wasn’t looking for green pastures like the cows.

Of course, it is good to know that the prediction by the World Wildlife Fund that the tigers are going to be extinct by 2010 is not a correct assessment, at least for Bhutan, is a welcome statement. Bhutan has been taking all necessary measures to safeguard the wild life.

One thing that should be taken note of is that tigers are not the actual predators. Crop damages and destructions by wildlife have been attributed to elephants, wild boars and monkeys. Perhaps, the tigers killed a domestic animal or two and these incidences have never made it to the news.

These royals have maintained their exclusivity and elusiveness. Yet, they are priced for their colourful skins and bones and other parts, some of which are considered to be of medicinal value. At one time in history, hunting tigers was considered a game of the royals. And elaborate excursions and arrangements were made for such an event.

It is reported that there might be only some 3,200 tigers in the wild. That is sad. They might go the dinosaurs’ way. It is not only that their absence might change the balance in nature. They are part of what makes this world bright and beautiful. They are part of this world that is great and small.

As long as they have a peaceful habitat, where there is enough games to live on, they are the predators that they are believed to be. When actually, man is the real predator.

We are the ones who created conditions that they cannot live in. As poachers and trophy hunters, we went after their lives. As polluters of the environment, we changed their habitat and the environment where they lived in peace.

But there is a hope for them. Bhutan will maintain 72 percent of the land surface under forest cover. Within that large area, the tigers will find some space to live in. Not only them, but all other species that is native to the country.

So, despite what is happening to the rest of the world, given our environmental approach, the tigers may still be burning bright in the forests of Bhutan.

The lifestyle diseases

Way back in the 1970s or even before, every one walked to the office, perhaps, except for a few heads of departments.

Let’s go back a few years earlier. We, who are today in a comfortable position, had never heard of our parents having the problems that we are suffering from. It is indeed a sad state of affair.

Is it so? There was time when our people used to drink down three to four mugs of suja and a meal that contained a piece of pork pah, if not more, strewn with other vegetables.

But then, of course, they went down to the summer field to harvest the crop or went up the mountains to check on the herds. In retrospect, life sounds romantic and one thing no one realizes is that it is also tough. Go to plough the field or even dig a vegetable garden.

That’s how they burned their energy. They collected manure to spread on their field. They went to the forest to collect firewood and shogshing for the winter. If an animal was lost they walked the mountains to look for it.

They again went often to the mountains to collect mushrooms.

But they never collected cholesterol. Diabetes was never heard of. High blood pressure? They died more of hard work feeding us than high blood pressure.

Now, the old adage: all studies no play makes Jack a dull boy should be rephrased to Old people, no work should now start exercising. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily is limited to old people. This applies to many a young and middle aged people who lead a sedentary life.

What do the latest reports say? That 93.1 percent of the people are prone to what is known as lifestyle diseases. Well, at least we were not aware that somebody suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes in the olden times. We never ended up with cholesterol when we were working in the rice fields.

Ironically, it is not the men or women who have to chase the cows in the mountains who are falling ill or succumbing to high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other diseases. These are diseases that are known as lifestyle diseases in other modern societies.

More than anywhere else, it is true of Bhutan.

High level of drinking and smoking, and of course unbalanced diet, wherein our intake of vegetable is reported to be low, is reported to be the culprit. That is right. At one time we lived off the land. It provided us with everything that we ever wanted.

Drinking has been reported as the biggest culprit, and of course smoking. There was a time when drinking took place only on social occasions, and smoking was a luxury. The survey only covers Thimphu and drinking is obviously high here in the capital. We have more alcohol shops than tea or coffee joints. Perhaps except for shops operated by cobblers and shoemakers, every second shop has a signboard that says: Hotel-cum-bar,Grocery and bar, or general store-cum bar. That is the beauty; you may not get a good coffee but you will get booze.

Yes, we have also been talking about alcohol and drugs and how harmful they are. We all know about it without the government spending so much money into it. Somewhere along the line, something hasn’t clicked. Somewhere between the preaching and practice, something has to be done.

There might come a time when many of our overweight or those afflicted with high blood pressure or cholesterol may not have to walk all the way up to Sangaygang every morning.

But then lifestyle is something that doesn’t change overnight.

Don’t’ set precedence

The seven employees of the Education are being punished, according to reports. They are losing out in every way.

They have been convicted and as a result, they lost their jobs. They were also liable for imprisonment if they are not able to pay what was owed against them. Even if they are in a position to pay, they would still lose their jobs, once convicted.

And thirdly, they may stand to lose their benefits accruing to them from the years of service that they have rendered.

The seven employees of the education ministry were involved in a forgery scam known as the “Ghost Employee Case.” If a pun can be used then, one might say that the “ghost” returned with a vengeance to punish them three times.

The case had been making news for quite some time. They were reported to have misused government funds, shown as payment of TA/DA to various head teachers and community leaders, who attended the education workshops. According to findings, the workshops were not even organized.

The crime that these employees have committed is a foregone conclusion. For that commission of crime, they have been suspended, then handed over prison terms and then sacked without benefits for their involvement. The degree of their crime is not relevant at this point.

Humans have been accused of many unsavoury and cruel actions. The “ghosts” are unforgiving. But forgiveness is not the question here. The fact is that all legal action should be tempered with understanding and compassion.

How many times does one have to pay for the same crime? This is not to justify criminality on the part of the person committing it. Every one should be punished for the number of crimes committed.

Yes, there have been instances when a person has been penalized and punishments awarded for different crimes committed by him or her. It is justifiable as he/she has been convicted on each count.

Now, the matter has come up for deliberations in the National Assembly. Many members of Parliament supported the Opposition Leader that the employees have been treated too harshly. It is of little comfort to know that the education ministry was not responsible for sacking the employees and that the Royal Civil Service Commission has been requested to relax the penalty. In fact, the education even sounded slightly apologetic.

While still under suspension, the case was forwarded to the court which convicted them. And the BCS Rules 2006 says that convicted civil servants are liable for termination from service. It is not about conviction but the fact that they have been disproportionately penalized for the crime they committed.

According to BCSR, one penalty should be imposed on each case. Some MPs even pointed out that the penalties meted out could even tantamount to violation of human rights and asked the government for its intervention.

What actions the government will take on the matter is something one cannot comment on. It is the government’s prerogative. However, to say that the government is helpless because RCSC is an autonomous body and it cannot interfere in its decision is like putting all autonomous bodies on a high pedestal than they don’t necessarily deserve to be on. We may even end up quoting different rules to justify our means and ends, at this rate.

But, this much can be said that these employees are lucky to have their problems mentioned and deliberated upon in the highest legislative body in the kingdom. We hope this doesn’t set up precedence. Or else we might end up discussing internal management problems rather than taking up matters of national importance.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Changing the marriage act

Broken homes and the resultant divorce is traumatic for all families, except in cases where the level of incompatibility is so high that the bonds of wedlock becomes a mental stranglehold and life together turns into a living hell.

Divorce and separation were not new things before the Marriage Act was promulgated. In the extended Bhutanese family, the child never suffered, at least prior to 1980s. As it happened, the children always lived in the mother’s family in almost all such cases.

It is the same traditional approach that worked into our 1980 Marriage Act, whereby the mother ends up being the custodian of the children.

It is often said and there is a truism to a great extent that the mother always tends to give greater care and love to the children, even after divorce. The father may have all the money, but it takes a mother to give a sense of belonging. That is true when we look at the traditonal structure of our family. That was when tradition ruled the roost and legal process had not entered our lives.

There are people who believe that a piece of paper (marriage certificate) can keep two people together. In one way, that is true if we go by the proverb that marriage is made in heaven. So why should a pice of paper tie two people together through thick and thin.

That was fine when tradition and culture was a great bonding factor in our social lives. But when the traditional joint family structure breaking away at the seams, as more and more young people preferred to live far away from their home hearth, either in government, corporate or private servic e, the thread that bound us started getting stretched.

So we started nuclear families, away from our home and families. During the annual gathering of the family members, which usually happens when Lochoed (annual puja is being held, we are almost like strangers meeting for the first time, with our own likes and dislikes. We are only there bound by our connection with the ancestral home, which is at breaking point.

So when the Marriage Act 1980 came into force, the mothers ended up with the custody of the children. Nothing wrong with it. But when this traditional sentiment got expressed into black and white in the act, there were quite a few things that were not given due consideration.

How much would 20 percent of the father ‘s contribution help the child, if the mother is unemployed. And if she is saddled with two or three children under nine years of age, she may not even have the time to go out and earn a living.

Biological rights of the mother not withstanding, how about if the mother is not able to, forget the child’s right, provide a proper atmosphere or the necessary care due to various factors. There was a case of a father who lost his daughter to the mother . But then the father went from the dzongkhag court to the high court till he got the custody of the child. Of course he presented concrete proof of the mother’s inability to care for the child.

Now coming to the question of child support, most father’s had found it difficult to part with the 20 percent of his earning. The court may rule out that the mother has to be paid the amount but who will ensure that it will be paid every month. Every time the money is not paid, the mother has to run to the court. Some times, the father may not be living in the same dzongkhag. Who is going to trace him out and make him pay?

Therefore, the decision to amend the Marriage Act in conformity with the changing times would be a good approach.

Only education will lead to empowerment

It is alright to come out once a year with slogans and posters to protest violence against women. That is what we do because a day in a year is dedicated to the elimination of violence against women.

Violence is only one aspect that the women are suffering from. What is the solution?

We all know what the solution is but for some reasons, the solutions that we come forward with for the welfare of the women are mostly half-baked attempts.

We have often talked about empowering our women. But how do we empower them? The word itself is a strong one. But for the strength that the word may carry, the process of empowerment of women has been more written about in various documents and project reports than acted upon.

Empowerment doesn’t come without a minimum level of education. Of course this is not to say that efforts are not being made to make the women self-reliant and stand on their own feet by teaching them some skills or trade that would enable them to make a living independent of dependence on men folk.

Having some skill or trade might free them from the stranglehold of dependence and poverty. In most cases, as reported in various media, poverty is the culprit and has invariably driven them into situations from where there is no escape.

For instance, prostitution is something we can legally and technically say doesn’t exist in the country. That is because legally we don’t accept that it exists. And if we are aware of its existence, we just tend to turn a blind eye and ignore it.

We are not talking of mass trafficking of women and young girls, like it is reported to be happening in some parts of the world. Yet, our young girls are being lured into the trade or the profession that is one of the oldest one in the human history.

Basically it is the lack of education that is the root cause of the evil. Without education, they are not even in a position to acquire skills that will provide them with decent livelihood. This inability to earn a livelihood makes them susceptible to all forms of degradation and indignities that can be heaped on a woman.

Despite the negative labeling of Third World women as ignorant, poor, uneducated, and powerless, it is a clear indication that there are many obstacles that hinder women empowerment in Third world countries. Even with the multitude of media technologies and communication means, women in the developing countries especially those residing in rural and remote areas are still voiceless compared to women in developed countries.

When an illiterate young village woman comes to a town looking for employment, the only alternative open to her is dishwashing. If she is good looking, she gets to wait around the tables. Slowly she slips into the slimy side of the business.

It is not only the illiterate ones who fall prey to such temptations. Some times the temptations come as an opportunity to earn some extra money to tide over a bad financial situation. Many school drop-outs, when faced with dire unemployment, are also forced into it.

Of course, they don’t like it. Like every one they would like to have a family and raise children. But once they are into it, there is most often no way out of the morass.

It is not too late. We have to come forward with programmes to educate and empower them. No matter what kind of programmes we may implement, it has to start with education. Only education will lead to empowerment.