On International Democracy Day, Bhutan’s first democratically elected woman gup, Namgay Pelden, asks women to come out of the kitchen
l Usha Drukpa, Thimphu
Experience matters and it is possible for women to perform equally, if not better than men in the political arena.
Standing testament to this is gup Namgay Pelden of Tashiding gewog from Dagana district, who is serving in this position for the second time. Respected as a personification of women empowerment, she has changed perceptions in the society that politics is not an area for women. And as the world observed the International Democracy Day, Bhutan’s first democratically elected women gup has a message.
“Today, September 15, is the International Democracy Day. And on this very important day, I take the opportunity to send a message to all women of this country and beyond to join politics, if they are interested,” She said, underlining that women need “to come out of the kitchen.”
“Everything is about confidence,” gup Namgay Pelden says, stating that when she was elected as gup in 2011, she was “nervous.” “I also did not fully know the laws of the Kingdom; the rules and regulation and responsibilities of a gup,” she told The Journalist. The gup further said that in her first tenure it never occurred to her that women were shying away from politics. “Probably it was because I was a gup. But as I looked across the country, I found out that I was the only female gup, which made me proud and determined,” Namgay said, mentioning that she took her post as a challenge. She says that she did not want to make a single mistake or fail in her duties as these would have added to the preconceived notions that women cannot do what men can.
“I knew that if I failed, people would make me an example of women failing in politics. This would discourage other women aspirants,” she added.
Namgay also spoke about challenges, which are some of the deterrents and hurdles women face though there is the interest to join politics. “I have experienced that as a working mother, it is difficult to work without compromises,” she said.
Elected for the second term, gup Namgay Pelden says that she has made a “giant stride.” “And this stride is not only for me but for all women who are aspiring to participate in the democratic process as candidates,” she said, reiterating that women can “do it.”
According to her, it is just the first few months where one feels nervous. From then, it is smooth sailing as one becomes confident.
People’s support is also important as it augments and bolsters confidence and the people of Tashiding, who are proud to have a woman as gup, is Namgay Pelden’s biggest asset.
“Our gup is a woman. But if you assess the capability of the gups, from the 205 gewogs, she will definitely come in the top ten,” Phuntsho Choden from Tashiding says, adding that in terms of service delivery, Namgay Pelden will be second to none.
Karma, also from Tashiding speaks along the same lines. “I am a man. But I will not be able to perform like our gup. I may be wrong, but I can say that our gup is much better than most of the other gups in leadership skills, addressing people’s problems and understanding people,” he said. Tashiding gewog, Karma said, has progressed tremendously under the wings of gup Namgay Pelden.
Meanwhile, Namgay Pelden has several tasks, beginning from the provision of safe drinking water to building a Hindu temple. Underlining that access to safe drinking water is the gewog’s biggest challenge; she said that alternative approaches are being explored. “There are also other problems such as construction and maintenance of farm roads,” she added.
She also has another responsibility, which according to her is very important. “I want to see more women participating and contesting in the elections, local and national,” she says. And to realize this “important duty,” Namgay Pelden says that she will go all out. “It would be my biggest contribution to the building of a vibrant democracy,” she added.
Apart from Namgay Pelden, the local government elections of 2016 saw another woman elected as gup, Pema Wangmo Tamang, Khabesa gewog, also from Dagana district.