It’s heartening that the number of aspiring candidates wishing to contest in the National Council elections has increased substantially compared to the past. A total of 142 aspiring candidates have registered for the NC elections as of October last year. And while women’s participation as candidates has also increased this time, it has been dismal compared to just seven women against the others who are all male candidates.
There is no denying the fact that women’s representation is presently dispiriting in the parliament as well as the local governments. Even the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report shows that women in Bhutan in elected positions are unfortunately rare – having been reduced from eight to four of the 67 elected Members of Parliament in the 2013 elections.
So where are we going wrong? It is, therefore, timely and befitting that we explore initiatives and policies that might augment women’s representation in politics.
Women’s participation in a democracy is pivotal. 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 mostly affect their world. This importance is best summed up by Hillary Clinton, who says, “There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard”.
However, in Bhutan, gender stereotype has been identified as one reason for restricting women’s participation in the electoral processes. Many see women best suited to be teachers and a very few see women being suited for elective and top positions in governance.
Reports have also shown that women are not yet adequately represented today despite positions in the higher levels of government and decision-making being open to both genders and placement of women in the higher strata of government being encouraged. And a fewer women reportedly compared to men express interest in participating in elections as candidates.
Then there is also the notion that politics is a male dominated field and that men make better politicians than women. Even most women, according to reports, continue to have the same belief. A significant or a majority have this notion that men are better leaders compared to women. This should subtly change if women are to make a difference.
Nonetheless, the consensus is that there should be more women’s representation in elective offices. This, however, will not come easy or happen in a day. More than facilitating women’s entry into politics and changing the present practices or systems, what is found wanting for now is attitudinal and behavioral changes against women that stems from the inherited psyche of society.
It is only after that where we can, perhaps, then envision Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg’s world – a world where there will be no female leaders in the future, but just only leaders.