While Bhutan has managed to avert a public health crisis, it has not been able to escape the COVID-19 pandemic's crippling socio-economic impact

 

In this together, but impacted unequally 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, everywhere, its impact is not shared equally. The crisis is having a substantial impact on women worldwide. Women play a disproportionate role in responding to the virus, including as frontline healthcare workers and care givers at home. Women’s unpaid care work has increased as a result of school closures.

Vulnerable women around the globe in particular are disproportionally impacted. The COVID-19 crisis has aggravated violence against women and girls: the ‘shadow pandemic’. During lockdowns, victims of partner violence found themselves trapped at home with their abusers. The pandemic’s socio-economic blow is also hitting the vulnerable women harder than others, putting them at a greater risk of being pushed back into poverty. 

To reduce the impact on women, gender expertise must be built into response teams. Measures to protect and stimulate the economy must target women. And this is exactly what the RENEW Livelihoods Project supported by UNDP seeks to do for the wellbeing of vulnerable women in Bhutan.

RENEW (Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women) is a non-governmental organization dedicated to the relief and empowerment of disadvantaged women and adolescent girls, particularly victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

 

A holistic approach to enhancing women’s economic empowerment

The economic empowerment of women is central to realizing women’s rights and gender equality. The COVID-19 emergency has turned the world of work upside down. Hundreds of millions of jobs have been lost worldwide. Women remain among the worst hit. That’s largely because women disproportionately work in insecure labour markets and informal sectors. 

 

RENEW Director, Tshering Dolkar (left) and UNDP Resident Representative Azusa Kubota at the project launch

 

UNDP and RENEW launched the Livelihood project, a holistic life transformation support programme, last month, embarking on a journey to drive economic empowerment of the vulnerable and most affected women:  survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV), Drayang workers displaced by the coronavirus pandemic, LGBTQ community and People Living with HIV. 

The project will support efforts to enable vulnerable women to weather the socio-economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and help them get through the crisis through a comprehensive support package.   

The project will provide vocational training, cross-cutting skills development and essential rights and awareness building training. Beneficiaries will be equipped with a diverse range of job skills aimed at enabling them to strengthen their resilience during these uncertain times and build back better and stronger. 

The RENEW Livelihood project is part of the Government of Japan funded project "Towards a Smarter, Greener and More Resilient Recovery through Innovation in Bhutan". 

 

Tailoring is among the vocational skills that will be imparted to the beneficiaries

 

Vocational training 

Various vocational skills, including weaving, tailoring and food production, will be provided in a bid to cushion the impact on these vulnerable women with weaker social safety nets and dependent on informal sectors.

Drayang workers will be provided trainings that will prepare them for the role of professional traditional cultural performers. Drayangs in the country were closed after the first COVID-19 case surfaced in March, leaving many young women and men working in these entertainment centres without jobs and income. In partnership with the Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA), traditional and cultural performance arts training will be provided with the aim to professionalize the Drayang vocation.  

 

Essential rights and awareness building 

The COVID-19 crisis has led to a surge in Gender-Based Violence (GBV) around the world, prompting the United Nations and others to call on countries to put in concerted efforts to address the ‘shadow pandemic’ of GBV.

Through the project, UNDP and RENEW will strive to educate beneficiaries on sexual reproductive health, domestic and intimate partner violence to offset the gender dimensions of the pandemic.

 

Cross-cutting skills development 

Besides hands on vocational skills, the project will provide leadership skills, and training on basic financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills. The project seeks to enable beneficiaries to master all essential skills simultaneously.

 

The trainings will be provided at the RENEW's new Vocational Training Center built with support from JICA Bhutan. The UNDP-supported livelihood project complements JICA's commitment to enhance the livelihoods of vulnerable women.

 

Advancing women entrepreneurship

Merely equipping participants with job skills will not get them anywhere. Recognizing this, the last component of the project will focus on ensuring that the acquired skills contribute to tangible livelihood opportunities and income generation.

This will be done so by connecting them to microfinancing services through RENEW’s Microfinancing Program and providing opportunities to develop start-up proposals through a partnership with the Loden Foundation.

The Loden Foundation works to promote social entrepreneurship in the country. The Loden-UNDP COVID-19 Response Fund initiated in March has helped 10 young entrepreneurs launch green business initiatives to help communities navigate the new normal.  Building on this success, UNDP will enter into another partnership with Loden Foundation to provide entrepreneurship opportunities to the beneficiaries of the RENEW Livelihoods Project.  

The project will also help connect beneficiaries with other similar employment and livelihood schemes.

This is not the end. Beneficiaries will continue to receive support even after the training. RENEW will assist them in marketing their products. Online promotion and marketing strategies and tools will be explored to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 restrictions.

 

Be a part of the journey

This is a journey like no other. It seeks to spur transformational changes that will lead to more resilient lives, families and communities during these difficult times. Join us to make this happen. Reach out to the following focal persons if you would like to be part of this amazing journey.

Ms. Sonam Dekey (+975 7742 1141)

Ms. Chimi Lhaden (+975 1760 1394)

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