Thimphu, Bhutan: The Centenary Park in Thimphu turned festive as Bhutan celebrated the International National Women’s Day on 8 March. The park was the venue for the National Textile Festival, which was organised to commemorate this year's women’s day.

The three-day festival, which is an annual event, this year celebrated Bhutan’s women artisans. Her Royal Highness Princess Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck graced the opening of the festival.

First conceptualized under the Royal Patronage of Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck in 2003, the festival provides a platform for local artisans to showcase and exchange their knowledge and skills.

The Textile Museum of the Department of Culture, MoHCA has successfully conducted the festival every year since the first one in 2003.  

The Director General, Department of Culture, Karma Weezir in his address said as one of the largest gathering of crafts persons in the country, the National Textile Festival over the years has created opportunities for individuals and communities across the country to celebrate, share and sustain the vitality of folk, ethnic and traditional art.

“It has also been instrumental in revitalizing the traditional crafts of Bhutan by ensuring its continued growth and development.”

Her Royal Highness also launched the report of Bhutan’s first comprehensive national survey on the prevalence of violence against women and girls coinciding with the International Women’s Day.

The Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Survey was initiated in 2017 by the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) with support from the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Bhutan.

The two-year study surveyed more than 2,000 women and girls across the country. Findings revealed that at least one out of every five women and girls (aged 15 and older) have experienced physical or sexual violence by a husband or other intimate partner in their lifetime. The report also looks at other types of violence against women, the impact of violence on women and their families, and what women do to seek help.

The study findings will serve as the foundation for understanding and integrating sensitivity and responsive interventions to enhance protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls in the country.

Highlighting the significance of the International Women’s Day, the Health Minister, Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo in her keynote said, the day is a time to not only celebrate achievements made in advancing the social, economic, and political growth of women and girls but also to take stock of the achievements and renew commitments to make the world a better place for women and girls.

The global theme for 2019 International Women’s Day is, ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate Change.’ It focuses on innovative ways in which gender equality and the empowerment of women can be advanced, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure. 

“With the advent of innovation and modern technology, opportunities are ripe and vast. Yet, women continue to find themselves under-represented as the gender digital divide continues to widen,” Lyonpo added.  

The Director of NCWC, Kunzang Lhamu said the commission will continue its effort and commitment to address the issue of VAWG and implement the recommendations from the study.

“The NCWC would also like to seek support and collaboration from all its partners in achieving its vision of creating an equal society where men and women, boys and girls live in harmony with equality and respect in all spheres of lives,” Director Kunzang Lhamu added.

The UNDP Bhutan Resident Representative, Azusa Kubota reaffirmed UNDP’s commitment to ‘leaving no women behind’ and ensured continued support in eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

“Innovative approaches that disrupt business as usual are central to removing structural barriers and ensuring that no woman and girl is left behind,” Ms. Kubota said.

“For the UNDP, promoting gender equality and empowerment is at the heart of our development agenda and we believe that without addressing violence, it is inevitable to realize it.”

The National Textile Festival, meanwhile, was organized by the Textile Museum in collaboration with the Royal Textile Academy, RENEW and NCWC with funding support from Royal Government of Bhutan, UNDP, UN Women and UNFPA and Austrian Development Cooperation.

The Members of the Parliament, Government Dignitaries and members of the Development Partners also attended the opening of the festival.

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