International Women’s Day in Bhutan

On March 8, the UN International Women’s Day, AHF CEO Carolyn Hamer-Smith sat down in Bhutan with Tandin Wangmo, CEO of our partner organisation, RENEW to speak about the work we do together with women in Bhutan.

You can view the video here


We have also provided a transcript of the audio below.

CarolynHi I’m Carolyn Hamer-Smith, CEO of the Australian Himalayan Foundation and I’m in Bhutan celebrating International Women’s Day with our partner organisation RENEW. RENEW stands for Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women and today it’s my great privilege to be sitting here with the CEO of RENEW, Tandin Wangmo.

Tandin thank you for speaking with us. Why do you think it’s important to mark International Women’s Day?


TandinHi Carolyn and thank you for visiting us, it’s always a pleasure to have you.

The struggle of women is not the struggle of any particular individual, or feminist, or organisation. It has to be in solidarity – like-minded people coming together for a cause, a common cause, and then believing.

I believe that International Women’s Day is all about that kind of unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action; a day for all the like-minded people who feel passion for the cause to come together in solidarity not just as a group, not just as an organisation but as a country, as a region, as global citizens. I think that’s why it’s important to mark International Women’s Day.


CarolynIn Bhutan, RENEW is the only NGO dedicated to the empowerment of women and girls, why do you think this is important, to have such an NGO in Bhutan?


Tandin: Well we do not shy away from the fact that domestic violence does exist in Bhutan anymore, that Bhutanese women like any other women in the world face this challenge behind the silent doors, behind closed doors and in the hands of people who are supposed to love them, who are supposed to cherish them. There has to be someone, an individual or some organisation prepared to break that silence. We are very proud to say that with our president the Queen Mother Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck’s wise guidance, leadership and passion in the cause, RENEW has been able to break that silence and do much more in the area of gender equality in Bhutan.


CarolynFor quite some years now the Australian Himalayan Foundation has been supporting education and vocational training programs for women and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds and remote rural areas, what has the impact been of these programs on the lives of these women and girls?


Tandin: I must say that the scholarship support from the Australian Himalayan Foundation has been a very great help, not just for RENEW to expand our services, but for each individual vulnerable girl who has received these scholarships. Because if it was not for these scholarships, you could imagine where these girls would end up. Without access to education they would be taken away by urban families as domestic helpers, as babysitters or even worse they could be lured into pubs and dance bars or other areas of work where their vulnerabilities could be exploited, and they would not have a decent life. But thanks to these education scholarships from the AHF, these girls have been able to go to school, at least complete high school and then go to vocational training institutes and they are able to, the scholarship is able to make a lot of difference in these girls’ education.


CarolynI think the AHF has been very proud to partner with RENEW and especially with Her Majesty and her wonderful support. When you empower a woman, it ripples out and you empower a community and a country, and it can have a very long-lasting effect.

Thank you for talking to us today Tandin, and happy International Women’s Day to you all!