Weavers, artists recognised for promoting arts and crafts
November 1, 2017

Tashi Yuden’s lungserma, which took her about a year to complete, bagged the first prize in Gho category during the 16th National Design and Art Competition (NDAC) at the Royal Textile Academy (RTA) in Thimphu yesterday.
The 44-year-old housewife has been weaving since she was 15. She said that creating new motifs has been difficult while weaving. “I won the second prize in Kira category in 2008.” She said she would participate again as it provides an opportunity for weavers and artists to continue working on creating new pieces.
The competition was organised in five different categories – gho (weaving), kira (weaving), embroidery, traditional painting and contemporary arts. It was held to promote unique arts and crafts by providing a platform to artisans.
Her Royal Highness Princess Euphelma Choden Wangchuck, awarded cash prizes of Nu 120,000, Nu 65,000 and Nu 32,500 to the top three winners in each category.
Four weavers, three embroiderers, two master painters and a master sculptor were also awarded Royal patron’s meritorious awards. Cash prize of Nu 10,000 were awarded in recognition of the artisans’ contribution to the conservation of arts and crafts in the country.
The criteria included aspects of aesthetic in terms of originality, colour, creativity, shape and size, and technical application and skills in terms of surface decoration, details, skills, materials used, and market potential.
There were 61 participants in the category of kira, 10 in gho, 19 in embroidery, 33 in traditional painting and 72 in contemporary arts. Ugyen Yuden bagged the first spot in the kira category, Norbu in embroidery, Tshewang Tenzin in painting and Passang Dema in contemporary arts.
About 17 prize winning pieces would be exhibited at the RTA for a week.
Curator Pema Chhoden Wangchuk said that the two new categories were included in the competition with the support from Mr and Ms Alan Bickell. “Mr and Ms Alan Bickell are frequent visitors to Bhutan and to encourage artists to continue creating fine arts, they have agreed to fund the annual competition for the next five years beginning this year.”
RTA in collaboration with Textile Museum, Department of Culture, and Voluntary Artists’ Studio, Thimphu, Bhutan organised the competition.
Rinchen Zangmo

Assessment identifies 14 vulnerable groups for intervention
November 1, 2017

With more than 70 percent of young men and women spending more than a year searching for employment, the Bhutan Vulnerability Baseline Assessment 2016 recommends Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to enhance its existing set of courses to address vulnerabilities faced by unemployed youth.
This is among the five recommendations made in the assessment that was launched yesterday in Thimphu. Other recommendations include increased focus on education system and curriculum, expanding career counselling in schools, mass media awareness campaign on current programmes of employment, and improved access to credit for Micro, Small and Medium sized Enterprises (MSMEs).
According to the report, an individual’s educational attainment, increasing number of graduates and insufficient number of jobs, expectation mismatch between employer and individual seeking employment, and issues pertaining to quality and focus of TVET causes youth unemployment. An unemployed youth is vulnerable to health related risks, social exclusion, and susceptible to committing crimes.
The report states that the 11th Plan has projected that about 120,000 youth job seekers would enter the market during the plan period. “It is envisioned that while natural job creation by the economy would provide opportunities to 42,000 of these workforce participants, there is a need to come up with innovative strategies to support the creation of an additional 82,000 jobs.”
The report includes causes, vulnerabilities, current policy and programmes landscape, and recommendations for 14 vulnerable groups – people who beg; children in conflict with law; elderly in need of support; female workers working at Drayangs; persons practicing risky sexual behaviour; persons using drugs and alcohol; persons with disabilities; orphans; out of school children; people living with Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV)/ Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS); single parents and their children; unemployed youth; victims of domestic violence, and vulnerable urban dwellers. The assessment was done with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Vulnerability refers to the physical, economic, political or social susceptibility of a community or individuals to loss, damage and exclusion. It is also defined as the relationship between exclusion, risks due to exclusion and efforts to manage these risks.
People who beg are vulnerable to lack of safe, secure and healthy habitat, social exclusion and humiliation, and are susceptible to violence while children in conflict with law are vulnerable to feeling of loss of freedom, fear of social rejection and uncertainty about their future, and of having limited access to social and psychological support.
Elderly in need of support are vulnerable to developing health issues due to advancing age, to social vulnerabilities, and vulnerabilities pertaining to housing. Female workers working at Drayangs are vulnerable to stigma and discrimination, health issues owing to ambience of drayangs, and vulnerabilities associated with increased alcohol consumption.
Those practicing risky sexual behaviour are vulnerable to increased health risks, social and legal stigma, and limited health services and community outreach services for HIV or Sexually Transmitted Infections diagnosis and treatment, while people using drugs and alcohol have increased risk of developing health issues, high chances of relapse, adverse impact on educational performance of adolescent, and adverse impact on the family of the person.
The group of persons with disabilities is vulnerable to stigma, discrimination and exclusion, education related challenges due to quality, infrastructure and stigma, shortage of trained health professionals, livelihood challenges owing to structural issues, and is susceptible to physical and sexual abuse.
Orphans have limited emotional care and support, restricted access to education and healthcare, is vulnerable to exploitation and abuse at the hands of foster parents, and social stigma, while out of school children are vulnerable to poverty trap, and inadequate life skills and social skills.
The report identifies people living with HIV/AIDS as being vulnerable to stigma and discrimination, limited access to required health care, and faces livelihood challenges due to unequal status.
Single parents and their children could face income related vulnerability, social exclusion owing to stigma and discrimination, dropping out of school, taking to substance use, and is susceptible to committing crimes.
Victims of domestic violence could face occupational hazards, and violence leading to physical and mental health problems, while vulnerable urban dwellers are vulnerable to natural and man-made hazards, have fear of homelessness, limited access to healthcare, and violence against women and increase in crime incidence.
UNDP Resident Representative and United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bhutan, Gerald Daly said that although the global human development report 2016 found that Bhutan’s Human Development Index value increased by six percent from 2010 to 2015, it is critical to note that 12.7 percent of the population is still below the threshold of multidimensional poverty index.
“Closing this gap is critical. We can build on what we have achieved and explore new approaches to overcome challenges. To do that we must first identify and explore who has been left behind in the progress of development and why.”
Gross National Happiness Commission Secretary, Thinley Namgyel, said the government in pursuit of inclusive socio-economic development has identified, addressing the needs of the vulnerable groups as one the 16 National Key Result Areas in the 11th Plan. He said that this was done to ensure that the benefits of socio-economic development reach the most disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of the population, enhancing their standard of living and quality of life which is also in line with the global commitment to ‘Leave No One Behind.’
He said that while many of the identified groups are already recognised by the Government as requiring targeted interventions, the report sheds additional light on social issues faced by vulnerable groups, the reasons behind certain vulnerabilities, and the readiness of Bhutan’s current policy, legal, and data landscape to address those challenges. “The recommendations in the report will provide guidance in formulating strategies to address the issues faced by these vulnerable groups.”
Gerald Daly said that the report also identifies lack of data, information and literature on the vulnerabilities related to the identified groups, and stress the need to address this gaps through future in-depth studies and research to understand each of the vulnerable groups carefully. “The most important aspect of the report is the effort to map various policies and programmes across agencies and provides recommendations for future policy changes and programmes.”
He added that with clear recommendations highlighted in the report, the challenge would be to ensure that development partners are working closely with the government to prioritise and coordinate technical and financial resources to enhance the efforts of the government and Civil Society Organisations so that the 12th Plan can be fully met and vulnerability-related recommendations implemented.
Secretary Thinley Namgyel said that to address the needs of some of the vulnerable groups with support from development partners, the government has already undertaken various initiatives such as implementing targeted poverty reduction programmes, drafting of the National Policy for Persons with Disability and assessment on the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Karma Cheki

Big biogas plans after project’s success
November 1, 2017

Bhutan will have at least 4,600 homes running on biogas for cooking or lighting by the end of next year.
Department of Renewable energy (DRE) officials said the success of the current biogas programme has raised their hopes and have proposed to establish another 5,000 plants in the 12th Plan.
DRE director Mewang Gyeltshen said that the Bhutan Biogas Project (BBP), an ADB funded project that is likely to be extended to early next year, has made huge progress in reducing the burden on imported fuel.
The biogas project that failed two decades ago has returned to replace imported liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and firewood in thousands of rural homes across the country today.
A family of seven in Trashigang today uses only one LPG cylinder a year against a dozen earlier. Officials said that a household using biogas is expected to save 2,000kg of firewood, 2,555 litres of kerosene, 164.25kg of LPG, and 1,460 kilowatts of electricity a year.
Bhutan consumes about 1.2 million tonnes of fuel-wood a year, about 70 percent of that is used by households for cooking and heating. The country has one of the world’s highest monthly per capital fuel-wood consumptions, burning 97.3 kilogrammes as of last year.
Biogas is produced by fermenting cattle dung, which has the same characteristics as human sewage or agricultural residues, and is rich in methane and has the same characteristics as natural gas.
As of September this year, the project has built 4,173 plants across the country except for Thimphu, Trongsa and Zhemgang dzongkhags. Samtse with 677 plants has the most number of plants and Gasa has the least with seven.
SNV and ADB studies on biogas potential in the country showed that at least 16,000 households have the potential to use biogas plants cost-effectively.
The project has trained 547 masons and more than 200 supervisors.
Chief engineer of the alternative energy division, Chhimi Dorji said biogas was introduced in the country in the early 1980s. He said that however, most of the biogas technologies were abandoned because of poor technical designs and lack of spare parts and maintenance.
The plant’s design comes in four sizes: four, six, eight, and 10 Cubic Meters (CuM) costs ranging between Nu 30,000 to Nu 50,000. Mewang Gyeltshen said that the most popular size with villagers is the six CuM plant that costs about Nu 45,000.
The project provides one-third of the cost of the plant and the BDBL provides another one third as collateral free loan at 10 percent interest payable in three years. “The proponent only needs to invest one-third of the cost upfront,” he said.
The biogas programme, through the BBP, was reintroduced in Bhutan in 2011 with support from ADB to reduce destruction of forests and to bring down greenhouse gas emissions.
The project confronted numerous challenges. Given the subsidies on electricity, free 100 units of electricity in rural villages, LPG, and the easy availability of firewood, people do not take the opportunity to construct biogas plants, officials said.
The other constraint of the project is that most villagers are engaged in field works most of the year and don’t have time for construction of such plants.
“It’s only during winter that most farmers have time to build which is why we’re trying to extend the project by a few months until spring next year,” Mewang Gyeltshen said.
“We try to reduce people’s dependence on imported fuel and firewood through building biogas plants, wind and solar plants,” Mewang Gyeltshen said. “We’ve to create awareness among consumers on using energy efficiently.”
Tshering Palden