LG leaders from Thimphu, Paro exhibits community development plans through Gallery Walk

Paro’s Wangchang Gewog, Thimphu’s Mewang Gewog wins BCMD’s Best Community Building Plan

“It’s evident why decentralized planning has not materialized in its true sense,though democracy is 14 years old. Consultations and decision-making are made exclusive to the heads of the family, planning begins not with the analysis of the needs and data but with prioritization of activities driven by budget and deliberation only with a few active individuals,” said The Executive Director, Dr Chencho Lhamu of Bhutan Center for Media and Democracy(BCMD).
“by using GNH-lens to analyze communities and plan based on the expressed needs, a striking realization in the participants is why their plans did not vary from year to year and other Dzongkhag,” added Dr Chencho Lhamu.
BCMD facilitated community development plan created using the tools of participatory planning, Gross National Happiness-based community analysis. This time among the nine Gewogs from Thimphu and Paro.
Naro, Dopshari, Hungrel and Wangchang are the four participating gewogs from Paro. Wheaseas the five participating gewogs from Thimphu Dzongkhag are Chang, Dagala, Genekha, Mewang and Kawang Gewog. But, Naro Gewog under Paro couldn’t make to the ‘gallery walk’ hosted at Le Meridian in Thimphu due to poor road conditions.
The gallery walk is like an exhibition or presentation with eight team with three members each. The members are the local leaders elected in the third local government election. The local leaders were given 10 minutes each to present their plans for their community to each group of guests and assessors. The assessment for the best community building plan was done in two segments.
Firstly, the local leaders were trained by the three trainers who assessed the participating officials on their leadership skills and facilitation skills during the consultation with the citizens. Three trainers’ assessment  mark is converted in to 30 per cent where as there were four assessors at the ‘gallery walk’ with 70 per cent assessment mark.
Wangchang Gewog in Paro scored the highest during the gallery walk. The local government of the Wangchang shared their plans to address the visible issues in their community.
Gyelpo Tshering, Wangchang’s Gup said that their team is working on social inclusion of people with disabilities (PWD).
He also said that there’s a need to address the increasing divorce rate in his Gewog due to people leaving abroad for better livelihood whereas the remaining families benefits the less. “If we look into divorce rate in our community it’s between 10-20 per cent, which seems less considering the number of people out here. But if we look into the divorce rate of Bhutanese people living abroad it’s between 80-90 per cent. We are advocating the legal implications of obtaining fake marriage certificates to leave as a dependent in foreign land leaving behind their spouses and children at almighty’s mercy,” said the Gup.
Wangchang Gup also said that such broken marriages hampers the children. “We should look into making the institution of marriage and take marriages seriously as the future of nations are hampered beyond one can imagine,” the Gup added.
Wangchang Gewog leaders also highlighted the increasing waste management problems. Moreover, safe drinking water shortage and irrigation water are still of great concern in the Gewog.
Meanwhile, the winner of Thimphu’s best planning activities, Mewang Gewog prioritized social issues such as poor cellular connectivity, drinking water and irrigation water problems.
Mewang Gewog solved the issue of poor farm roads and also strengthened health facilities. The Gewog leaders also constructed footpath for PWD to make service availing easier and to let them participate in Gewog meetings.
However, according to Dawa Zam, one of the local leader in Mewang Gewog the gender equality situation concerning women leadership and women decision-making participation still need attention. “Women in my Gewog aren’t coming forward or they hesitate as they are not paid any heed whenever they raise a point during the meetings, but we are looking forward to giving them the push they need,” said Dawa Zam.
Similarly, all the participating gewogs said that they need to focus on waste management too.
According to BCMD, with the goal to contribute towards strengthening decentralized planning processes through modeling citizen participation and evidence-based decision making local leaders, administrators and residents of the nine gewogs of Thimphu and Paro Dzongkhag successfully engaged in capacity development workshops and conducted public consultations and developed plans using the GNH-based toolkit developed by BCMD.
BCMD provided Nu 30,000 to each Gewog to carry out public consultation and the winners of the best gewogs were handed over a set of valuable books and certificates.
According to the participating local leaders, the participatory program was eye-opening for many of them as they reflected on current practices of Zomdues(local meetings) and planning processes that have not changed while the country has transitioned well into democracy.
The advisor of BCMD, Siok Sian Pek-Dorji stated that the gallery walk was candid and honest with a heartfelt concern of local leaders towards their community and people.
“Usually, it’s mostly about infrastructure concerns that the local leaders would talk about. This time, it’s heartwarming as local leaders pointed out social issues, gender based violence, difficulties of broken families, premature marriages and parenting, new people moving into their community and more. They were honest and showed a heartfelt concern towards their community,” said BCMD’a advisor.
Also the director of department of local governance (DLG), Kado Zangpo said that the gallery walk reminded him of the Royal Address from His Majesty the Fourth King in 1980 and 1981 to the citizens of Mongar and Samtse respectively on the national day.
Director of DLG also reminded the local leaders to work towards increasing citizens’ bank balance for socio-economic development of the community. “The local leaders should always focus on increasing the citizens’ household income for economic, environment and social wellbeing,” said DLG director.
Kado Zangpo also urged the local leaders to be transparent in revealing the amount of Gewog’s financial status to the people. “Local government should not hide the budget, in fact people should know and understand the Gewog budget. So that the people at grass root level can come up with the best community development plan,” said the DLG Director.
He said that it’s important to break the authoritarian state of the leaders in a decentralized form of governance. “To break the chain of authoritarian, local leaders must be mindful that they act as another person with authority and power, it should be given to the commoners to make decisions,” said Kado Zangpo.
The director of DLG remarked the BCMD’s project as a complementary to Community Engagement Program being carried out in 205 gewogs across Bhutan.
BCMD also conducted the project in Trashigang with two Gewogs; Lumang and Sakteng. The program officer, Namgyel Wangchuk with BCMD said that it’s important that the local leaders remember the Tripple C while implementing or making community development plans. “ There should be coordination, consolidation and collaboration among the local leaders in different gewogs to build better community,” said the program officer.
Namgyel Wangchuk also shared that effective communication can help communities come together to benefit the citizens. He cited how BCMD helped Lumang sell their cooking oil to Sakteng and solved the problems of not finding market or resource shortage.
BCMD will be facilitating such project in other Dzongkhags and Gewogs although the project ends with a gallery walk for Thimphu and Paro.
“The goal of the project is to foster inclusive and participatory planning at local level,” stated BCMD.