Helping ourselves

An earthquake, a storm and a fire recently ravaged our country in quick succession causing our people untold grief and suffering. And people from all walks of life, within the country and without, have come together in support of the victims of the these natural calamities that hit Eastern Bhutan especially hard.

But not all of us know how to help. For instance, two Bhutanese students, both in America, asked me how and where they should send their contributions. And, a foreigner asked me the same questions too.

The best and easiest way to help is by contributing to His Majesty’s Kidu Fund that has been established to facilitate support and rebuilding in the affected areas. People living outside Bhutan can contribute to the Kidu Fund by sending their donations to Bhutan National Bank. For more information on the Kidu Fund, contact Zimpon Wongma Pema Chewang by telephone (number +975-1762-1213) or email (pchewang@yahoo.com).

Meanwhile, His Majesty the King will be visiting the areas most affected by the natural disasters.

Our democracy

bridgeYesterday, HRH Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck inaugurated a workshop entitled “Democracy in our Place”. During this important workshop, participates will discuss various concepts about democracy and good governance.

In her royal address, HRH observed that many of us readily declare that “democracy must succeed in Bhutan.” But for democracy to succeed, HRH commanded that “…it must be relevant to the lives of the citizens, and most importantly it must be beneficial to them.”

A gentle reminder for all of us.

The workshop, which is being conducted in Hotel Zhiwaling, is organised by the Election Commission of Bhutan. You’ll find the full text of the Royal Address here.

Royal address

Law makers

Law makers

ROYAL ADDRESS AT THE CONCLUDING CEREMONY OF THE 3rd SESSION OF THE PARLIAMENT, 30 JULY 2007

On the occasion of the concluding ceremony of the 3rd session of Parliament, I congratulate the elected government of the Druk Phuensum Tshokpa on the completion of one year and four months in office. In these early days of a new political system while bearing great responsibilities you have, despite the limited resources, successfully carried out the difficult duties of government in service of the Tsawasum.

The Opposition, though comprised of only two members, has through diligence and commitment, fulfilled the important duties of the Opposition party enshrined in the Constitution.

The members of the National Council, in the interest of the country’s future, have shouldered their profound duties with accomplishment. I must express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the government and the members of parliament. It is with complete trust and faith that I look upon you to serve the People and Country. In doing so you have my wholehearted support.

We must also acknowledge that in preparation for democracy we had entrusted immense responsibilities on our civil servants and judiciary as well as on constitutional bodies such as the Royal Audit Authority, Anti-corruption Commission and Election Commission, which they have fulfilled in the service of the nation. Henceforth, for a vibrant and successful democracy, we must continue to support and strengthen these institutions.

Media – newspapers, television, radio and the Internet – must play a very important role. I appreciate that while some of the media agencies are young and lack adequate resources they have strived to perform their duties with complete commitment. Hereafter, media will be vital in keeping people well informed and in encouraging debate and participation – key to a vibrant democracy. Therefore, I have decided that through the exercise of my Royal Prerogative of Kidu, to strengthen media agencies so that they may carry out their duties, without fear or favour, in the interest of democracy.

Today, whenever there is time, I travel across the country to the villages. It is when I sit in the houses of my people, eat our meals together and discuss the lives and aspirations of each family, that I am most content. And while I am there I try, in small ways, to help them with their most pressing problems. Nothing is as rewarding as knowing that I have made their lives a little more comfortable, a little more secure and happier.

There is no substitute for being able to see the problems of the people personally. For when I carry out my duties, I shall remember the faces of the people whom I must serve and I will know the ways in which I can serve them best.

It is also while I am in the villages that I come across so many people serving the country in such important ways, but who are rarely recognized and acknowledged. There is the civil servant, teacher, health worker and local government staff working in remote places and serving their country well. Our development projects are supported by the hard work of the daily-wage worker and those in the national work force. There is the small entrepreneur or the farmer working hard to feed his or her family. Such people are the backbone of our nation.

I have said before that the future is what we make of it. What work we do with our two hands today, and the sacrifices we make will shape the future of our nation. To each and every loyal, hardworking and law-abiding citizen I offer my deepest gratitude.

Now, I always say that when we work together we must be frank and forthright. Today, everywhere people are concerned about the disagreements between important institutions of government. I want to tell my people that when such disagreements arise, there is no need to worry. It means that the members of these institutions have embraced their duties wholeheartedly. However, we must be careful not to defer problems but resolve them as soon as they arise.

It is not the disagreements that our people should be concerned about; it is the manner in which they are resolved. Frankly, these disagreements have given us a great opportunity to set the right precedent for future politicians, governments and people. If the institutions in question can sit together, keeping national interest above all else, and resolve their problems, it will be an auspicious sign that democracy has a great future in Bhutan.

As King I have the sacred duty to look beyond the next one or two, or even five or ten years. It is my duty to serve the People such that, for generation after generation, era upon era our nation becomes stronger, more prosperous and happier. Therefore, from where I stand, I do not see different players such as the National Assembly, National Council, Cabinet or Bureaucracy.

What do I see? I see our small landlocked country. I see our small Bhutanese family. Then I see this immense world in which we have the challenge and responsibility to stand on our own feet and build a nation into which our future generations will always feel proud, secure and happy to be born.

This is what I see. I truly believe that we have a special, unique and strong nation because of our People – the jewel of Bhutan. Throughout history our people have always worked as One Nation with One Vision. So, today, it is my hope that you will uphold this unity of spirit and purpose and resolve all disagreements in the interest of our People and Country, now and in the future.

Tashi Delek

Noble king

Bhutan's kings-2A year ago, on 21 July, during the first sitting of the Parliament after the signing of the Constitution, I proposed a motion to nominate His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo for the Nobel Peace Prize. To recall the importance of that motion, I’m featuring a photograph of our beloved kings, taken during the signing of the Constitution, in the banner. And, I’m posting a rough translation of the statement I made in the Parliament last year.

On the 15th day of the 5th month of our calendar, His Majesty the King affixed his signature, in pure gold, to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan. That historic moment, which took place in the Grand Assembly Hall of the Trashichho Dzong amid the sacred representations of the Lord Buddha, was witnessed by the monks of the Zhung Dratshang; His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo; Their Majesties the Queen Mothers, members of the Royal Family; ministers, members of the Parliament; officers of the security forces, civil servants; and the thousands of people who had congregated from many dzongkhags.

By this royal action, His Majesty the King gifted the Constitution, and, with it, the complete powers of governance, to the people of Bhutan.

In 1907, one hundred years ago, our forefathers had voluntarily given up all powers of the government to our first king, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. Since then, under the golden reigns of successive Wangchuck monarchs, the people of Bhutan have enjoyed unprecedented peace, prosperity and happiness.

Now, by introducing democracy, along with the Constitution, His Majesty the King has ensured that the sun of peace and happiness will never set on Bhutan and the Bhutanese people. This is a most precious gift. So, together with all our people, from all corners of our country, I respectfully submit my heartfelt gratitude and tashi delek to His Majesty the King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan is without equal. No where else in the world, and at no time in history, has a constitution such as ours been constructed. Similarly, no other monarchy in the world, at no time in history, has given their powers to their people. The devolution of absolute powers from the Golden Throne to the people is, indeed, unique to Bhutan. In addition, in no other country has democracy been introduced in an environment of complete peace and stability, for in practically every other country, the transition to democracy has invariably been accompanied by war and strife.

All this has been made possible in Bhutan because of our visionary monarch, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, a true Dharma King. His Majesty has transmitted his noble thoughts and deeds, through the Constitution, to the Bhutanese people. Peace, prosperity and happiness will, therefore, continue to favour Bhutan and her people.

We must also allow other peoples, in other countries, throughout the world, to learn about and to benefit from the unparalleled wisdom and compassion of our beloved monarch. For this, it will be fitting to present His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Prime Minister should, therefore, on behalf of all the Bhutanese people and members of the Parliament, submit a proposal nominating His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo for the Nobel Peace Prize. I propose that the nomination, along with complete justifications, be sent to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, based in Norway, as soon as possible.

The construction of a constitution such as ours is, in itself, sufficient reason to be presented the award. But, in addition, His Majesty has, at the height of his popularity, devolved all powers of government, introduced democracy and abdicated from the throne . His Majesty has ensured peace, stability and the security for our country; developed the social wellbeing of our people; promoted our unique culture and heritage, and protected our pristine environment. This is why Bhutan, a small country, enjoys so much peace and happiness. And, this is why it is most appropriate to present His Majesty the Nobel Peace Prize.

But that is not all. His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, a King of Destiny, has given Bhutan and the world, Gross National Happiness. This timeless development philosophy is already gaining widespread acceptance and is guiding development in many parts of the world.

We, parliamentarians, recently celebrated the signing of the Constitution together. Similarly, I call upon all my fellow parliamentarians to collectively support this proposal to nominate our beloved monarch for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Gift from the Golden Throne

Priceless

Priceless

One year ago, on 18th July 2008, His Majesty the King signed the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan. I am pleased to reproduce below, His Majesty the King’s address to the Nation on that historic day.

On this day of destiny, in the blessed land of Pelden Drukpa we, a fortunate People and King, hereby resolve to bring into effect the root and foundation – the very source – of all law in our nation.

On such an auspicious occasion, on behalf of the people I offer gratitude to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. During his reign His Majesty built a strong nation and secured the hopes and aspirations of the people through the process of democratization and the enlightened vision of Gross National Happiness. His Majesty has also laid a clear path for our future through this Constitution.

The significance of His Majesty’s unique achievements as leader has transcended the experiences of our country and been acknowledged by the world. In our own country, many generations into the future, the Constitution will continue to inspire our people as it stands testimony to a selfless and extraordinary leadership.

This Constitution is the most profound achievement of generations of endeavor and service. As it is granted to us today, we must remember that even more important than the wise and judicious use of the powers it confers, is the unconditional fulfillment of the responsibilities we must shoulder. Only in understanding our duties will the exercise of our powers be fruitful. If we can serve our nation with this knowledge and in this spirit, then an even brighter future awaits our country.

It is my fervent prayer that through this Constitution we will, with our body, speech and mind work with complete commitment and conviction as we strengthen the sovereignty and security of Bhutan; secure the blessings of liberty; ensure justice and peace and enhance the unity and happiness of all Bhutanese, now and always.

Lastly, this Constitution was placed before the people of the twenty dzongkhags by the King. Each word has earned its sacred place with the blessings of every citizen in our nation. This is the People’s Constitution.

And today, through this, my Hand and Seal, I affix on to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, the hopes and prayers of my People.

Inaugural session

speaking up

speaking up

I’m posting the speech I delivered in Parliament today. I’d proposed a vote of thanks for His Majesty the King’s gracious presence during the inaugural ceremony of the third session of the Parliament.

The original speech was delivered in Dzongkha. And I spoke from points I had prepared earlier. But I’ve tried my best to translate what I presented into English as accurately as possible.

The photograph shows Tshering Tobgay addressing the National Assembly’s second session in January 2009

Vote of Thanks to His Majesty the King

Welcome His Majesty the King

On this most auspicious day, I, on behalf of the opposition party and with the deepest of respect, offer my heart felt gratitude to Your Majesty, for gracing today’s inaugural ceremony and opening the third session of the First Parliament of Bhutan.

The fact that Your Majesty has put aside all other important work of the State and chosen to attend the inaugural ceremony in person, is a real indication of Your Majesty’s support to Bhutan’s Parliament and, in particular, to the democratic process.

Thank our deities

It has been more than a year since democracy was introduced in the Kingdom of Bhutan. During this period, no untoward harm or misfortune has befallen on our two beloved monarchs, our country, and our people. This is because we continue to enjoy the benedictions of the triple gem, the support of our protecting deities, the combined good fortune of the Bhutanese people, and, most importantly, the supreme powers of our beloved monarchs.

State of democracy

Barely 15 months have passed since democracy was introduced in our country. And already many people, Bhutanese and foreigners, are amazed at how democracy was introduced – gifted from the Golden Throne to the people of Bhutan. And many people sincerely believe that democracy has got off to a good start and that it has already become a vibrant system of governance in Bhutan.

Our people acknowledge that the successes of democracy in Bhutan are solely because of His Majesty the King’s hard work and good results.

We must also accept, however, that not all the people are satisfied with the performance of democracy, our new form of government. This is mainly because the hopes and aspirations that our people have of democracy have still not been realized. And, to a large extent, they are correct.

So, it is our sacred responsibility to fulfill their dreams. But, in order to do so all of us must think and act as one, and work together. When I say “us” I mean the National Council and the National Assembly, the ruling party and the opposition party, civil servants and the private sector, and all other people. Only if we work together will we be able to achieve His Majesty’s vision of a robust and vibrant democracy that will deliver the hopes and aspirations of the people.

His Majesty’s work

Now, when we consider His Majesty the King’s work, all of us know very well that, even before the Coronation, His Majesty had worked tirelessly to ensure that the foundation of democracy was well secured so that, although the people didn’t want democracy, the transition from absolute monarchy to democratic constitutional monarchy would eventually be made smoothly and effortlessly.

And after the historic coronation of the Fifth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty the King has spared no effort to work with even greater force to serve the country and people of Bhutan. So, it is not possible to recount all of His Majesty’s good work today.

But, from among all his work, if I were to report about one, just as an example, we may be better able to understand His Majesty’s complete dedication to his country and his people.

It is no secret that most of our people live in villages, many of which are located in remote corners of our country that have not been visited by officers or civil servants. His Majesty has journeyed to these far-flung places. He traveled by day and night, for many weeks, in the scorching sun and soaking rain, and among leeches and insects. And no matter how tired he may have become, His Majesty insisted on visiting every village personally and, in it, dwelling place, with or without a roof.

He met his people in their villages, in their lands, and in their homes. He listened to their problems. And he personally solved their problems, right there and then.

We all know that the biggest problem our farmers face is the issue of land. Many farmers have “excess land”, land that they have not been able to pay for. Some have too little land. And many do not have any land at all – these are sharecroppers who for generations have slaved on other people’s fields.

In Lhuntse, in one dzongkhag alone, His Majesty the King granted various types of land kidu to a total of almost 5,000 families.  Similarly, His Majesty awarded many kidus to the people of Mongar. And, during the natural calamity caused by flash floods in various parts of the country, His Majesty rushed to see the devastation personally. And he met the victims and granted them kidu.

Monarchy in democratic Bhutan

Before the advent of democracy, our monarchy played a crucial role in the development of our country. And every successive monarch worked exclusively for the wellbeing of the country and the people.

Now, our beloved kings have deliberately given their powers to the people, and started a democratic form of government.  Yet the institution of monarchy, and His Majesty the King, must play an even more important role now to ensure the success of democracy, and the continued stability, peace and prosperity of our country and people.

Responsibility of parliamentarians

We, however, must also do our share of work. In order to enjoy benefits of a healthy democracy we must all work together. That includes parliamentarians, civil servants, private sector, farmers, the youth and all other citizens.

But, if we look at the situation today, many people feel that democracy has not given them what they want. And what do our people want from democracy? Our farmers want their hopes and aspirations fulfilled; our business community wants a much more stronger private sector that can contribute to a growing economy; our youth want quality education and job opportunities; and, overall, our people want GNH. GNH not just in words or on on paper, but real GNH that translates to improvements in their lives.

So, to fulfill the expectations of our people and of democracy, we parliamentarians must accept the biggest responsibility. The National Council and National Assembly, the ruling party and the opposition party, all of us have a collective responsibility to ensure that democracy succeeds.

As far as the opposition party is concerned, we will engage our body, speech and mind to serve the tsa-wa-sum, and we offer our pledge to do so here, in the incomparable great hall of the Parliament of Bhutan.

Conclusion

In conclusion, on behalf of the opposition party, I offer my sincere gratitude to Your Majesty the King for inaugurating the third session of the Parliament, and for making our democracy strong. Tashi delek!

Social risk

french-revolution-2About a month ago I’d written about the Political Instability Index, EIU’s forecast of the likelihood of political unrest for165 countries. The Index ranked Norway as the world’s most politically stable country, and Zimbabwe the most volatile. 95 countries were considered “very high risk” or “high risk”; 53 countries “moderate risk”; and only 17 countries were deemed to be “low risk”.

Bhutan, ranked 108, was rated at “moderate risk” to socio-political upheaval.

Bhutanese Blogger expressed disappointment that I didn’t elaborate and commented:

“I am disheartened that Your Excellency has chosen to blog this but do not have any opinion on this index.

“Will this not be (mis)construed as an acknowledgement of the reported ‘moderate risk’? Would not the readers assume that you agree that we have become more vulnerable since 2007?

“This may send out wrong signals to everybody and can the decisions of many individuals (like foreign investors).”

I had promised Bhutanese Blogger that I’d share my opinions on the Index in “a few days.” But it’s already been more than a month. I’m sorry.

All over the world, people live in constant fear of social unrest and political failure. This is particularly so in our immediate neighbourhood. Yet we, Bhutanese, take stability for granted. This is why I found the EIU’s study interesting.

So why is our country this stable? Because of one reason, and one reason alone: our kings. It’s thanks to them that we’ve enjoyed a century of peace, prosperity and happiness. And that we continue to do so. Remember that before 17th December 1907, life in Bhutan was unpredictable, and that our beloved Drukyul was plagued by political intrigue of the highest order.

But the EIU put our country today at “moderate risk”, not “low risk” as most of us would believe. Why? And why have we become so much more vulnerable since 2007? Democracy. Or, more precisely, the transition to a democracy. We enjoyed unprecedented social and political progress under a benevolent absolute monarchy. But with democracy, there are no such guarantees. Recall, for instance, our anxieties before the elections. And remember that they were caused by our politicians.

So the point is this: now that we are a democracy, we can no longer take social and political stability for granted. We must work for it. We must earn it.

The EIU studied fifteen indicators to come up with their political instability index. They include inequality, corruption, trust in institutions, a country’s neighbourhood, unemployment, and level of income per head (read EIU’s methodology). A quick look at these indicators should tell us that we need to do a lot more work – especially in areas like unemployment, inequality and corruption – even just to maintain our “moderate risk” status.

But we are lucky. Our country is blessed with one more indicator. An advantage, actually. And that is our monarchy. In democratic Bhutan, this precious institution has become that much more important.

So to answer Bhutanese Blogger’s comment: All things considered, “moderate risk” appears to be about right. And if EIU thinks that our country has become less stable, it’s probably due to our transition to democracy. But if we work towards building an honest and vibrant democracy, we can, because we have the advantage of a wise monarch, become the most stable country in the world.

It’s up to us.

Sustaining happiness

I’m in Phuentsholing, on my way back from a special trip to my constituency. I went there to receive Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, who visited Sombaykha and Gakiling in my constituency, and then to accompany the royal entourage to Dumtoe and Dorokha in Samtse.

Her Majesty trekked for eight straight days, from the freezing Tergo-la in Haa to the hot and humid Yaba-la in Samtse. She undertook this arduous journey – trudging in the cold winds and snow, in the rain among leeches, and in the sun in sweltering heat – to meet the people living in the remotest parts of Haa and Samtse. And Her Majesty met them in their villages and in their homes to tell them about reproductive health, to advocate family planning, and to warn them of the dangers of HIV/AIDS, drugs and excessive alcohol.

Pictured is Her Majesty in Rangtse enjoying a happy moment with the people of Gakiling. There, I was suddenly struck by the realization that Her Majesty’s journey to my constituency, and those through the length and breath of our country, was not just about reproductive health or HIV/AIDS; it was ultimately a campaign to ensure that the happiness of our people is sustainable.

I return to Thimphu today.

Nazhoen Pelri, Phuntsholing

Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending the opening ceremony of Nazhoen Pelri, YDF’s youth hostel in Phuntsholing. The hostel was inaugurated by the YDF President, Her Majesty Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck. I am pleased the post Her Majesty’s address to YDF supporters, the Phuntsholing community and the youth of Bhutan.

Almost four years have passed since the Youth Development Fund initiated our plan of making a hostel in Phuntsholing, a hostel which will be useful for providing the youth with low cost housing. Today, our plans have finally become a reality and we now have Nazhoen Pelri Youth hostel. When I look around, my heart is filled with pride and happiness as I see a place of hope and a place of great potential.

For this we have to thank the Jaypee Group and in particular their Joint Managing Director, Mr Pankaj Gaur. They have not only funded the building of the hostel but have generously offered us 20 scholarships, 10 every year at the under graduate level in some of the best IT colleges in India, and 10 at the certificate technical level, for 10 years starting from 2005. We truly value the genuine friendship between the YDF and the Jaypee Group and look forward to many years of friendship and cooperation. Through their endless generosity and support, the Jaypee Group has helped shaped many aspects of Bhutan thus re-enforcing the friendship between India and Bhutan, and for this reason alone, they will always be a friend not only to the YDF but to Bhutan as well.

The Youth Development Fund, with the assistance of the Jaypee Group of India has offered this valuable gift to the youth of Bhutan. In turn, I would like to make a personal request to the Phuntsholing community: Let us join hands in making this center a worthwhile and meaningful place for the youth. This can only be achieved if the facility is well utilized and is a safe haven free from drugs, alcohol and violence. An Advisory Committee comprising of community leaders will steer the management of this center. Hence, I would like to encourage the community to make this establishment a fine example of a well run center that promotes community unity and social development.

As Bhutan’s leading youth organization, the Youth Development Fund is “committed to ensure that all youth have equal access to education, meaningful employment and opportunities to develop their potential. Our programs build leadership skills, encourage teamwork and promote the value of service among youth. Through advocacy work and strategic partnerships, we work to encourage youth participation, raise awareness of youth issues and promote youth oriented policy.” In pursuance of this mission, we are building youth facilities because we believe in the importance of developing competencies other than academic and vocational training such as personal and social skills. We hope that the youth hostel in Phuntsholing will be a role model in using the center for self development and undertaking outreach work in social services.

Today, it not only gives me much pleasure to be attending the consecration of our youth hostel but it also makes me very happy to have the chance to meet you, the youth in Phuentsholing. I would like to take this opportunity to talk to you about youth related problems. I am particularly concerned about the increasing abuse of drugs and alcohol by our youth and young adults. As we all know, Phuntsholing is a gateway for narcotics into Bhutan. Therefore, you have a great responsibility to bear. There are many institutions and programmes to address the problem. Nonetheless, it is you who can play a vital role in helping others or yourself by being responsible and preventing the trafficking of narcotics, youth crime, gang violence, vandalism, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse and even HIV/AIDS. The challenges ahead may seem daunting but you have to strive forward and push yourself to overcome them to achieve your dreams. You must never forget that you are precious not only for the country but also for your family and community and together we have to help protect our beloved kingdom.

I wish the community of youth and the people of Phuntsholing all the best in their effort to lead the country in establishing a model community center.

Tashi Delek!

Portrait of Her Majesty from the YDF website

Women warriors

Fourteen villages in my constituency, most of them in Gakiling gewog, do not have electricity. Every night, women in these villages turn their rangthang, a traditional stone mill, grinding buckwheat, maize and millet for several hours in virtual darkness. Working the rangthang is hard work in the best of conditions. But in the dark, by a hearth that offers more smoke than light, grinding food is a lonely and backbreaking exercise. Yet is must be done, for they must feed their families the next day.

So yesterday, when 35 women from similar villages across Bhutan announced that, in three months, they had fitted 504 families in 48 villages from 13 dzongkhags with solar lanterns I was overcome with joy.

These women are not ordinary people. They come from some of the remotest and poorest parts of our country. And almost all of them have never been to school. That’s why they now call themselves “barefoot solar engineers.”

And these women use solar power to fight the darkness that breeds poverty in distant villages. So they are already being called the “solar warriors of Bhutan”.

Yesterday, these women showed off their skills. They showed us how to install, maintain and repair solar lanterns. And they taught us that, with solar lanterns, they won’t have to work in the dark; that their children will be able to study at night; and that they will be better equipped to protect their crops from wild animals. They also taught us that they will no longer have to strain their eyes, or breathe in smoke, or travel long distances to buy kerosene, batteries and candles.

These “warriors” showed off their expertise with obvious pride and joy.

But one warrior, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, easily showed even more pride and even more joy. After all, it was Her Majesty’s Tarayana Foundation that permanently transformed the lives of these women from simple villagers to community leaders. During the last two years, Tarayana, along with Barefoot College, a leading Indian NGO, had carefully selected, supported and trained these women to become confident and competent engineers.

Some of these women will be employed by Tarayana to train even more barefoot solar engineers. Some will soon leave for Ladakh in India to train solar engineers there. But all of them will help illuminate dark villages. And fight poverty.

What I saw yesterday is not just about women empowerment as some observers noted. Or about reducing poverty, as proclaimed by others. It’s much, much more. It’s about putting GNH into action.

And it’s about the distinct possibility that women in my constituency will, in the near future, be able to work their stone mills in the comfort of the light from a solar lantern.