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.


Facebook Comments:


  1. Anonymous says

    Having to work in the dark, no electricity in the villages, women have not gone to school…. unfortunately these are stories not only from your constituency but from all over Bhutan.

    I bow down to the efforts of Her Majesty and hope that similar efforts will be made in other parts of the country.

  2. Hon’ble Dochok Gothrip;

    Wondering if the women are educated to read Dzongkha ?


  3. Tshering Tobgay says

    Dear Major: How are you? 23 of the women have never been to school. The rest have studied, but only for a year or two. One of them completed class X. I think about half of them have attended non-formal education–they should be able to read and write Dzongkha. This is what I learnt yesterday. tt

  4. Anonymous says

    let there be light and who else but a woman would light up……

    i am a woman and i am tempted to say see what women can do….
    but i won;t because then it will lead to an argument that will probably not end…

    but i do want to join the author in appreciating the ” barefoot solar engineers’ for their contribution….. I would like to join the author in honoring Her Majesty for being the pioneer in this.

    way to go ladies….and there are many more things we need to act up on… now… including… running the GOvt. someday

  5. Bhutanese Blogger says


    way to go… Tarayana..

  6. Ashanglopon says

    Good news, commendable development and and inspiring story. Kudos to everyone involved in this “illuminating” endeavour. Let there be light!

  7. Anonymous says

    is this the same training that Department of Energy initiated as part of their Rural Electrification programme funded by ADB? It is very motivating and encouraging for the rural women of Bhutan to see such participation of women in making their lives better. Way to go ladies…hope you keep learing further in life and empower yourselves to dream big in life. And a huge round of applause for her Majesty for leading this programme.

  8. AwayfromHome says

    I have never been able to work in field even in simple kira..how is she managing to work in that heavy one?

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