Bhutan partners with UNDP and UNDESA to build capacities for promoting the presence and leadership of women in public administration at both national and local levels.
Promoting gender equality in public administration
November 16, 2023
Gender focal persons, Human Resource Officers and managers from the ministries and agencies, and officials from the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) and National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) recently came together for a workshop on promoting gender equality in public administration.
The four-day capacity building workshop, held from 17 - 20 October 2023, was a part of the project, “Building capacities for promoting the presence and leadership of women within public institutions at national and local levels”. Funded by the Government of Italy, the project is being implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and NCWC. It aims to promote women’s leadership in Bhutan’s civil service.
Status of women representation in civil service
Women representation in the civil service increased from 38.15 per cent in 2019 to 40 per cent in 2022. In the decision-making sphere (executive and executive specialist categories), women representation increased from 14 per cent in 2019 to 20 per cent in 2022. However, the proportion of women in decision making remains far from reaching the critical mass of 33 per cent.
Additionally, the highest proportion of women in the civil service are in the Support Service Category (44 % of civil servants within the category) and hold secretarial jobs that are vulnerable to impact of rapid technological advancement.
Women in Bhutan also continue to shoulder disproportionate burden of unpaid care and domestic responsibilities, which remain a great hindrance to their career advancement.
Gender gaps, challenges and opportunities
An in-depth assessment carried out as part of the project provides key insights into gender gaps, challenges and opportunities. The study showed the civil service rules and regulations does not discriminate anyone based on gender and provides equal opportunities for career advancement including training opportunities for everyone. However, application of the rules and regulations, and gender-neutral approaches were found to disadvantage female civil servants in certain circumstances.
A general lack of awareness on gender issues and capacity to mainstream gender issues in the civil service policies, mechanisms and interventions were also found.
There is also limited women’s representation in significant committees and decision-making bodies within the sectors and districts. As a result, gender issues are seldom discussed in the senior management meetings.
It was also found that female civil servants often lose out on opportunities to avail themselves of capacity development opportunities due to family obligations. Lack of gender friendly facilities and services, particularly in the rural areas, make it difficult for female civil servants to serve in these areas.
An action plan to promote women’s presence and leadership in public administration
A key goal of the project, “Building capacities for promoting the presence and leadership of women within public institutions at national and local levels”, is to develop an action plan to promote women’s presence and leadership in public administration. In line with this, the workshop in October helped enhance awareness of the existing gender gaps in public administration among the participating government officials and decision-makers, and their role in prioritizing actions to promote gender equality.
From gender responsive public administration to gender responsive strategies, measures, and actions, the participants engaged in in-depth discussions on gender gaps, institutional challenges, capabilities, and resources. The workshop explored ways to enhance policies, practices and initiatives that foster women’s leadership roles in the public sector.
Gender balance in Human Resource Committee (HRC), gender friendly working environment, awareness and sensitization on gender equality for HRC and capacity building and mentoring programmes for female civil servants were some of the actions recommended by the participants.
They also pointed out a need to enhance referral and reporting mechanism for sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment to address gender-based violence at workplace and strengthen collection and analysis of gender disaggregated data.
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