[We Care, We Share] Inspiring story: A Samdrup Jongkhar story

We Care, We Share

UN and JICA Bhutan’s joint initiative – Resilience tools for COVID-19

A Samdrup Jongkhar story

Seldon has lived in Samdrup Jongkhar for the last thirty years. Originally from Trashigang, she used to run a shop before becoming the Thromde Thuemi (representative) in 2016. Taking up the role that was traditionally male dominated came as an obstacle for Seldon at the start and perhaps to a few conservative residents. She always imagined that she would lead the rest of her life as shopkeeper.  But after she was selected as the Thromde Thuemi, she was determined to serve, learn, and be the voice of her community.

“In the past, women were not seen as suited for such roles, which explains why there were less women. Only after increased awareness on gender equality and learning from other countries, women came forward to take the opportunity and benefited from the exposure, experience and learning. Serving as a thromde thuemi, I get to interact directly with the public and understand the challenges faced by them. It provides me the chance to look for solutions to their problems and figure out how services and facilities can be improved. The role of a thuemi allows me to raise these issues and address them at the decision-making levels. There is a lot of responsibility but also empowerment,” said Seldon.

Seldon is a member of the COVID 19 taskforce committee in Samdrup Jongkhar. After the first COVID-19 case last year, border towns had to take extra caution and restrictions were imposed to prevent the virus from entering the country. During the first lockdown, door to door delivery of essential items and zoning of places were closely monitored for the well-being of the community. Online group chats were used to make communication easier and address issues accordingly. Seldon also led advocacy groups, going from place to place to sensitize the public on the preventive measures and the virus.

“As a representative of the thromde, I try my best to communicate with the people. Communication is very important when it comes to these roles. You become the voice of the people. The government is doing its best to provide continued services at such times. Most issues faced by the thromde are related to business and having been a shopkeeper before, it is easier for me understand,” said Seldon.

Meanwhile, Samdrup Jongkhar celebrated, perhaps its first Tshechu without any spectators, at least not in person. Minus the people dressed in their best attires and families eating together in groups, the Samrdup Jongkhar tshechu was streamed LIVE on Facebook. Reaching over millions, not only in Bhutan but as far Australia. One of the performers was 27 year old Tshering Wangdi. Masked and dressed in brilliant colours, Tshering twirled around the empty courtyard. 

“It was an odd experience performing in an empty space. We became the performers as well as the spectators. COVID-19 almost deprived us of our tshechu too. But we managed to record the entire tshechu LIVE on Facebook. This is the wonder of the internet and the things possible with technology these days. Our tshechu may have been a closed affair with no spectators at the location, but in a way, we got the whole world to watch us perform,” said Tshering.

Seldon was one of the many who viewed the tshechu online. She would turn her phone on and could even replay the scenes she had missed. COVID-19 has taught us the importance of technology, making us even more dependent on our phones and computers. Further, it reveals some faults and disparities and may not be the most sustainable of solutions, although it helps close some of the gaps temporarily.

“It was a shame that we could not watch the tshechu in our finest clothes and meet our friends and families. We have missed out on a lot in these COVID months, and more than people, we are now closer to our phones and TVs.  But given the current situation, that could not be helped. We are glad that we managed to have the tshechu. The blessings that we received from it remains the same, but I hope that it won’t be another virtual tshechu next year” said Seldon. 

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