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UN and JICA Bhutan’s joint initiative- Resilience tools for COVID-19
Community Resilience in Drepong gewog
With COVID-19 affecting lives across the globe, Drepong, an isolated Gewog Administration under Mongar Dzongkhag is working towards developing community resilience. With a shrinking local economy aggravated by limited government resources and threats brought about by the pandemic, the effects have been severe on local governance and development. The Gewog Administration being the closest arm of the government is confronted with addressing these issues directly.
“The Community Engagement Platforms (CEPs) established under the ‘Support to Community in Local Governance (SCLG) Project’ implemented by the Department of Local Governance, exudes hope for community resilience,” mentioned Sonam Chophel.
Sonam works as a Gewog Administrative Officer in Drepong gewog, and he serves as a coordinator for the SCLG project. The CEP is a mini-neighborhood group formed by the community and based on the principle of volunteerism. It is a platform for the community and aimed at enhancing their participation in local governance and development. Drepong has formed three CEPs under Laptsa chiwog with 13 household members in each group. It has enhanced the level of participation for community people in combating COVID-19 through two roles; improving community livelihoods and information dissemination.
In order to improve community livelihoods, the CEP groups have embarked on using ‘Dongsep Yardrak’ tools introduced by the SCLG project for carrying out community scanning or surveillance, mapping and development of action plans. This technique has created opportunities for the community to engage in self-help and mutual-help activities, as a way of reducing pressure on public resources during the crisis.
During the time of national lockdown, the CEP groups constructed temporary gates using locally available resources at the entrances to check on visitors and monitor movement. They kept agriculture running with intensified community farming and provided essential agriculture products to the cities. The groups also developed their own procedures in conducting activities such as strict adherence to physical distancing during ‘latshab’, a practice of labor exchange among households and avoided mass gatherings by adopting guidelines restricting the number of labors hired at a time. The CEP groups also actively engaged in information dissemination.
Sonam said, “The spread of false information and fake news became a major concern, causing confusion and worries. So, the need of communicating right information at the right time felt critical during the COVID-19 response.”
In this regard, the CEP groups played a vital role in providing accurate information using their information sharing modality through close consultation with the Gewog Administration. It has facilitated the gewog to put COVID-19 protocol, precautions and measures effectively in place. The CEP groups showed a strong sense of responsibility, collectiveness and ownership. Community members have volunteered to sensitize their community on various COVID-19 response measures like new normal ways to greet each other, how to wash hands and how to use a facemask properly.
Through the support of the SCLG project, a sense of independence was recognized in the community with less dependency on government support unless required.
“The encouraging mindset development is that the CEP groups delve into issues independently on areas wherever they can. Dependency on the government support is limited only to public-help activities requiring indispensable support”, concluded Sonam.
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