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UN and JICA Bhutan’s joint initiative – Resilience tools for COVID-19
We can do it: We can build Bhutan!
You may be familiar with the famous World War II propaganda poster depicting “Rosie the Riveter.” A woman dressed in blue overalls, with the slogan “We Can Do It.” Once the war ended the urgent need for women to join the labourforce declined but the picture remained a powerful symbol for many women in the labour workforce for years to come.
19-year-old Kinley Peldon is from Paro. She completed her Class 12 exams last year and planned to study in India to pursue a degree in Economics. 2020, like any other year, seemed promising for many high-school graduates looking to take another step in their academic journey in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree and ultimately a professional job. However by February and March, COVID-19 had taken over and cases were rapidly increasing across the world. For some students, the transition from school to college stretched from 6 months to an indefinite gap year. Kinley decided to defer her college plans, and the rest of the year looked uncertain and empty. It was then that Kinley heard about the Build Bhutan Project.
The Build Bhutan Project is an emergency intervention initiated and implemented by the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources to address the gaps created in the construction and the skilled workforce due to the pandemic. Kinley is undergoing a foundational plumbing course in Sarpang. It is one of the many training opportunities offered by the Build Bhutan Project,
“Before coming here, I was helping my parents at home and in the paddy fields. When I read about the Build Bhutan Project, I saw it as a good opportunity to learn something new and acquire a new trade. I immediately registered,” said Kinley.
The second round of the plumbing course started on the 27th of September. The course is a month and seven days long. Other courses like masonry, painting, and carpentry are also offered to interested Bhutanese across the country. The training is free and after the students complete their training, they are sent to agencies and companies as apprentices. Trainees can also choose to sit exams to acquire the National Certificate (NC) under the Bhutan Vocational Qualifications Framework (BVQF). The current plumbing course has 11 male and 10 female trainees,
“As women, we are often under the impression that it is not appropriate for us to work in such areas. But in fact we are all given equal opportunities and we must come forward and take them. We should not let these stereotypes stop us. Here in the training we all help each other. We are learning many new skills, irrespective of gender. We are all on the same level and we are being taught the same skillsets” said Kinley.
Stereotyped gender roles and socio-cultural perceptions of women working in male-dominated professions often lead to bias. Most women face the added burden of not only working in “blue-collared” jobs but also gender discrimination in their workspace.
Traditionally, the importance of these jobs were overlooked and for most people, the dignity of labour was not valued. However the construction and vocational workforce have both experienced significant challenges over the past months. 2020 dramatically reduced the number of foreign human resources available and an apparent skills gap emerged in the Bhutanese labour market. Build Bhutan Project is aimed at addressing this gap and building the national capacity in vocational based areas,
“After joining the training, I realised that not all college graduates can get a desk job. There are only so many jobs and only so many desks,” said Kinley. “This training has been an eye-opening experience, it is a powerful learning journey and I am very grateful to my country. I am now even considering doing the exams for certification,” added Kinley.
In many ways, Rosie the Riveter is relevant not just to women but to us all. It is imperative for Bhutanese in general, to use our hands to build Bhutan and to realize that “We Can Do It.”
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