Posted on October 25, 2010
Emilia and Lina have been interning at RENEW, the first and only organization in Bhutan that deals with gender issues, specifically gender-related violence. RENEW, or Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women, was founded by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck in 2004. Emilia was very excited to be working with RENEW because it relates so closely to her women’s studies major and gave her the opportunity to have first-hand experience in the field. Lina, who hopes to one day work for a non-profit organization, was interested to see the inner-workings of such an organization and begin learning how to contribute based on her skills and interests.
We have been interning in separate units at RENEW, although much of our work has overlapped. Emilia is interning as a member of the counseling unit, and Lina has been interning in the community outreach unit. The counseling unit provides services directly to victims of domestic abuse, including legal and medical assistance, counseling, safe housing, vocational training and education. The outreach unit was developed specifically to facilitate educative programs on gender-based violence and domestic abuse within Bhutanese communities, as well as seek volunteers who are interested in supporting and participating in RENEW’s outreach programs. We began the semester by designing and creating brochures for our respective units. While the brochures are still waiting to be approved, we are hoping that they will be ready for publication before we return to America.
Due to the fact that RENEW is still a very young organization, they have not yet begun writing their annual reports yearly, so Lina has been helping the outreach unit begin the process of creating the backlogged annual reports. Through this task, she has learned about the countless ways in which RENEW has impacted Bhutanese society throughout the past few years. For instance, she learned about the many ways in which foreigners have contributed to RENEW, including one woman who ran from Paro to Thimphu to raise funds to aid RENEW’s work and raise awareness about domestic violence in Bhutan. Also, as Lina discovered, in 2009, RENEW began distributing “I commit” golden pins, a campaign similar to the purple ribbon campaign in the United States, to recognize and encourage those actively fighting against domestic violence in Bhutan. We were both presented with one of these pins in appreciation of our work at RENEW. Though working on the annual reports has caused much frustration because of a lack of information from past events and despite her lack of interaction with other RENEW staff, Lina has learned so much about RENEW’s ongoing work and accomplishments within communities throughout Bhutan.
Emilia has been shadowing members of the counseling unit to certain events such as gang intervention counseling. She has also been visiting the safe house twice a week (recently joined by Lina) to create programs for the residence living there, specifically the children of the women who have been uprooted from their homes. Some of the things that they have done at the safe house include arts and crafts activities and rudimentary English lessons, such as reading picture
books and singing silly songs. Their presence in the safe house provides the adult residents a break from childcare as well as giving the children an opportunity to play with people from outside the safe house.
Emilia has found her experience at the safe house particularly rewarding, but challenging. Little to no English is spoken at the house, so it has been very difficult to communicate with the women living there, as well as their children all of whom are under the age of six. However, she has been able to teach her new friend, the six-year old, a few English words; the ones he has mastered are nose, teeth, and mermaid.
We plan to create a manual of interactive activities for the children of the residence for the new safe house that is being built outside of Thimphu. It is our hope that this manual will be used to create a program for the children in the safe house that will include daily activities and excursions. In many ways, this manual allows us to give a lasting contribution to the children in a way that we are unable to right now. Due to the language barrier, there are so many activities we are unable to introduce to the children, but with this booklet, future RENEW staff will be able to entertain the kids and keep them engaged in productive and fun activities.
Throughout our time at RENEW, we have learned much about the problem of domestic violence in Bhutan. While RENEW is doing fantastic interventive work in this field, we have also been a part of and learned about the ways in which RENEW is attempting to prevent this problem.
The RENEW Team
Lina and Emilia