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Women4Impact empowers women and girls in Bhutan

Inaugural event seeks to leave lasting legacy in the Buddhist Kingdom.

More than 50 delegates from 15 counties gathered in Bhutan this month for the inaugural Women4Impact, an event to empower women in the pursuit of peace, democracy, sustainability and equality.

The first-ever Women4Impact is a combined effort of Her Royal Highness Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck, President of Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law (JSW Law), Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Executive Director, Georgetown Institute of Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) and the first United States Ambassador for Global Woman’s Issues, and social enterprise, Impact Traveller.

Welcoming delegates, Impact Traveller founder and chief executive officer, Sam McGoun, said: “Travel has the greatest single potential for social impact because it offers us the gift of perspective.

“We selected Bhutan for the inaugural Women4Impact event because of the country’s enlightened and selfless leadership, its sustainable development model, and its commitment to measuring prosperity in terms of enduring happiness for all.”

He added: “By gathering here, I hope we can learn from Bhutan – a small country that is bringing big ideas into the world at a time when we need it most.”

Bhutan’s Buddhist traditions guided the event content and format

The four-day Women4Impact event (31 October to 4 November) featured knowledge-sharing sessions focused on leadership, Gross National Happiness (GNH) and equitable socio-economic development.

The programme also included opportunities for international business leaders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists to connect with local communities in Bhutan, and immerse themselves in the Kingdom’s dramatic natural surrounds.

Her Royal Highness Sonam Dechan Wangchuck, Princess of Bhutan graced the opening ceremony, sharing insights on how Bhutan’s young democracy is making great strides towards gender equality.

Some of Bhutan’s female leaders and entrepreneurs

In her opening remarks, Ambassador Verveer said: “It is wonderful to be in this Kingdom of Happiness and particularly to be part of this focus on women for impact. This is the only country in the world where the GNH undergirds development philosophy – and part of that is recognising the very critical role women play in development.

“Today there is greater recognition that women’s empowerment is absolutely central to any effort to solve the world’s most pressing challenges – because no country can get ahead if half of its people are left behind.”

Women4Impact has also committed to fund scholarships for Bhutanese girls to attend JSW Law’s five-year programme as well as raise valuable funds to support GIWPS research for women.

Sangay Dorjee, dean of JSW Law, introduced three JSW Law students, who shared their inspirational stories and their hopes for the future of Bhutan.

Sonam Yangchen, JSW Law Class of 2022, spoke about the role of good governance in promoting gender equality. Meanwhile, Tashi Norbu, JSW Law Class of 2022, highlighted the importance of leadership. “We don’t just stumble upon happiness, we follow our leaders’ positive example,” he said.  Yeshey Dema, JSW Law Class of 2023, talked about the importance of Driglam Namgzhag, the nation’s centuries-old code of etiquette and conduct, in creating a civil society.

Stay tuned for more BEA coverage from Women4Impact, along with a dedicated destination feature on Bhutan.