On 9 June 2012 Bhutan took 5 new steps along the democracy road!  

On 9 June 2012 Bhutan took 5 new steps along the democracy road! At the completion of two consecutive, AusAID funded, Civic Education and Voter Information Modules Ross Attrill, Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), Cate Thompson (AEC) and Kinley, Election Commission Bhutan (ECB) accredited as Workshop Facilitators Sonam Tobgyal (ECB), Sherab Zangpo (ECB), Tenzin Namgyel (ECB), Gem Tshewang (ECB) and Jigme Wangmo (GAO Goshi).  This is a most significant step towards building a core of BRIDGE facilitators in Bhutan. Congratulations to all.

Sections of their personal reflections include:

“Initially participants were reluctant to open up and interact since they were from different professional backgrounds and age groups. However, with constant prompting, monitoring and encouragement by the facilitators many were able to understand the real concepts of activities and enjoyed at the fullest. Correspondingly, the confidence and interest level of the co-facilitators grew higher that had positive impact on the overall performance. The evaluation sheets also reported that the sessions carried out were well planned and accomplished.

The last day of the session when Mr. Ross created a web among the participants, every individual had their views and perceptions shared which signify that they have learned and gained many important aspects of Civic Education and Voter Information principles. Their agreement to implement some of these strategies at the work station made us feel satisfied as co- facilitators.” Sonam

“During the workshop I have experienced that we should give participants the space to make mistakes, experiment and learn, help participants succeed by suggesting solutions, create and make use of silence to encourage individual thought and contribution, and encourage contribution from the group through careful questioning rather than offering direct feedback and personal observation.

I repeatedly observed and experienced myself that facilitators experiment with the challenge of getting to the negotiation table. How should they approach groups in conflict to draw them into a process of discussion with each other? It is important to understand the situation as they understand it, and that we do not reject them for their views, and that we recognize in them significant resources of their own for responding to the discussion at hand. I found that listening well is an important skill to communicate this understanding and attitude.

Since there was diverse group of participants, I observed that there is a need of repertoire of tools to assist numerous people in conversations and negotiation in the workshop…

This BRIDGE workshop brought out the best in participants, the quality of engagement was high; participants heard each other in new ways and thus gained important new insights about their opponents’ views. I also observed a deeper form of recognition and relationship building that took place implicitly.” Sherab

“If there is a change then there is a sign of development. This is what actually had happen with me with this group of very enthusiastic participants… they were very co-operative and always active… Every individual had a great aspiration for learning. As a facilitator, it is very important to understand the learners and design the activities accordingly…I as a facilitator facilitating for the first time in this kind of workshop, I really enjoyed facilitating all because of the cooperation from the participants and support and guidance rendered by the Senior BRIDGE Facilitators and my co-facilitators which really encouraged me to move forward. Despite being very nervous in the first day I gained confidence with the lapse of time.” Tenzin

“The journey of my life is a step, where every day I take one step at a time and it is a never ending journey through the steps. Now I feel I have taken one step forward with guidance and positive comment from the Expert facilitators, co-facilitators and participants. I feel I was nurtured like a child by BRIDGE and experts.”  Gem

“The participants were from different agencies. We the semi-accredited facilitators were really nervous and self-conscious during our first day of facilitation. We were not sure how the session will go about. As the days passed by we were more confident and calm. Even the participants were very reluctant to speak. During the course of our sessions, if we asked for a volunteer to stand up and speak, maximum of them would lower their head and very few heads would be up. It was really challenging and by the end of the week I think the participants were more open… The BRIDGE Experts Cate, Ross and Kinley really supported and gave us good guidance.” Jigme.

To reiterate that one of the main objectives of the BRIDGE in Bhutan Program is to create a core of professional electoral administrators and BRIDGE facilitators both within the ECB and in the broader electoral environment of Bhutan.  We have taken significant steps towards this aim.  Through those participants who have already benefitted from BRIDGE and the nucleus of facilitators we aim to make electoral administration and BRIDGE sustainable in Bhutan in the future.

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