The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) together conducted BRIDGE training from 13-18 June 2011 in Thimphu. Funding is provided by the Australian Government through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). This training represents the first activity in the commencement of a program of BRIDGE to be conducted in Bhutan across 2011, 2012 and 2013. The objective of the program is to strengthen the capacity of the ECB so it can continue to conduct credible and effective elections in a transparent, democratic governance environment.
The Introduction to Electoral Administration Module of BRIDGE was chosen because it suits the needs of this particular group of participants who were drawn from the ECB, Non-Formal Education Division, Department of Curriculum and Research and Department of Local Government. The Module was facilitated by Cate Thompson, International Services Section AEC, Gordon Marshall Operations Manager Queensland AEC and Kinley Fund Manager ECB.
The participants all work in the electoral environment in Bhutan and face similar, ongoing challenges in their work. The workshop explored issues of access, gender, representation and planning, and taught participants how to use knowledge, skills and experience gained in the workshop to further develop personal attributes for use in public outreach, civic education and voter information in Bhutan – a key focus area for the ECB in the future of Bhutan.
The participants were all enthusiastic, knowledgeable and creative. The group was very passionate about democracy and elections and valued the opportunity to learn and thereby to enhance their role in Bhutan’s democratic journey. The workshop style was very interactive and a large variety of activities were undertaken that tapped into the knowledge of the group and facilitation skills of facilitators.
Gordon Marshall commented:
“My role as facilitator was an absolute joy! My learning was as great as the participants’, particularly on the electoral practices in Bhutan and the local challenges faced. Being able to work with the participants to undertake role plays, conduct debates and look at potential electoral strategies specific to Bhutan was very rewarding.”
Participants’ comments include:
“The workshop started greatly and ended successfully.” “…inspiring, active and resourceful.” “All activities were relevant and carried strong messages.” “Learning by doing is the best possible way! Above all I learned the concepts of electoral principles and the various key understandings that cover electoral activities.” “Firstly it is lovely and wonderful! I must say I gained lots of information and knowledge… This is my first workshop which is so, so, so much related to my work/job. Now I will not be in a confused state while conducting elections in my gewog. I will be proud to impart the knowledge which was showed to me.” This participant’s comment sums up the strength of BRIDGE.
The adult learning principles and the interactive nature of BRIDGE has a significant impact on participants. They usually leave a BRIDGE workshop with confidence and commitment to implement their learning in their workplace.
Celebrations of the significance of the BRIDGE program in Bhutan were conducted. The workshop was graciously opened at a ceremony attended by the Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, and other dignitaries. The celebration festivities acknowledged the successful achievements.
Participants and facilitators and senior officers of the ECB are looking forward with enthusiasm to the series of BRIDGE activities to come!
It would also be remiss if we didn’t also comment of the sheer beauty of the natural landscape of Bhutan. The valleys, mountains, rivers and range of temples and monasteries have to be seen to be appreciated. We certainly hope we can return one day.
A similar article was released by the ECB as a press release on the BRIDGE workshop and the link is http://www.election-bhutan.org.bt/2011/events/Bridge.pdf. This site links to the ECB website for those who would like to find out more about democracy and elections in Bhutan.