Leading with integrity

Local leader in Bhutan normalises disability-friendly latrines district-wide

Namgay Pelden is a local government leader in Dagana district of Bhutan. She was the first female Gup (local leader) to be elected at the sub-district level and is a role model for rural Bhutanese women. Her leadership style and efforts have inspired many women to take up decision-making roles and increased their confidence to participate and lead community development activities.

Namgay prioritises gender equality and social inclusion and puts it at the forefront of her work. She led the construction of a breastfeeding room in her local government office for the convenience of working and visiting mothers. Under her leadership and together with the health sector, 98% of households in her local government area constructed a toilet, with particular emphasis on reaching people with disabilities. Namgay organised annual health check-up camps for women in her sub-district who could not afford hospital visits. She also mobilised funds from her network to support children from households living in poverty to attend school. These initiatives have helped to emphasise the importance of diverse voices in decision-making, including the value of women’s leaders.

Walking and working with purpose
Disability-friendly toilet delivered

Namgay has played a significant role in challenging social norms that restrict rural women from participating in formal leadership, decision-making and other activities like sports which are traditionally male dominated.

’I am pleased and really proud of how my leadership has encouraged women in my community to come forward and to participate. My work also made people realise the importance of diversity of voices in the decision-making rooms, particularly on the importance and value addition of women leaders.’

Transformative COVID-19 responses

During the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, Namgay was conscious of the manifold impact on vulnerable members of the community. She raised awareness on domestic violence, encouraged women to come forward to report and provided support to victims of violence and abuse. As part of the national elderly support programme during COVID, she also led the distribution of medicines to elderly people and poor households.

‘For me, leadership means to lead by example and to have integrity. I keep in touch with the community people and participate in events and programmes at their homes to help maintain and nourish the relationships that support my work.’

Authors: Avni Kumar and Diana Gonzalez Botero from ISF-UTS, with input from Tshering Choden, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Advisor, SNV in Bhutan
Photos: Tshechu Dorji for SNV
More information
[1] Namgay Pelden is one of 19 leaders interviewed for the ‘Gender transformative leadership in WASH during the COVID-19 pandemic’ research project led by SNV and ISF-UTS. The project is funded by the Australian government's Water for Women Fund. Key findings of the research are presented in this learning brief.
[2] This blog was produced as part of SNV in Bhutan's Beyond The Finish Line programme.
[3] Additional stories of leadership here: H.E. Dechen Wangmo, Minister of Health, Royal Government of Bhutan | Rajesh Sahani, Member of Disabled People's Organisation in Nepal | Chomsy Ngamvilay, Deputy Head of the Atsaphone District Health Office in Lao PDR | Toumkham Phetsalath, Deputy Head of the Champhone District Health Office in Lao PDR | Ambika Yadav, WASH Advisor, SNV in Nepal
[4] To learn more about SNV's rural WASH work in Asia, contact Gabrielle Halcrow, Multi- country programme manager by email