18 November 2022

CSO Contribution to Sanitation in Bhutan

The emergence of Bhutan's own national civil society organization (CSO) in the sanitation sector is a recent development. However, with their volunteers and activities at the grassroots levels, their contributions are significant in raising awareness, civic responsibility and influencing social changes. The decades of government efforts found a complementing partner in civil society to make it complete.

Following are some of the contributions made by the national CSOs in sanitation;

1. Policy Dialogue: CSOs contributed significantly to influencing, lobbying, drafting and reviewing national sanitation policies, guidelines, and roadmap. They are also a major player in creating awareness on sanitation issues and mobilizing volunteers to become a part of the solution. They are also responsible for highlighting the government's efforts and letting people do their part.

2. Proper management of public toilets: many public toilet facilities have become defunct without proper ownership or management. CSO volunteers conducted mass cleaning campaigns to make the facilities usable and handed them over to caretakers.

3. School Toilet Upgrade: students were using old toilets that are difficult to clean and maintain hygiene. With students using unsafe and dirty toilets, their behaviours are reflected in the way the Bhutanese perceive toilets. Realizing the influence of school toilets on overall national sanitation, CSO partnered with the Ministry of Education and development partners to upgrade over 2800 units of school toilets using smart methods and technologies. Over 400 school staff are trained to carry out maintenance work. 

4. Monastic School Toilet: to make toilet facilities in the monastic schools clean and safe for the monks and nuns, the old toilets were upgraded using the same method carried out in the schools. The monks are trained to maintain and manage the facilities hence.

5. Toilet for Persons with Disabilities (PwD) and Elderly: For people who cannot go to the toilet or use ordinary toilets due to disabilities, age or sickness, CSOs have taken various initiatives to either make toilets accessible or bring in innovative technologies to put toilets closer to the people. Small portable toilets were introduced as bedside toilets that are made available to people in various forms and models.

6. Emergency Toilets; During the pandemic, hundreds of duty stations were built along the borders and hundreds more outside the quarantine facilities. CSOs rose to the occasion and helped provide sanitation facilities for duty personnel across the country and for the displaced communities and schools. 

7. Rural Toilets: CSOs have worked with communities that are hard to reach and that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change in improving their livelihood. Communities are empowered with economically viable activities and provided housing and sanitation that are resilient and in coherence with their environment. About 1000 rural families who could not afford sanitation facilities were supported by various CSOs. On top of that, CSOs have brought in technologies to upgrade hundreds of old rural toilets to speed up government efforts to achieve 100% ODF. 

8. Event Toilet: During events, the venues do not have sufficient toilet facilities. These events usually lead to massive public health issues. But CSOs have developed modern interventions to provide portable toilet facilities and safe temporary toilets to tackle the issue.

9. Professional Toilet Managers: There are no professional sanitation workers. We have been dependent on foreign workers to deal with the dirty job. CSOs have worked to create opportunities for the emergence of local professionals who are proud and skilled in doing the job. Over 200 Bhutanese cleaners are trained to manage toilets professionally. 

Note: The above write-up is a brief note prepared to be included in a national presentation to be made at SaniLearn Workshop in Sri Lanka. It includes the works of CSOs like Bhutan Toilet Org, Tarayana Foundation, Ability Bhutan Society, RSPN, Rotary Club of Thimphu, among others. I am sharing this to celebrate CSO's contributions to sanitation to reserve World Toilet Day.

And as the founder of Bhutan Toilet Org, I would like to thank UNICEF, Save the Children, WHO Bhutan, the Education Ministry, Helvetas Bhutan, the European Union, SARAYA, LIXIL, Dept of Tourism and friends from Japan who supported us in carrying out the above activities. I want to remember all those generous private donors for believing in us. Look how far we have come. Thank you so much. 

Today, we offer our solemn gratitude to His Majesty the King for the vision, direction and handholding from the beginning and throughout. We rededicate our commitment to take it to the end without any compromise.

29 September 2022

A Letter to Author

It's not every day that I receive a mail from a reader who loved my book or otherwise. There are not many readers, and not many readers take their time out to write a review or a mail. That's why when I do get a message, I really treasure it. 

Following is a heartwarming email from a young girl who finished reading my book in two days. It goes to show that she really enjoyed it. From a short mail, I can make out that she is quite a reader, and for her to like my book is a significant compliment. 

Besides that, the timing is important to me. It's been over four years since my book was published, and all the hype is gone with the wind, yet for someone to read my book a
and write to me makes me 

Dear Author,

This might be an odd way of expressing my appreciation, but I couldn't find a better way of connecting with you. (I preferred email for my lengthy message )

I must say, you are really an inspiring figure for youths in our country. I have heard a lot about you and your contributions to Bhutanese society from others. Still, to really be honest, I never actually knew who you were. Perhaps I never tried to discover the works you have done, or I haven't read any piece of your collection yet. 

Just recently, I finished reading your book "PasSu Diary", which I got as a recognition prize during the reading week in my school. I am not a bookworm, but I do enjoy reading. However, I hardly read a book till the end as my interest in reading truly depends on how the writer expresses each line. This might sound weird, but it has been my style ever since I was a kid. 

The moment I read the first lines of your book, it just gravitated my soul towards the next page and so on. Trust me, I was done reading your book just in two days. Reading your book was like getting an opportunity to be part of all the events in flashback. Your writings also give a sense of pride and a raw perception of being a Bhutanese. The sentences in each chapter boosted my thinking capacity. No other prize could have been better than this book.

As I went on learning about you, I discovered that besides writing, you had been a social activist in various fields, and above all, you are someone that youths can look up to. Your writings have motivated me to become a passionate reader and a responsible citizen.

A bunch of thanks to you :) 


- Sonam Tashi Lhazom

If you are interested in my book, here is the link to get it from BOOKNESE or buy the eBook version from Amazon

27 September 2022

A Dangerous Thruelbub Belief

It's dangerous to believe that you could wash away the sins (Lay) you have committed, bad deeds you have done, or harm you have caused to others just by bathing on
#Thruelbub or visiting a temple.

No, you have to be good and do enough good to outweigh the bad you have done. There is no erasing or washing away the bad you have done. You can only drown them in the sea of good you do.
Don't be fooled into believing that a shortcut exists. A day like Thruelbub is rather a good day to stop being an a**hole and start being a good human that everyone is capable of.
Thruelbub is a good holiday to celebrate with your family and feel blessed. It's not a day that will wash everyone's sins and set them free to commit more sins for the next Thruelbub. No, it can't be that easy.
Sorry for the bad news, but I hope you had a good time.

19 September 2022

Bhutanese Monarchy and Queen Elizabeth II

When Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8, 2022, the news touched every corner of the earth, including us, who never had anything to do with the queen. While some grieved the death of the queen they had loved all their lives, others celebrated the profound life of a monarch who ruled for seventy years.

Their Majesties, the King and Queen of Bhutan, are attending the funeral of the Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom. From the short video clips, we could feel the profoundness of the moment, where a young monarch pays his sincere tribute to another monarch on the other side of the planet. We can only imagine the significance of such a gesture. 

Isn't it fascinating that Her Majesty was born in 1926, the same year our First King, Gonsar Ugyen Wangchuck, passed away? It was the same year Second King Jigme Wangchuck ascended the Golden Throne. He ruled for 26 years and passed away in 1952, which coincidentally is the same year Queen Elizabeth began her era. 

So, in 1952, Third Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, ascended the golden throne at the age of 23, while Queen Elizabeth did the same at the age of 26. He was three years younger than her. If he had lived his full life, he would be 93 years old. Unfortunately, he died too soon, in 1972, at the age of 43. 

With the untimely demise of the Third King when the Crown Prince was only sixteen, our country was pushed to the edge of a dark era, but this blessed Kingdom was rescued by the young King in the most historical way. His Majesty, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, ushered Bhutan into an era of unprecedented peace and happiness.  

In 2006, when His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo abdicated the throne at the young age of 51, he surprised the world in more ways than we can ever comprehend. If there was one lesson the world and, for that matter, the late Queen herself could have learned from our Great Fourth, it was the detachment from power and empowering the next generation at the right time. He further engraved his wisdom for eternity by putting the retirement age of 65 for future kings in the Constitution of Bhutan. 

In 2006, when our Beloved Fifth King ascended the Golden Throne, he was coincidentally 26 years old, the same age as the Queen when she took office back in 1952- over half a century ago. The coronation of His Majesty, Jigme Khesar Namgay Wangchuck, was the happiest coronation in the world where the healthy father King crowned the son who was more than ready. The wedding of their majesties and the birth of two princes in the presence of the Great Fourth were events of profound happiness that the Kingdom of Bhutan experienced for the first time.  

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, lived across the era of four Bhutanese Kings- from Second King to the Fifth. It was also within this period that the United States of America saw fourteen Presidents come and go, 13 of whom met the queen.  Her life and death are, therefore, of significance to the world. 

May Our King and Queen be blessed with Queen Elizabeth's longevity. 

May the Queen rest in peace. 

PaSsu Diary is now available in eBook on Amazon


Click on the picture or HERE

15 September 2022

The Bhutanese Front-page from April 2016

While looking for something in my trunk, I found this issue of The Bhutanese Newspaper carefully preserved in a folder. My wife says she treasured it. I am grateful to The Bhutanese newspaper for printing this picture, which is the greatest moment in my life, on the front page of the April 2, 2016 issue. It was during the initial years of Bhutan Toilet Org, that we were making feeble attempts to change the state of Bhutanese public toilets. 

This moment that's captured in this picture is significant because it was there His Majesty the King put his hand on my shoulder and blessed me on this long journey to change toilets in the country. It was this picture which convinced my mother that I was on a mission far more significant than her disappointment in my resignation from the government job. 

27 August 2022

A Good War in 2003

The old saying that 'there never was a good war" was proven wrong in 2003.

No Bhutanese from my generation or older will ever forget the December 2003 war Bhutan had to fight against the Assamese separatist groups along our southern borders. The outlaws had relocated their camps in our territory after the Indian Army conducted operations Rhino and Bajrang in the 1990s. For two decades, they occupied the deep jungles inside our southern borders and wreaked havoc on both sides of the borders. 

The peaceful Kingdom of Bhutan has not known war since 1865. With a small army, we avoided all conflicts, even when the militants were bullying us without a care for our sovereignty. The outlaws would roam freely in our southeastern town with their guns. Our choice for a peaceful resolution weighed heavy on the friendly relationship we shared with India because the militants were launching attacks on India from their bases in Bhutan. India could have easily destroyed those camps by conducting a military operation and air strike, but they respected our sovereignty and refrained from any aggression on our soil. 

His Majesty, the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, firmly believed it could be resolved peacefully and tolerated their aggression for a long time. He would humbly sit down for peace talks with petty militant leaders who would make outrageous demands. When all hopes for peaceful resolutions were shot down by the unreasonable militants, His Majesty the King made the painful decision to take up arms against them.

I had just finished high school and was serving as an apprentice teacher in the isolation of Sombaykha, entirely cut off from all the news and confusion of an impending war. By the time we turned on the radio on the National Day of 2003, the war was over. It was brief, and the victory was ours. All the myths we heard and our fear of the militants were defused. Finally, after two decades of aggression, kidnapping, extortion, murder and lawlessness, we got our gift of peace back. 

The war was significant for many reasons. It's perhaps the only war in modern times where the country's King led his force on the frontline. His Majesty the Fourth King showed the world what it means to be a true leader of a country. His bravery and compassion have no examples in the world.  He even refused to celebrate the victory. He rather conducted big prayer ceremonies for the lives lost on both sides. 

The end of the war brought unprecedented peace to the people of Bhutan and Assam. Today, when we travel from Samdrup Jongkhar to Nganglam or Gelephu or Phuntsholing without a worry, we must be grateful to His Majesty the King and his brave soldiers who brought peace to the region. 

However, beyond the gift of peace and security to the people, the greatest beneficiaries of that war were the wildlife in Manas, both in India and Bhutan. I watched a 2016 Discovery Channel program, Manas: Return of the Giants, where they showed how Manas was destroyed by a two-decade insurgency, resulting in an almost complete loss of wildlife. The militants killed every animal that fetched a good price in the black market to fund their operations. The biggest victims were the Tiger, Elephant, Rhino, and Gaur, among the hundreds of endangered species. The lawlessness led to the illegal felling of trees and the killing of animals for trade and food. 

The award-winning documentary has covered how the end of the insurgency saved Manas from total destruction and how wildlife is slowly reviving from the brink of extinction, but they have failed to acknowledge Bhutan and our King for the 2003 war that ended the insurgency for once and for all. 

Regardless of their admission, I teared up in pride as I watched the return of the magnificent animals to Manas after the war, knowing well that our King led a war that has not only brought peace to people in the region but also saved entire wildlife. That's when I felt there was a good war, and it was led by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. 

29 June 2022

An App for Caring Parents

Dear Parents,

Your children are going to hate me for revealing this secret to you but I am sharing this because much like I love my daughter and I care about her wellbeing, I am sure you feel the same about your children. 

My daughter is among the first generation of children who are mostly babysat by smartphones and tablets. They know how to handle digital device far better than us. We don't even know what they are doing on their phones, do we? What apps they are using? what contents are they accessing? who are they interacting with? How long are they on their phones?

Giving smartphones to your young children is like sending them on a solo trip into an unknown city. There are two ways you could ensure their safety on the journey; 

  1. either your child is well prepared to fend for themselves against the evil forces out there
  2. or you accompany them on the journey and make sure they are safe. 
I wish our children are prepared to fend for themselves in the cyber world but that's not the case. Everything happened too soon too quickly for them to be able to prepare. Therefore, the only option is to accompany them on the journey;

How? Much like literally accompanying your children on a journey, you have an app called Google Family Link that gives you parental control over your children's devices. It allows you to set screen time for your children, approve app downloads, restrict contents from certain websites, monitor their activities and also physically locate their devices using GPS. 

Physical Well-Being 

Children may not like this but it's only for their safety and wellbeing. During the last lockdown, my daughter was using her phone more than her usual time and I was worried. Her eyesight worsened and she even developed a frequent headache. I suspected it was because of her long screen time but she refuted. It was only after I used Google Family Link that we discovered she spent over 12 hours on her phone. It was a revelation for herself too. She didn't know she used phone that much. Then we mutually agreed to budget her screen time. Things improved. 

The excessive time our children spend on their phones have a huge impact on their physical and social wellbeing. I don't have to tell you much on these subjects. Therefore, it's best to budget their screen time using Google Family Link. You will be shocked to see how many hours our children spend on their phones. Do we even know when you children are sleeping? We are literally blinding them and allowing them to become socially awkward beings. 

Mental Well-Being 

The other more dangerous aspect of being out there in the virtual world on their own is their safety and their mental and emotional well-being. Do you know what sort of contents are they exposed to? Do you know who they are interacting with? Internet can be so unkind to our little children who may not be ready to digest some contents or interact with strangers. They may be at risk of being scammed or being fooled into doing things. If only you knew what sort of apps or websites they are visiting then you will be able to monitor, isn't it? Well, with this app you can do just that. You will see if they are really in the Google Classroom or straying on Tiktok; if they are shooting a video and editing it or simply chatting or gaming. 

My daughter agreed to wait till she attains the legal age of 13 to join Facebook and for now her mother and I are managing her Page Ninzi Show. She's also prohibited from joining other social media platform until the approved age, but that's not without an incident. Every now and then, she is on Instagram or Tiktok. She even has a Facebook account. But we agreed to wait and I know for sure that she isn't breeching her terms because if she did I would know from the App. Many parents have allowed their children on social media way before they are 13, including my nieces and nephews. I hope they are safe. To ensure that, at least see how long they spend on each app and if they spend way too long on certain apps then see what they are doing there(by checking their phones physically, because you don't see what they are actually doing)*.

*Google takes into account the privacy of the children and therefore don't allow parents to spy on everything they are typing or looking at. I am sure they have the children's legal rights taken care. The children must be informed of the features. 

If need be I will soon do a demo video to show how to install and use Google Family Link. 

This awareness post on children's wellbeing in the digital world is brought to you be TashiCell. It's a part of their initiative to create a safe environment for children on the internet. 

The Raven Squad- A Film Review

The Raven Squad was trending so much on social media to ignore. My daughter Ninzi Show insisted on watching it. Moreover, it was long due for me to watch a Kinley Rigzin Dorji movie. I love the young man’s character, attitude and maturity but haven’t watched any of his movies yet. Same for Sonam Max Choki Page.

First thing, I didn’t expect the hall to be housefull after so many days. The stairs were filled with young people who are aspiring to become something like the Raven Squad.
The movie is about a doting father who fails to appreciate his little MJ son. He realizes it a little too late. He loses his son but to keep his son’s dreams alive, he brings many broken dreams together to form the Raven Squad of success. He sacrifices everything to keep the squad dancing because for him that’s the process of healing.
The story may not sound quite new, but the characters and their dance talents make all the difference, not to mention the occasional jabs of humor that are so well crafted and timed. The background of each squad member has a story that is meant to connect to every youth out there; you are one of them. The new faces have done a good job in magnifying those roles. Kids are going to love them so much.
It’s a motivational film; it will inspire a lot of youth to pursue their dreams in not just dancing but in every form of expression that’s there; I loved the way the film has turned the profession of dancing and cab driving into something so attractive. Good Job, Sonam Maekay Penjor. You played the father figure well. I am tempted to play that role.
Besides the youths, the cab drivers are going to love this film. There is one song that I foresee every cab playing from this day on. It will spread love and kindness among them.
And Dear Kinley Rigzin Dorji, I am blown by your flare in acting. You are born for stardom. You have it all in you. Your director, Karma jerry has managed to showcase your talent to the max. Now, I know why the young kids are so in love with you. It’s my first film of Sonam Max Choki too. And O’ boy, she is a breath of fresh air. I am going to watch more of her movies now.
Wish you big at the box office!

05 May 2022

Blame Not Your Country. It’s the Committees

I was chatting with a friend who was reprimanded for writing stuff on Twitter, which, according to a 'disciplinary committee', violated the civil service code of conduct. He said the committee has decided to withhold his promotion for a year as an administrative action. 

He said he didn't write anything so out of the ordinary to be punished. He said they scrolled up and down his Twitter feed to see if he had really written anything so wrong to violate the civil service code of conduct. 

I told him to appeal to the committee and ask them to prove their charges because the official letter states he can appeal within 10 working days.

"I don't think that will work. I might land up making it worse. I will rather resign and go to Australia." He said. 

"If that has pushed you to the brink of resignation, then what's the problem in appealing and facing the committee? What could possibly go wrong? Even if things don't work out, you could still resign." I said.

"Awooo, laakha du mena Bhutan na." He said, which shocked me. His statement paints a different picture of Bhutan. It sounds as if it's dangerous to speak up in Bhutan. 

So, I told him, "Man, don't bash your country for the action of the so called committee that is made up of a bunch of pleasers who think they are doing their job with utmost dedication. Your country didn't fail you; the committee failed you. You are not fighting against your country; you are fighting against the committee. Please know the difference and separate the two."

It was easy for me to say this, but for him, holding that letter in his hand, the fear was real. God knows what sort of big words and names they must have dropped when handing the letter to him. Here is my personal request to all those committees, please don't let ordinary citizens bash their country for your actions. You have to own it up. You can't use names and acts and clauses to threaten people and make them shit bricks. You are doing big disfavour to this country. These committees are whittling away at Bhutan's unique democratic culture that the successive kings have painstakingly built over the last decades. 

The best ways around to help civil servants avoid violating clause, Chapter 3 of BCSR 2018 are;

  1. Conduct social media literacy to help them use the platforms productively. 
  2. Create open internal platforms for dialogues with the assurance that they won't be reprimanded.
Otherwise, it will only breed hostile anonymous communities that will go beyond attacking policies into defaming individuals, family members and even their beloved country. That's worse than violating the civil service code of conduct.