Since the future of Bhutan as a Democratic Nation rests on the children of today, their meaningful engagement right from childhood and adolescence would best ensure a Vibrant Democracy as envisioned by our Monarchs and enshrined in the Constitution. Thus, it is found pertinent that our children are prepared for their roles and responsibilities as citizens and potential future leaders through means and mechanisms in a real-life setting that promote their active engagement and constructive participation, starting with youth related issues.
The process of democracy must engage all the citizens of the country and if exposure to democratic practices happen earlier in life, children would imbibe the values and grow up to become responsible citizens, empowered to meaningfully participate and ensure a vibrant Democracy.
It is in this context and intention that the ECB initiated the institution of Democracy Clubs in schools, colleges and educational institution across the country as a means to educate the children on the Bhutanese Electoral System and Processes. However, it continues to be on a voluntary basis on the part of the entities as well as for membership by students.
The Democracy Clubs act as a Mini-Election Commission to conduct elections and organize events and activities that promote understanding of the Bhutanese electoral system and processes, democratic governance and institutions, and encourage student participation in school or educational institution’s decision-making process.
To institute the Democracy Club in schools and to become a member of Democracy Club, it depends on the individual child’s interest and volunteerism. The first Democracy Clubs was born in the year 2013 at Trashitse Higher Secondary School in Trashigang Dzongkhag. By 2015, a total of 4,207 students in 154 schools voluntarily became members of Democracy Clubs which increased to 175 schools with 5,548 members in 2016. Today, we have 7,193 Democracy Club members in 205 schools across the Country.
In order to bring the Democracy Clubs to a higher pedestal and purpose, the Bhutan Children’s Parliament (BCP) was established with the adoption of its Constitution to provide an opportunity for children to build their leadership skills through hands on experiences as well as to be well informed and able to voice their ideas, thoughts and feelings so that their concerns and opinion can be heard.
The Constitution of Bhutan Children’s Parliament was adopted on 2nd of June 2015 in the Kuenray of Punakha Dzong. The adoption of the BCP Constitution was then signed by 222 student representatives from the 153 Democracy Clubs in the presence of 153 Teacher Coordinators and 24 District Education Officers from across the country in the presence of senior leaders and officials of the Royal Government of Bhutan.
BCP is one aspect of a full and comprehensive Voter Education and Awareness Programme carried out by the Election Commission targeted especially for the school going children, trainees and college students with a long-term view. It has neither replaced nor diverted resources and attention away from any other important voter education activity.