Community Engagement Platform(CEP), the initiative that focused to bring change in the attitudes of people for the wellbeing of the community. CEP was launched in August 2015, but until 2018, there were no signs of any development, so it was temporarily stopped. Then, in 2018 it was resumed and hence, it functioned smoothly.
According to the bylaws, collectively formulated by the CEP members from the pilot communities and project management team, CEP is defined as: “… mini-neighborhood group formed amongst the community on the principle of volunteerism. It is an important platform for the community people for enhancing their engagement in the democratic process of local governance and development.”
The Department of Local Government (DLG) under the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs (MoHCA) is mandated to strengthen local governance in the country. The project, “Support for Community Engagement in Local Governance”, implemented with the technical support from JICA is one of its initiatives aimed at strengthening people’s participation in governance, planning and decision-making. CEP was instituted in five pilot Chiwogs of Dagana, Mongar and Punakha Dzongkhags.
In pilot chiwogs of Dagana, it didn’t meet our expectations, but at least it was presentable, according to Passang the program manager of Department of Local Governemnt. Three factors that led to the establishment of this CEP. One, it is to make the Zomdues stronger. People are inclined to believe that elected tshongpas and bureaucrats are powerful if the Zomdues aren’t strengthened. Therefore, there will be devolution of power if zomdues is strengthened. Two, because of its size, chiwog Zomdues frequently experience attendance problems not meeting the required numbers of representatives and members. And lastly, passive involvement of communities in the Zomdues. Most differently able persons are excluded, and despite promises of women empowerment, there is only minimal active participation from women. It lacks inclusiveness and participation of all people.
“There are 68 households in the Dogak Chiwog in Dagana, so holding a meeting all at once is not very fruitful. Therefore, we have divided it into nine groups, each of which is led by a volunteer leader who is unpaid. They also teach us how to plan and perform other things, which helps us understand many of the needs of the community”, said Passang.
He further stated, “Most of the times, people only report problems to the government but under CEP, we give people the tools they need to both identify their requirements and offer a solution. By maximizing diversification with their limited resources, they can lessen reliance symptoms.
The basic idea is to change people from being workers to being thinkers and then a solution.
Three tools have also been introduced. We equip people with skills that are necessary so that, they are able to recognize their requirements and find creative solutions that are sustainable in the first place. Together, in corporation and coordination with the government problems are solved at Chiwogs without having to put-up to the higher authority for the solutions. Ultimately, this project aims to achieve sustainable, affluent rural and developed community.
Sonam Tobgay, Gup(village head), Lingmukha, Punakha said, “Community Engagement Platform is crucial to the community. Additionally, the populace is effectively utilizing the community participation platform, which might serve as an example for the gewog of neighboring Dzongkhag. Even if the bridge is destroyed, the CEP members strive to work together to solve the issue rather than complaining to the government, which can also help the government save money “.
“CEP is good idea as it enhances the cooperation among people and also lets people to be completely active in development of one’s community,” stated Sangay Wangmo, Magmi of Gozhi Gewog, Dagana Dzongkhang. People have become independent and responsible thanks to these programs, she added.
Pema Dechen, CEP coordinator, Gozhi gewog remarked, “Prior to CEP activities, people do not listen to one another. Even after these measures, selling the CEP idea to people remained a challenge. After a year in the project, participants in CEP are fully engaged and able to comprehend CEP and its objectives”.
She further stated, “People were, in my opinion, perpetually at odds with one another before these initiatives, but they are now close friends and work well together. After people learnt to accept and support CEP, I have noticed that there is now good information sharing among people on the issues. Previously, every household member was required to attend every meeting, without any substantial result because nobody would comprehend what was being discussed and the size of the gathering would be large too. Only the CEP coordinators are present these days. There are 6 to 7 households with one coordinator as the head. Following the meeting, the coordinator would inform their members about the purpose of each gathering and issues “.
The Community Engagement Platform(CEP) has brought positive change in the communities with common objective and unity to tackle developmental activities and issues at the community and chiwog level. The CEP has empowered the community to be the solution to their need, it has also saved government resources and has provided timely solutions to the problems that community faced. If every chiwog in the country could initiate Community Engagement Platform (CEP) and perform effectively, no chiwog or community would remain to be backward but a affluent and vibrant chiwog/community and eventually, nation at large.