A Baby in a Backpack to Bhutan: An Australian Family in the Land of the Thunder Dragon by Bunty Avieson


A Baby in a Backpack to Bhutan: An Australian Family in the Land of the Thunder Dragon by Bunty Avieson

Author:Bunty Avieson [Avieson, Bunty]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Travel
ISBN: 9781848390980
Publisher: Summersdale Publishers Ltd
Published: 2008-08-06T23:00:00+00:00


In many ways the Bhutanese are thoroughly modern, and sexism doesn’t work quite the same way as it does elsewhere. Though women may be in charge of the domestic duties and are not yet filling the inner sanctum of Cabinet, they are, quite literally, everywhere else – working as doctors, engineers, teachers, running farms, owning businesses and holding senior positions throughout the government. They are well represented in district-level decision-making and treated equally in education and wages. In 2000, more than forty-six per cent of the primary school enrolments were girls.

When it comes to owning real estate, surely Bhutanese women lead the world. In rural areas sixty per cent of land is registered to women. It’s known as ‘customary right of inheritance by daughters’, a system that has arisen because it is believed that women need economic security to be able to take care of their parents and children.

Sexism does exist. The royal family is patriarchal, passing the title from father to son, and the monastic culture is male-oriented. While there are more monks than soldiers, the nuns are a bit thin on the ground.

The story of Bhutan’s first woman soldier is a delightful example of how the women just go about things. In 1962, twenty-three-year-old Tshering Bidha was one of thousands who volunteered for military service. Her husband was joining up and she thought, why not? She had a baby daughter so brought her mother along to babysit. During breaks in guerrilla-warfare training, her mother would bring the baby to her for breastfeeding. Tshering not only passed her training, she topped the school, beating her husband.

She gleefully recounted to The Kuensel newspaper how, as a senior officer, she would punish him for teasing other women soldiers by making him carry a thirty-kilo sand bag for an hour. She is now sixty-three, retired and a sweet, wrinkly grandmother, whose reminiscences also include anecdotes from her years as a crack soldier.



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