Yesterday, with my voice competing with the clanger of the monsoon rain on the tin roof of the Planning Division’s office, I presented my final report to the Gross National Happiness Commission. Twenty-five people were in attendance at the meeting. More important than the number however, was its composition. It included key decision makers from the GNHC: Department Heads and the Secretary of the Commission – one of the most respected leaders in Bhutan’s civil service. After weeks of worrying whether my time here would leave any lasting impression, this was my opportunity to play a small role in influencing the people who drive the country’s policy agenda.
Though the issue of gender was not something that anybody had much interest in me working on here, it created by far the greatest stir of the presentation. The Secretary, who opposed the introduction of quotas (like many in the senior ranks of Bhutanese government), changed his mind on the issue. Speaking on the subject after the presentation, he described his “180 degree turn” and decided to use the report to engage the issue with members of parliament. That afternoon, I left the office triumphantly, feeling that a slight of pressure had been added to the arc of justice in Bhutan.