Mikhung in Paro: building better communities
Lamgong in Paro is an accident-prone area. Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy’s (BCMD) “Project Mikhung”, an asset-based community mapping (ABCM) programme, involves residents in identifying the assets of their neighbourhood and maps out opportunities and challenges.
The Executive Professional Director, Siok Sian Pek-Dorji said community mapping enabled community participation rather than holding the government accountable for everything. “In a democracy people should be aware and be given space to share ideas and feedback to decision-makers”. Democracy she said was not only about voting rights, “At the local level, but it is also public participation and voice in decisions that matter to them.”
Paro Dzongda cited an example of how people in Paro dumped waste mindlessly and blamed the municipality rather than making a profit out of it and being mindful of their waste. He said as a community member one should find assets so that in the process challenges in a community could be solved. “If we leave everything to the government, we are going to fail.” A teacher of Shaba Higher Secondary School, Chenda, said during the training the participants went around places talking to people about neglected or unused public infrastructures and how they could make the best use of them together. “With the skills, I acquired from this training, along with my students, we will participate in bringing out pertinent issues in the community and find solutions. If the community supports us, we will implement the plans and work towards making it better,” Chenda said.
The participants identified Lamgong as an accident-prone area. They found a lack of citizen ownership and improper parking, lack of zebra crossing, damaged speed breaker, and communication gap between the authority and people were the main factors that made the area accident-prone. A teacher of Drugyal Central School, Pema Tenzin, said: “Until now, I had been thinking only about tangible asessts such as waste, but I can intervene and help intangible assests such as drug use among the youths. As a citizen, my community is my responsibility. Even if I cannot change the whole community, whatever I do has an impact.”
Parents representative from Shaba, Tshering Dorji, said he would collaborate with other members of his community and using community mapping would identify problems and help the government and the public. Shaba and Drugyal schools were selected as pilot schools. The teachers are expected to impart the knowledge to students and then carry ABCM in future. Secretary of education ministry, Karma Yeshey, said that ABCM strengthened one of the important domains of Gross National Happiness – community vitality. News and Media Literacy Resource Book titled “Educating for Citizenship” was launched in Dzongkha and in Braille system. The resource books will be distributed to the monasteries, the blind and people in the rural communities. This project was supported by EU Helvetas.