“What are your thoughts on holding the victim responsible when she becomes the subject of violence?” asked 19-year-old Jigme Khenrab, looking directly at the UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. 

“I’d actually love to hear your thoughts on the subject,” Dr. Kanem replied. 

A few seconds of silence followed. 

“I don’t think it is right to blame the person when something bad happens to her or him,’ Jigme said after a while. “I think that is very, very wrong and it talks about the ignorance of people. I think it’s our duty to tell the person who has suffered that is not her fault. We need to support them.”

Loud applause broke out in the auditorium of Ugyen Academy in Punakha where students from across the Punakha Valley had gathered. 

They were there to meet three very special advocates of sexual and reproductive health and rights they don’t get a chance to interact with every day – Her Majesty, the Queen Mother, Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck; Her Excellency, Dechen Wangmo, Bhutan’s Health Minister; and Dr. Natalia Kanem, the Executive Director of UNFPA, who was on her first official visit to the Himalayan kingdom in October 2019.   

But this close encounter didn’t for a moment make the students nervous. In fact, it gave them all the more reason to ask the questions they had been waiting and wanting to ask.
“We know about the ICPD Summit that is taking place in Nairobi in November,” a young girl said to Dr. Kanem. “Though it’s not possible for all us to be there, how can all of us be a part of this event?”

 “I wish I could take all of you to Nairobi, but it will be too small to accommodate the world’s 1.8 billion of young people!”  Dr. Kanem replied. 

“But you will be represented there by your government, civil society organizations and youth representatives. There are four strong and passionate youth advocates from Bhutan who will be participating at the Summit. I am confident they will champion your ideas and needs, and that your voice will be heard.”

All views are those of the original author. Read the full story on UNFPA Asia-Pacific.