Tshering Yangzom, Class of 2007 – (Samtse, Bhutan)

Practicum Summary:

Ja Thungay: Let’s Drink Tea

Tangzon’s practicum examines the relationship between alcohol and poverty in one of Bhutan’s poorest rural indigenous communities, the Lhops, located in the south-western region of the country. For years, the Tarayana Foundation, founded by Her Majesty the Queen of Bhutan, has focused on improving the Lhop community’s living standards through skills training programs, educational scholarships for children, and providing maintenance fees so that the poor may fend for themselves. In Yangzom’s research, he discovered that while economic opportunities were accessible to the Lhops community, many of them were still heavily dependent on alcohol, especially men. He cites many contributing factors to this dependence, including the lack of access to a road, which inhibits opportunities for community members to buy, sell, and trade. Yangzom also analyzes whether women could be used as a force to bring about social change in the community in a bottom-up approach to prevent and mitigate alcohol-related problems by using information, education, and communication in hopes that individuals will change their behavior. Yangzom recommends focusing on changing socio-cultural norms about gender and drinking while remaining sensitive to the Lhop culture. He also cites the importance of carrying out this approach in a sensitive and serious way, in which the community is involved in every step of improvement, due to the fact that the community has already been patronized by surrounding communities for their problems with alcohol and productivity.