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Social media and radio help remote herders stay informed

With the National Assembly elections not far away, herders of Merak and Sakteng Gewogs in Trashigang are finding different ways to stay informed about political candidates to help exercise their democratic rights. Despite their nomadic lifestyle and geographical and connectivity challenges, most of them rely on social media platforms and BBS FM radio. 

For over five decades, 51-year-old Hrangchung from Gyengo village in Merak Gewog has been herding cattle and leading a nomadic life. Currently, he stays nearby Danglingtsho in Khaling Gewog with his family.

Due to their constant search for better pasturelands, herders like Hrangchung find it difficult to attend election-related programmes.

So, how do they gather information and make informed decisions while voting?

“When there is an election, the village people and candidate’s supporters would inform us through phone calls. We, as herders listen to them and assess the capabilities of the candidates. That is how we have been casting our votes. Some herders even create chat groups to exchange information about the candidates,” said Hrangchung.

Despite facing network issues in their remote herding areas, the herders employ various means to stay updated about the elections.

“I listen to BBS FM radio, where I can listen about the candidates. Based on the information I gather, I make my decisions. However, it is challenging for all the herders to go and vote. Most of them make their way to the gewog centre while a few are unable to leave their herding areas,” said Karma Choden, a herder.

“I do not know how to read and write, so I rely on my friend’s suggestions to cast my vote. My friend from Merak would inform me about how a particular candidate would benefit us and that they understand and address our concerns, including those relating to Tsamdro,” said Buchung, another herder.

Merak and Sakteng Gewogs are home to more than 500 herding households, with over 1,000 tending to their cattle in various places.

Sonam Darjay, Trashigang

Edited by Sonam Pem