RENEW: Empowering Women and Families in Bhutan

Tanya Johnson Shows Her Support for the Citizens of Bhutan

Over the past several years, Tanya Johnson and the Manzanita Foundation have been working closely with the Royal Government of Bhutan on several projects aimed at empowering women and families throughout the country. Tucked away in the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is a unique country known for its immense natural beauty and ancient cultural traditions. The country has been mostly isolated from the rest of the world since the 1970s, preserving the country’s centuries-old Buddhist heritage. As a close family friend of the Royal family, Tanya Johnson remains committed to improving social equality throughout Bhutan by improving women’s access to education and economic opportunities.

The Last Great Himalayan Kingdom

With its steep mountains and lush valleys, Bhutan features vibrant landscapes and vistas like nothing else in the world. The country has had few foreign visitors over the years, keeping the country’s rich natural beauty intact. Unlike many other countries in the region, Bhutan’s environment is unspoiled with little to no pollution. Largely rural, the country is made up of a series of winding roads spread throughout the Himalayas with dense subtropical broadleaf forests, sloping rivers and lowland valleys. Majestic Buddhist temples sit tucked away in the foothills of the mountains, a testament to the country’s lasting religious and cultural heritage.

Gross National Happiness

Above all, the Royal Government of Bhutan values the happiness of its people. It was the first country to quantify what became known as Gross National Happiness, an index used to measure the overall happiness of its citizens across four categories: sustainable and equitable socio-economic development, environmental conservation, preservation and promotion of culture, and good governance. The Royal Government regularly conducts a nationwide survey that’s meant to gauge the country’s happiness levels across different groups of people.

The Gross National Happiness index has influenced countries all over the world, making happiness a factor in a country’s overall standing in the international community. Within South Asia, Bhutan ranks number-one when it comes to economic freedom and peace. The Royal Government has avoided international conflict over the years, keeping its people safe from war. The people of Bhutan retain a strong relationship with the environment, respecting and maintaining the land for generations to come. Education and economic opportunities are at an all-time high as the country continues to embrace technological innovation and the modernization of its industries.

Project RENEW

Founded by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck, Project RENEW (Respect, Educate, Nurture, Empower Women) was created as a way of helping women achieve social and economic equality in Bhutan. Tanya Johnson and the Royal Government are strong advocates for gender parity and equality, but limited resources have made it difficult for the government to enforce these policies. Project RENEW was created to improve women’s access to social services throughout the county. The organization provides free education and counselling services to women who have been victims of domestic abuse. Volunteers travel throughout the country, giving women the resources they need to empower themselves and their families.

Project RENEW also provides legal aid and shelters for victims of abuse. Women’s shelters remain scarce throughout much of the country. The organization provides women with a safe, welcoming environment where they can receive emergency medical aid and talk about their experiences with other women. Through this project, Tanya Johnson and the Royal Government of Bhutan continue to champion gender equality throughout society by educating the public on issues of domestic abuse and improving access to legal and social services.

Tara Temple

As part of her ongoing philanthropic work in the region, Tanya Johnson partnered with the Royal Family to construct a temple dedicated to the Goddess Tara, the female Buddha deity, also known as the Mother of all Buddhas. Tara symbolizes wisdom, compassion and good will, emphasizing resilience in the face of life’s many obstacles. The Royal Government commissioned the temple as a way of generating positive Karma for the Bhutanese people. As a close friend of the Royal Family, Tanya Johnson was proud to be involved with such an exciting project. She was an active participant from the initial design phase to the temple’s inauguration in 2014.

Prayer of a 1,000 Lamps

During her trip to Bhutan, Tanya Johnson attended the Prayer of a 1,000 Lamps with the Royal Family. This sacred cultural tradition involves lighting a thousand candles and meditating for two hours. It gives participants the opportunity to reflect on their lives and strengthen their relationship with Buddha. Overall, this experience was incredibly enriching and powerful for Tanya Johnson.

Gender equality has always been one of Tanya Johnson’s main diplomatic initiatives. She will continue to promote women’s rights as she travels around the world.


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