In 2005, TWA organized a successful Tibetan Women Leadership Program (TWLP) held in Bangalore. TWA decided to hold a second annual TWLP in 2006 due to the success of the 2005 program. Approximately twenty female students from Bangalore, Baroda, Delhi and Dharamsala joined the leadership program. The five-day workshop from Dec 9 to 13 was held at Delhi Youth Hostel. The leadership program commenced on a Saturday, and Yeshi Phuntsok Acharya, Member of Parliament, opened the program as the chief guest.
Many prominent speakers followed Acharya, and on the first day Kate Saunders, Director of Communications, International Campaign for Tibet, did a media outreach workshop. Students were divided into three groups and they were given a situation that they had to decide if they were for it or against it. After brainstorming and discussing for some time, journalists interviewed the spokesperson of the groups. This exercise taught participants how to prepare for an interview beforehand.
The next two days saw direction from two American resource persons; Stephanie Goodell and Michelle Lepore. They challenged everyone’s conventional understanding of what leadership means through different activities and discussions. A modern way of thought that explained leadership as taking initiatives and teamwork superceded the old definition. No leader can be productive without a team of workers bolstering and working hard under them. In Stephanie’s own words, “Leadership is the process of a group of people working toward a common goal.” The speakers firmly believed that leaders can be made and that we can be the leaders that we have been waiting for. Another activity, Wellness Wheel, detected how each participant spends her time on a usual day, and the wheel then confronted everyone with how well they take care of their physical, mental and spiritual health. Almost all the girls had areas of improvement in their wellness wheel and a discussion followed on how to make these improvements.
Youdon Aukatsang la, Member of Parliament, gave a morning session on The United Nations and Tibet. Though all participants had some knowledge of what the UN stands for and its basic principles, none were very familiar with how the UN functions and what role it has played so far in our freedom struggle. Many participants admired Youdon la as a role model of a female leader in the Tibetan community. She also stressed the importance of leadership, not only referring to the person with the highest post in a given organization, but everybody working in that organization can be leaders through taking self initiatives. A panel discussion on the Role of Tibetan Youth in the Movement followed in the afternoon and a heated dialogue took place under panel facilitators, B. Tsering la and Tsering Yangzom la.
Vijay Kranti, a photojournalist and an ardent Tibet supporter, shared with the participants the importance of communicating the Tibet issue with non-Tibetans, especially Indians. Through an exercise, he demonstrated how little Tibetans interact with Indians on a personal level despite living on their land. Kranti ji said the Tibet issue is not only Tibetan’s problem, but a quagmire for Indians too. Many Indians are unaware of the border issue and it is our duty to raise their awareness, stressed Kranti ji. On the last day, Penpa Tsering la, Member of Parliament, enlightened everyone on the concepts of The Middle Path Policy. Penpa la cleared away many doubts about the middle path policy and urged the participants to use their democratic rights as Tibetans in exile to either support the policy or not.
Gen. B. Tsering la introduced the participants to Tibetan Women’s Association and explained its origins and mission. After her talk, all the participants voluntarily opted to be a member of TWA. The final activity as a group was to use the UN by lodging an individual complaint against the violation of human rights in Tibet. Everyone wrote to four different committees of the UN focusing on rights of children, women, racial discrimination and human rights in Tibet. Participants left feeling proud of their effort in resolving human rights issues in Tibet.