Stitches of Tibet: Stitching the Economic Gap of Tibetan Women in Exile

Dharamsala, 24 October 2006:  Initiated in 1995, it has been eleven years since Stitches of Tibet (SOT) has successfully functioned as a source of financial support for many of the destitute Tibetan women in exile, especially new arrivals from Tibet. The driving force behind Tibetan Women’s Association’s (TWA) establishment of the handicraft and tailoring project called SOT is to enable the “economically disadvantaged women, who lack employment and educational opportunities, to be self-reliant by teaching them tailoring skills”. Staying true to its mission, SOT has produced 75 Graduates so far under the dedicated guidance of Tashi Dolma la from 1995 to 2001, and Dhamchoe la after that.

The SOT tailoring course is 18 months long, during which the students are taught and perfected on many different handicraft and tailoring skills. It is an intensive vocational course that is focused on specializing each students’ tailoring skills of various Tibetan and western costumes, thereby facilitating the students’ entry to financial independence upon graduation. The first group of nine students graduated on 5th of October 1996. TWA celebrated the 8th graduation of SOT’s students on 24th October 2006.

During SOT’s formation and its baby stage more than decade ago, Tibetans in exile and western supporters bestowed immense support and appreciation for TWA. One of our main supporters has been Mrs. Phurbu Dolma la, former MP of Domey, and also serving on TWA’s executive member at the time, assisted TWA’s tailoring project by providing each graduate with a sewing machine upon graduating from SOT’s tailoring course. Dolma la and some of her friends raised funds to present a sewing machine for all the graduates of SOT from 1997 to 2005. TWA sponsored this year’s sewing machines for the 9 students who graduated on 24th October 2006. TWA was able to pay for all the sewing machines, as we were able to profit from sales of merchandise during the Indigenous Grandmother’s conference in Dharamsala. TWA is proud to announce that we will continue to provide the sewing machines to every graduate henceforth.

All of the SOT graduates are either self-employed or employed by other institutions and they are financially independent, all of which would have been very difficult to achieve without SOT’s training course. The current teacher of SOT, Dhamchoe la, expressed her grief on seeing her students leave after 18 long months of staying together, but she has no doubts over SOT’s positive impact on her students’ lives. “They came to me with no vocational skills and now they are leaving with a talent”, said Dhamchoe la on her students’ graduation. The new group of students has already started tailoring class on 25th October, and they are very optimistic about the new turn in their lives.

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