TWA’s Week long 5th Annual Buddhist Nun’s Empowerment Program, 2013 successfully concluded

group picPhotos of the seven-day training can be viewed at:

IMG_5079

Selakui, April 24, 2013: This year’s Nuns Empowerment Program, the 5th in series organized by Tibetan Women’s Association, concluded successfully, held at the Tibetan SOS Vocational Training Centre, Selakui, Dehradun.

The week-long ‘5th Annual Nun’s Empowerment Program,’ held from April 17th – 23rd 2013, was attended by 26 nuns from 10 nunneries based in India; Ladakh (Ladakh Nun’s Association),Drikung Samtenling and Sakya Rinchen Choekhorling (Dehra Dun), Tilokpur (Karma Drupgyu Dhargyeling ), Orissa (Namkha Khungzong) Garoh (Jamyang Choeling and Shugseb Ugen Dzong), Solan (Redna Menriling), Sidhpur (Dolmaling) and Dharamsala based Gaden Choeling.

The training saw various Tibetan resource persons leading sessions on vital concepts to empower and educate the nuns.

nun speaking.. group presentationMs. Tenzin Dhardon Sharling, member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile led two day training on ‘Building Effective Communication Skills on the learning curve’ and ‘Innovation and Self-reliance’, Ms. Tenzin Tseyang, Trainer/ Coordinator, Women’s Empowerment Desk, CTA led a day long training on ‘Women Empowerment’,  Mr. Lhakpa Dhondup, Director/ Principal of the Tibetan SOS Vocational Training centre led an evening session on ‘Nutrition and Diet’, Mr. Duke Tsering, Principal, TCV Model school Selakui led a session on ‘Mind and Life’ and showed how the two concepts complement and relate to one another. The sessions were all interactive filled with mind games, group discussions and presentations, role plays and breathers.

As part of the practical training, the nuns worked on a social educational project proposal through the week and had the project implemented in teams at various Tibetan institutes based around Dehradun.

nun on tourA day was specifically reserved for an education tour, the nuns visited the prestigious ‘Doon School’ where the school administration very graciously arranged a half day long school visit for the nuns to explore and discover  the various educational conveniences enjoyed by the students in the school. After lunch, the group visited the ‘Forest Research Institute’, Dehradun; one of the ancient architects built by the British Empire; now serves as a museum and research centre.

20th April, 2013, Saturday the 10th day of the third month in Tibetan calendar (Pan-Chu), was an auspicious day. On that day, a mass prayer was led by the 26 nuns of different sects and nunneries, attended by the school students and staffs.

Nun Phuntsok Lamdon, Dolmaling nunnery said, “I am attending such program for the first time in my life, I am amazed to see the transformation from the level of shyness to a sense of self-belief and standing in authority as the week progressed.”

The nuns expressed that this program assisted them in realizing their skills and reinforced their beliefs and self-confidence and their ability. TWA hopes to see the nuns pursue leadership roles in greater numbers and at higher levels. We look forward to another enriching and empowering program to be held in 2014.

nuns on work, within groupTWA’s General Secretary, Nyima Lhamo states that “with the help of these programs, we hope to maximize their influence and to discover what they are truly capable of in their lives. The nuns who attended the course began to find out that they have talent and the ability which can be harnessed not only for the furthering of their own potential, but for the benefit of wider society.”

Coordinated by TWA’s Empowerment through Action Desk, ETADesk, the project has been graciously funded by the Science Meets Dharma, an institute which aims to provide monks and nuns in Tibetan monasteries in India with access to scientific education since its inception in 2009.

 

TWA’s ‘Empowerment Through Action Desk’ provides a central point of contact for resources for Tibetan women in exile, while effectively coordinating empowerment programs in culturally-appropriate and gender-sensitive ways. TWA imparts leadership and empowerment actions, which include the Advanced Tibetan Women’s Leadership Training, the Annual Young Tibetan Women’s Leadership Program, the All-India Gender Sensitization Training, Combating Domestic Violence, Legal rights and Empowerment Trainings for Women and the Annual Tibetan Nun’s Leadership Training.

 

Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) is the second largest Tibetan Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) based in exile in India, and the only Women’s NGO in Tibetan history. We are a 16,000-member organization with 56 chapters on four continents: Asia, North America, Europe, and Australia. TWA’s slogan is ‘Advocacy for Home, Action in Exile.’

 

Press contact:

09882502821 – Nyima Lhamo, General Secretary, TWA

09756606452- Tenzin Choedon, Drikung Samtenling, Dehradun (participant)

09418111946 – Tenzin Lhakey, Gaden Choeling (participant)

09418525852 – Yeshi Lhamo, Tilokpur (participant)

Tibetan nuns leadership training

Report: 4th Annual Buddhist Nun’s Leadership Training 7th – 13th March 2012

Report from TWA Empowerment through Action Desk

4th Annual Buddhist Nun’s Leadership Training

7th – 13th March 2012

House of Peace and Dialogue, Upper TCV School, Dharamsala

Tibetan nuns leadership trainingThe week-long ‘4th Annual Nun’s Leadership Training,’ held from March 7th – 13th,2012, was attended by 17 nuns from 8 nunneries based in Nepal (Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery), Ladakh (Gephel Shadrupling), Tashi Jong (Dongyu Gatseling), Drikung Samtenling (Dehra Dun), Garoh (Jamyang Choeling and Shugseb Ugen Dzong), Solan (Redna Menriling), and Gaden Choeling in Dharamsala. The training highlighted basic leadership topics including communication skills, team building and management, goal setting, gender sensitization, and project proposal writing. The participants were also given an opportunity to observe and participate in a rare panel discussion.

Day One

The morning yoga session was an anticipated activity, as it was the first time many of the nuns had ever experienced yoga. Afterward, TWA’s General Secretary, Tsering Yangzom, welcomed the participants and shared with them the objectives and account of this training, which has gradually expanded since inception in January 2009. The ice breaking session challenged the nuns with fun puzzles and mind exercises; the goal of the mind games was to assess one’s self-confidence and ability to think creatively. As much as the participants enjoyed the mind games, they also benefitted from a reflection on life skills. The puzzles required them to think unconventionally, leading them to new perspectives that can extend to obstacles beyond those provided at the workshop.

Later, the participants discussed ground rules they preferred to apply for the duration of the workshop. The nuns also picked a ‘secret friend’ that they would present a gift to at the end of the week, a practice that incorporated the importance of secrecy into the program.

After lunch, TWA began a formal introduction session and screened a few short videos highlighting TWA involvement in the Tibetan community before the orientation round. The evening session was led by the TWA Grants manager, Tsering Wangmo, who gave a presentation on ‘Tips for Proposal Writing’ to assist the nuns in composing their eventual group project proposal. Before they concluded the evening, the nuns gathered for their group strategy meetings.

Day Two

Dhardon Sharling, TWA Research and Media officer, began the morning with a session on Communication skills. The nuns played the game ‘Finding the Animal Partner,’ which underlined lessons about communication and the significant difference between animals and human beings: our enhanced ability to communicate. The nuns were introduced to concepts of communication through exercises, demonstrations, and group role-plays. One of the nuns mentioned that she had never considered these concepts to be as important as discussed and said she will keep in mind the skills she was introduced to.

Tenzin Tseyang, Coordinator for the Women’s Empowerment Desk, CTA, conducted the afternoon session on ‘Women’s Empowerment and Gender Sensitization’. Her session included group discussions and presentations that highlighted many ideas and stereotypes present in our society. The participants were amazed at how their own notions and ideas had societal influence, and the term “gender” gained an enhanced meaning for them. The participants often shared their thoughts with Tseyang la through questions, though Tseyang la encouraged them to discover the answers for themselves as a way to develop personal views on the subject. A group picture of the participants with the Tenzin Tseyang concluded the afternoon session.

Day Three

The first exercise of the day encouraged the participants to visualize their future ten years from now and present what they saw in as accurate a drawing as possible. The participants shared their dreams and goals to the larger group, and the trainers discussed with the nuns how setting goals is important. The group spent hours contemplating their present and future lives and ways that they could improve their predicaments through setting goals. The first and most crucial step of creating change is to set smart goals that provide a clear direction and focus. Having an objective in mind guides one’s decisions, lends purpose and efficiency to work, and builds one’s self-confidence as they climb closer to reaching their aim.

The participants shared many laughs during the exercise ‘making the perfect square,’ which required them to tie their eyes without verbal communication. It was a delight to watch them perform the task with creativity and a sense of humor. These exercises tested the group’s team effectiveness and management. We reviewed the importance of teamwork and team effectiveness before the group joined together for another exercise. Using team work, the nuns competed to ‘create the biggest structure’ within the time allotted. As was discussed, we saw the teams utilize their teamwork skills to perform the task.

The afternoon session reviewed a few important concepts such as leadership challenges, characteristics of a good leader, values cherished in life, and the importance of feedbacks and feed forwards. The exercise that concluded the afternoon’s session was titled, ‘The Changes I Need to Make.’ The participants were instructed to write down one habit or hobby that they would like to stop doing, continue doing, and start doing from that moment forward.

TWA Women, Environment and Development Desk officer, Tenzin Woebum, conducted a session on how her desk was created at TWA, WEDD objectives, and WEDD accomplishments. Afterwards, Woebum la gave a presentation on Tibet’s environment, which brought back childhood memories in Tibet and stirred the emotions of many nuns.

Day Four

As March 10th marked the 53rd Tibetan National Uprising Day of the Tibetan struggle, the participants attended the official function graced by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Kalon Tripa, and the Speaker, held at the main temple. The participants also joined the peaceful protest march led by 5 major NGOs, including TWA, after the event.

Later in the evening, a debate was organized among the 3 groups of nuns, moderated by TWA General Secretary. The topic was ‘A Nun Abode in your Nunnery’. The debate was filmed and later screened to provide an opportunity for the nuns to view how they utilized their communication skills, with particular attention to their body language. The exercise proved effective for the nuns, who were able to see themselves in action and consider how they can improve their debate skills for the future. The nuns met for a group strategy meeting before they went to sleep.

Day Five

The auditorium was filed with curiosity and some reservations over group projects, as today was the day each group would present their proposal to TWA staff. The presentations would determine whether the nuns could implement their project as planned and proposed. Finally, the hours of project proposal group strategy meeting came to an end, with the teams ready to present their projects. The presentations were all exceptional and demonstrated ample creative talent, though the group Do-Phen Khangtsen took away the bonus prize.

Group Projects:

Shyway Detsen

The team’s project title was ‘Munsel Donmey,’ and they targeted children at Nyingtopling, a center for the handicapped. Shyway Detsen’s idea was to spend quality time with the children there and prove to them that they are never alone. The nuns wanted to help them bathe, cut their nails, and perform other necessary tasks that can sometimes prove difficult for the children.

The team took a number of drawing books, colors, sweets, hankies, and soaps with them to give to the children. The nuns came back with some exceptional drawings by the children, and the pictures demonstrated that the children had wonderful time playing around, talking to, and getting to know the nuns.

Ven. Thupten Kunzes said in her project report that “The smiles her group could bring to the children at Nyingtopling through this project were so rewarding. I am happy we could implement our project as planned and proposed.”

The Choe-dhe Khangtsen

This project’s theme was Environment, which the nuns deemed a great concern for humanity and a matter each of us has the responsibility to protect. Their title was ‘Ecological Balance,’ and the project served our Indian friends at Kotwali bazaar. The plan emphasized clean surroundings and how harmful pollution is for one’s health. The nuns also wanted to inform our local friends that the Tibetans care and worry about their health and environment. The team of 5 nuns travelled to Kotwali market and picked up as much garbage as they could. They spoke to many people as they cleaned, explaining why they were clearing the area and how important it was that the community keep it clean. The nuns also donated a large dust bin to the kitchen at Upper TCV School for everyday use.

One of the group members said in the project report, ”It was impossible for five of us to clean the heaps of garbage around Kotwali in just 5 hours, but we are content that we did our bit.”

Do-Phen Khangtsen

This group’s project was like a mini-training in itself. Do-Phen Khangtsen went to Jamyang Choeling Nunnery, Garoh and gathered 20 younger nuns into a hall. Each nun chose a topic and mind game similar to those practiced in the Nun’s Empowerment training to introduce to the younger nuns. Their idea was to create awareness about the trainings available in our community and demonstrate how fun and helpful they can be. They wanted to try to remove the fear and hesitation that surfaces in many minds when one hears the word “training” or “workshop”. In their project report, the nuns said that they had the best of times while implementing the project, laughing through incidents they endured before coming to this training.

Do-Phen Khangtsen also planted 17 eco-friendly plants around Jamyang Choeling nunnery. One of the group members is from this nunnery and procured a trustworthy friend to take good care of the plants in future. They also gifted a flower plant to the nunnery’s office desk as a token of appreciation for allowing the group to implement their project.

Ven. Migmar Choedon said, “It is great feeling having implemented the project; I was really worried if we could complete the project as proposed.”

The nuns had 5 hours to implement their project and report back to the training venue. All of the teams had well-drafted their project, very clearly distributed the work, and suited their project to the time allocated and the budget. It was difficult to choose the best out of bests.

At the end of the day, the nuns again sat in groups, prepared their project report, and the shared their feelings with the larger group.

An evening with Mrs. Namgyal Taklha

The nuns had a long day, but it did not end there. Mrs. Namgyal Lhamo Taklha arrived to address the participants for half an hour on being sincere to one self, to one’s religion and culture, the importance of maintaining codes of conduct, and most importantly, believing in oneself. Madam Taklha recounted facts from the past about the nuns, nunneries, and the amenities they received when she was younger- things are much better these days. Mrs. Taklha recounted some humorous stories with the participants, filling the auditorium with amusement and laughter. Mrs. Taklha reemphasized that the nuns must believe in themselves, complete their education, serve the community. She stressed to the nuns the importance of intensely analyzing the concepts they are introduced in life and incorporating the good ones into everyday interactions. Mrs. Taklha applauded the organizers for having thought of the nuns and requested to continue with such initiatives.

Day Six

The nuns commemorated the 53rd Anniversary of National Women’s Uprising Day and joined the function and peaceful protest march organized by Tibetan Women’s Association at the main temple. The nuns were given a “See and Believe” experience on event organizing. The participants were separated into their groups and given major tasks to prepare the 12th March function, guided by three TWA Executives. One group arranged the function arena by setting up the decorations, sound systems, and sitting arrangements, while the second group worked on the invitations to be sent to the guests, the former TWA Executives and contacting the media over phone. The final group was in charge of receiving the guests and media to the function, accompanying them to their seats. They also managed to make sure everyone marched in single line during the protest march. Though the tasks were simple, the nuns seemed to enjoy the event and their duties thoroughly and relished in an opportunity to contribute alongside other women in the community.

The screening of ‘Journey from Zanskar: A Monk’s Vow to Children’ touched everyone so deeply that I am sure everyone cried trying to relate their own stories with the children in the movie. Many nuns gave an account of their childhood and the struggles they endured in the hope of receiving a better education.

After the screening, the nuns were separated into their groups and given tasks to prepare for the next day’s Panel Discussion. Shyway Dhetsen was given the responsibility of welcoming and receiving the panelists and the special guests, taking them to the special tea room, inviting them to auditorium for the panel discussion, and thanking them and seeing them off after the networking lunch. Choe-dhe Khangtsen was to decorate and arrange the auditorium, while Do-phen Khangtsen had to arrange the networking lunch, set up and arrange the meals, and take care of the panelists and special guests.

Day Seven

The participants were very excited about the panel discussion and their roles in bringing the event together. All of them were eager to begin their duties early in the morning, even trying to help each other as teams. As the clock ticked, duties were completed and finally it was time to begin the panel discussion.

Three prominent and distinguished personalities participated: Geshe Monlam Tharchin, Member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, Rev. Lobsang Dechen, the Executive Director of the Tibetan Nun’s Project, and Mr. Ngawang Choedak, Secretary of the Department of Religion. Each panellist offered powerful insight and constructive suggestions pertaining to ‘Political Participation by Tibetan Nuns in the Exile Diaspora’ and presented additional feedback in a question and answer session.

The two-hour panel discussion was moderated by Kirti Dolker Lhamo, a member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile and President of TWA.

Speaker Geshe Monlam Tharchin, while applauding TWA for organizing the training, remarked, “I do not see any literary contributions from the nuns, and it would be wonderful to see them contributing literally. I also do not limit my definition of a nun’s political participation to attending protest marches and vigils. As an individual, it is important to work and act according to the need of the hour. Thus, keeping the present situation inside Tibet in mind, the first thing I do in the morning is log onto the internet and read what’s happening inside Tibet.” Geshe Monlam Tharchin also mentioned that education is a key tool for creating change and nuns must study hard.

Speaker Rev. Lobsang Dechen reminded the group about the divisions in Tibetan society among lay people, monks, and nuns, stating that ‘in the past years Tibetan nuns have lacked educational and political participation opportunities’. However, she pointed out that ‘support and guidance from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community are diminishing these obstacles, declaring that nunneries are improving their facilities and offering a stronger role for nuns in Tibetan society’. Dechen referred to His Holiness’s recent speech on 8th March 2012 and asserted that ‘Tibetans must seize every opportunity to work together and better the entire community’. She recalled the ‘political achievements of Ven. Thinley Chodon and Ven. Pachen Dolma as exceptional examples in Tibetan history’.

Rev. Dechen also discussed the topic of Geshemas, emphasizing the need for a permanent Geshema program. “It will not be enough if we produce two or three Geshemas, we must think about continuity and permanence,” she said. Dechen insisted that ‘there is nothing to fear of discussions about Gelongma and that a debate about the importance of such opportunities in the nun community is necessary’.

Rev. Lobsang Dechen also emphasized the ‘need for nuns with certain qualifications and degrees who will eventually be able to administer their own nunneries and contribute back to their community’. She referred to a few graduate nuns from Dolmaling, now teaching Buddhism at schools in Bylakuppe and north-eastern parts of India, who ‘demonstrate the valuable potential of nuns with a complete education’.
“It’s time we stop thinking ‘we cannot do this’; believe in yourself and build up confidence with ample supports like this program. If you work hard, then it is possible that someday you can become a Chithue or a Kalon” concluded Dechen.

Mr. Ngawang Choedak, Secretary of the Department of Religion, CTA, offered some reflections on creative ways that nuns can serve the Tibetan community. He proposed that ‘nuns could work with Tibetan parents to assist in the moral upbringing of their children, or organize programs in conjunction with non-Tibetan NGOs to introduce Tibetan religion and culture to other interested communities’. Mr. Ngawang stated that ‘we all have unexplored capacities that can be developed, and events like the Nun’s Empowerment Program provide opportunities for nuns that should not be overlooked’.

Ngawang Choedak said also said, “It would be great if our nuns can form ‘Nun-Associations’ and build networks with the Christian nunneries or other international Women’s Associations.”

The panel discussion was followed by a networking cum farewell lunch for the nuns; we remain thankful to our panellists and special guests of Tibetan Children’s Village for kindly consenting to stay for the lunch and give the participants an opportunity to network. We remember how the participants reacted to the idea of a networking lunch when they were first told about it, but experiencing it was completely a new experience for the participants.

The nuns expressed that this program assisted them in realising their skills and reinforced their beliefs and self-confidence. TWA hopes to see the nuns pursue leadership roles in greater numbers and at higher levels. We look forward to another enriching and empowering program to be held in 2013.

TWA remains thankful to our sponsor Science Meets Dharma, based in Zurich, for supporting our annual project with much-needed financial support since its inception in 2009. We thank the participants without whom implementation of this project would never be possible. Finally, we would like to thank Tibetan Children’s Village for providing the space for this workshop to come to life.

Note: Pictures available on TWA’s Flickr account

Quotes from the participants:

“It has been a wonderful week; I enjoyed each day, which gave me a complete exposure and I thank you for inviting us. I would love to attend the next program to learn more.”

– Kunchok Lhamo, Drikung Samtenling, Dehra Dun.

“I enjoyed a lot throughout the program and I will do my best to lead a similar session at my nunnery for the younger nuns. I will continue with the yoga daily”
-Ven. Lobsang Dolma, Redna Menriling, Solan.

“This program has been very helpful and I would recommend it to my friends and other nuns”
-Ven. Tenzin Chokyi, Dongyu Gatseling, Tashi Jong.

Nuns Panel Discussion

Rare panel discussion on ‘Political Participation by Tibetan Nuns in the Exile Diaspora’ marks conclusion of week-long 4th Annual Nun’s Leadership Training

Nuns Panel DiscussionDharamsala, March 13, 2012: This year’s Nuns Leadership Training, the 4th in series organized by Tibetan Women’s Association, concluded with a panel discussion on the topic ‘Political Participation by Tibetan Nuns in the Exile Diaspora’ held at the House of Peace and Dialogue, in Upper TCV School, Dharamsala.

Three prominent and distinguished personalities participated: Geshe Monlam Tharchin, Member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, Rev. Lobsang Dechen, the Executive Director of the Tibetan Nun’s Project, and Mr. Ngawang Choedak, Secretary of the Department of Religion. Each panellist offered powerful insight and constructive suggestions pertaining to ‘Political Participation by Tibetan Nuns in the Exile Diaspora’ and presented additional feedback in a question and answer session.

The two-hour panel discussion was moderated by Kirti Dolker Lhamo, a member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile and President of TWA.

Speaker Geshe Monlam Tharchin while applauding TWA for organizing the training remarked, “I do not see any literary contributions from the nuns, and it would be wonderful to see them contributing literally. I also do not limit my definition of a nun’s political participation to attending protest marches and vigils. As an individual, it is important to work and act according to the need of the hour. Thus, keeping the present situation inside Tibet in mind, the first thing I do in the morning is log onto the internet and read what’s happening inside Tibet.”

Speaker Rev. Lobsang Dechen reminded the group about the divisions in Tibetan society among lay people, monks, and nuns, stating that ‘in the past years Tibetan nuns have lacked educational and political participation opportunities’. However, she pointed out that ‘support and guidance from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community are diminishing these obstacles, declaring that nunneries are improving their facilities and offering a stronger role for nuns in Tibetan society’. Dechen referred to His Holiness’s recent speech on 8th March 2012 and asserted that ‘Tibetans must seize every opportunity to work together and better the entire community’. She recalled the ‘political achievements of Ven. Thinley Chodon and Ven. Pachen Dolma as exceptional examples in Tibetan history’.

Rev. Dechen also discussed the topic of Geshemas, emphasizing the need for a permanent Geshema program. “It will not be enough if we produce two or three Geshemas, we must think about continuity and permanence,” she said. Dechen insisted that ‘there is nothing to fear of discussions about Gelongma and that a debate about the importance of such opportunities in the nun community is necessary’.

Rev. Lobsang Dechen also emphasized the ‘need for nuns with certain qualifications and degrees, who will eventually be able to administer their own nunneries and contribute back to their community’. She referred to a few graduate nuns from Dolmaling, now teaching Buddhism at schools in Bylakuppe and north-eastern parts of India, who ‘demonstrate the valuable potential of nuns with a complete education’.
“It’s time we stop thinking ‘we cannot do this’; believe in yourself and build up confidence with ample supports like this program. If you work hard, then it is possible that someday you can become a Chithue or a Kalon” concluded Dechen.

Mr. Ngawang Choedak, Secretary of the Department of Religion, CTA, offered some reflections on creative ways that nuns can serve the Tibetan community. He proposed that ‘nuns could work with Tibetan parents to assist in the moral upbringing of their children, or organize programs in conjunction with non-Tibetan NGOs to introduce Tibetan religion and culture to other interested communities’. Mr. Ngawang stated that ‘we all have unexplored capacities that can be developed, and events like the Nun’s Empowerment Program provide opportunities for nuns that should not be overlooked’.

Nuns leadership TrainingThe week-long ‘4th Annual Nun’s Leadership Training,’ held from March 7th – 13th,2012, was attended by 17 nuns from 8 nunneries based in Nepal (Kopan Nunnery), Ladakh (Gephel Shadrupling), Tashi Jong (Dongyu Gatseling), Drikung Samtenling (Dehra Dun), Garoh (Jamyang Choeling and Shugseb Ugen Dzong), Solan (Redna Menriling), and Gaden Choeling at Dharamsala. The training highlighted basic leadership topics including daily morning yoga sessions, communication skills, team building and management, goal setting, gender sensitization, and project proposal writing. The event also included a discussion on the environment led through ample mind games and creative exercises. The practical phase of the training encouraged the nuns to participate in the 53rd Commemoration of the Tibetan National Uprising, Tibetan Women’s Uprising Day, and the ground implementation of the group projects they developed throughout the week around Dharamsala.

The nuns expressed that this program assisted them in realising their skills and reinforced their beliefs and self-confidence. TWA hopes to see the nuns pursue leadership roles in greater numbers. “It has been a wonderful week; I enjoyed each day, which gave me a complete exposure and I thank you for inviting us. I would love to attend the next program to learn more.”- Kunchok Lhamo, Drikung Samtenling, Dehra Dun.
Coordinated by TWA’s Empowerment through Action Desk (ETA), the Science Meets Dharma program based in Zurich, Switzerland has financially supported the Nun’s Leadership Training program since its inception in 2009.

Nuns training sessionTWA’s ‘Empowerment Through Action Desk’ provides a central point of contact for resources for Tibetan women in exile, while effectively coordinating empowerment programs in culturally-appropriate and gender-sensitive ways. TWA imparts leadership and empowerment actions, which include the Advanced Tibetan Women’s Leadership Training, the Annual Young Tibetan Women’s Leadership Program, the All-India Gender Sensitization Training, Combating Domestic Violence, Legal rights and Empowerment Trainings for Women and the Annual Tibetan Nun’s Leadership Training.

Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) is the second largest Tibetan Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) based in exile in India, and the only Women’s NGO in Tibetan history. We are a 16,000-member organization with 56 chapters on four continents: Asia, North America, Europe, and Australia. TWA’s slogan is ‘Advocacy for Home, Action in Exile.’

Press contact:
Dolkar Lhamo Kirti, President, TWA: 09882291202
Nyima Lhamo, Coordinator, ETA: 09882502821

Photos of the six-day training can be viewed here.

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

IMG_2827

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

(Untitled)

2009 game

Tibetan Nun’s Leadership Program

2009 gameThe contemporary Tibetan history since 1959 stands testimony to the sheer courage and leadership roles that the Tibetan nuns in Tibet displayed by initiating and participating in the peaceful demonstrations on the streets of Lhasa and elsewhere in Tibet. Although, Tibetan nuns in exile display such acts of patriotism as well, Tibetan Women’s Association felt the tremendous need to address the issue of nuns’ leadership and empowerment so that they are better able to further their individual goals and also meet the needs of national interest.

TWA in conjunction with Science Meets Dharma, (a foundation aspiring to introduce science to Buddhist monks and nuns), organized the first-ever leadership workshop for Tibetan nuns at Jayang Choeling nunnery. The workshop that lasted for three days was attended by 21 earnest and interested nuns. Three trainers from TWA; Dr. B. Tsering Yeshi (President of TWA), Tsering Yangzom Oshoe (General Secretary), and Tenzin Palkyi (Research and Media officer) worked on the concept, content and manner for the training and handled all the training sessions.

Ven. Jamphel Dakpa, Principal of Sarah College for Higher Tibetan Studies, honoured the workshop with his eminent presence as the Chief Guest for the workshop’s opening ceremony. Ven. Dakpa delivered an awe-inspiring speech where he encouraged the nuns to take individual initiatives and not to contrive themselves by heeding the conventional norms. He stressed since the nuns make for a significant portion of our community, it is imperative for the nuns to step into leadership roles.

The three-day workshop zeroed in on certain leadership qualities such as; communication skills, goal setting, visualization, leaving a legacy, thinking out-of-the-box, time management and team management skills and albeit the training was limited to three-days, but the trainers saw to it that not a single minute went in vain and that the training procured positive impact on the participants. Documentary screenings in the evenings were well received by the trainees and the three films; ‘The Unwinking Gaze,’ ‘March to Tibet ’and‘ Leaving Fear Behind’ did stir the emotions in the participants and rekindled patriotism.

TWA firmly believes that active participatory and interactive sessions are the most effective methods of leading any workshop. Thus, sticking true to our belief, we designed the entire program to create a space for self-expression and stimulate the participants to actively express their thoughts. We also deemed it of utmost importance to introduce the nuns to think creatively and find out-of-the-box solutions to any issues concerning them and their lives.

The training saw a heightened avatar when the two other distinguished guest speakers; Jampa Monlam and Ven. Lobsang Dechen, who spoke on the contribution of Tibetan nuns in the Tibetan freedom struggle and the role of modern Tibetan nuns respectively. Jampa Monlam enlightened us on the tremendous contribution Tibetan nuns have made in Tibet’s freedom struggle and quenched the participants’ thirst for information regarding the issue. Ven. Lobsang Dechen, being an accomplished nun herself, stuck a chord with the nuns and truly inspired the nuns into believing that they can become anything they want if they give it their best shot.

The final day involved the participants in a daylong practical evaluation where the groups were engaged in a replicated Sino-Tibetan dialogue. The entire dialogue session was video-taped and later screened for the participants in a bid to garner authentic and discerning feedback. The training did make a credible difference in the outlook and lives of the participants and this we believe will go a long way in making them effective leaders of tomorrow.

In their feedback for the workshop, majority of the nuns expressed their extreme liking for the morning yoga sessions and the last day’s dialogue session. They said the dialogue session was particularly helpful since it gave them an opportunity to put in practice what they learned for the past two days. Many participants found the goal setting session to be very effective and all other sessions were equally appreciated. All of them unanimously agreed on the need for creative thinking and heartily enjoyed all the training sessions and games that pushed them to think beyond their common boundaries.

Following a close and a keen observation, one of the nuns raised a questioned on why the Tibetan nun in exile weren’t provided with this kind of workshops earlier?

Many participants requested for more workshops of this kind and asked for longer training sessions. Yeshi Sangmo, a participant from Janchup Choeling, Mundgod, particularly requested the trainers to organise similar programs in her nunnery.

TWA would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all the participants for attending the workshop and we hope that this workshop will be a catalyst of positive and credible change for the nuns. This workshop would not have been possible without the generous financial assistance of Science Meets Dharma. We genuinely hope that in being able to break the mould of leadership for the nuns, these schemes will be further explored by like-minded groups. With all of us earnestly and genuinely working together for nuns’ empowerment, a better future for the nuns and an empowered society in exile is not only a possibility, but a certainty.

Tibetan Women Leadership Program’s Letters to the UN

December 18, 2006: Twenty students from Bangalore, Baroda, Delhi and Dharamsala attended the five day Tibetan Women Leadership Program in Delhi. All participants were divided in four groups and each group lodged an individual complaint against the violation of human rights in Tibet to the respective United Nation’s Committee. The following are the copies of the letters that were sent.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
2 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY
10017, USA

December 14, 2006

Tibetan Women Calls Upon CEDAW to Protect Tibetan Women’s Rights in Tibet

Respected Andreas Mavroyiannis,

The Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women was established in 1979 and in the past 17 years, we are aware that CEDAW has worked diligently towards solving women’s problems around the world. We are five Tibetan women who truly appreciate your dedicated effort towards this cause. As we live in exile and enjoy all freedoms and rights that exile life in India offers, but we are very concerned about the rights of Tibetan women in Tibet. Usually, governments pay vigilant attention towards safeguarding rights of women and children, but in the case of Tibet, we are witnessing a completely opposite policy from Chinese government. Though, we are blessed with freedom in exile, we feel the pain of our sisters in Tibet.

We have many concerns regarding the rights of our women in Tibet, but we would like to bring forth the following crisis that needs urgent attention and action from your committee.

Due to displacement of nomads in Tibet, many are forced to move to urban areas where there are limited job opportunities. Those who live in the city are also affected by the increasing modernization and high unemployment rates. Due to the above two reasons, many women are forced to become prostitutes as it is the only source of livelihood for them. This also results in rampant increase of the AIDS epidemic.

Tibetans are fast approaching a minority status in our own country and it is Chinese government’s strategic planning to completely eradicate Tibetan nationality from this world. Chinese government funds mobile medical groups which travel to different areas of Tibet and conducts forced sterilization of Tibetan women. The medical groups do not even use standard and clean medical equipments while operating on Tibetan women.

Tibetan Buddhism plays a pivotal role in our culture. Religious freedom is practiced only prima facie and nuns are forced to denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama. If they disregard the Chinese laws, they are tortured, punished and imprisoned. Some nun political prisoners are even tortured by sticking electronic rods in their private parts.
The above mentioned points are of deep concern to us and we hope that CEDAW will take the necessary actions to hold China accountable for the gross injustice that Chinese policies have on Tibetan women. We thank you in advance for your commitment towards solving women’s issues in the world and especially Tibetan women’s rights in Tibet.

Thank you,

Phurbu Dolma
Tenzin Nyima
Tamdin Dolma
Tashi Tsomo
Tenzin Palkyi

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

December 14, 2006

Tibetan Children in Tibet Need Your Support and Attention

Dear Jacob Egbert Doek,

We are five Tibetan students born in exile and we had fully enjoyed all the child rights in exile, but our brothers and sisters who are left in Tibet do not get even a single right. They are treated very harshly. So, we want to bring your attention to the true and sad situation through which Tibetan children are undergoing.

Tibetan children living in Tibet do not have right to education. One very strong example is of the Panchen Lama, the youngest political prisoner in the world who is a spiritual and political leader of Tibet. At a tender age of 6, he was kidnapped and he has not been heard of since. Now, he is turning 18 in a few months, and his rights as a child will end soon.

Majority of the Tibetan children are engaged in begging for their survival as they do not get basic education, and thus, they can not get good jobs when they grow up. Many Tibetan children risk their lives by trying to escape to exile over the Himalayas. Many Tibetan children’s lives are wasted into gambling and doing drugs as there are no other alternatives laid by the government to enhance their lives. Recently, there was also a case of Chinese border police shooting Tibetans escaping over the Himalayas. We want to know what happened to the children who are arrested on September 30, 2006 at Nangpa La Pass.

A very serious case of selling Tibetan children has come up in the past and we are very concerned about it. Children who are bought are then forced to do manual work and child labor for the profit of their Chinese owners. The children are treated like slaves.

Actually, there are many more points of concerns, but we pointed out the three main crisis facing children of Tibet. We hope that CRC will pay great attention towards the mentioned issues and that you will fully investigate Chinese government’s claim of upholding children rights in Tibet. We will be very grateful to all of you.

Thank you,

Jampa Lhakey
Tenzin Lhamo
Tenzin Namdak
Sangay Dolma
Tsering Yangzom

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

December 14, 2006

Tibetan Women Request Human Rights Council to Hold China Accountable for Human Rights Abuses in Tibet:

Dear Luis Alfonso de Alba,

We are five Tibet women living in exile in India and we want to request Human Rights Council members to revisit the Tibet issue and revive HRC’s interest in human rights condition in Tibet under the Chinese government. Tibetan people in Tibet are living under great difficulty due to Chinese Communist Party’s ruthless rule in Tibet. Chinese government presents bogus official papers on how human rights condition in Tibet is upheld and respected, which are all propaganda tools for the Chinese government.

If we look at the recent shootings at Nangpa La Pass which was witnessed by the world through a mountaineer’s video camera on September 30th, we can realize how China disregards border laws and ruthlessly kills Tibetans trying to escape into exile. Chinese government has continuously refused its violations of human rights in Tibet, but this time they were caught red-handed. We ask you to hold China accountable for its actions and demand immediate release of the Nangpa La Pass prisoners.

The 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who has been kidnapped at the age of 6, still remains missing for 11 years now. The entire world has been demanding his freedom, but there has been no response from the Chinese’ side.
Tulku Tenzin Delek is also imprisoned for life, and his friend, Lobsang Dhondup, was executed without trial. Tulku Tenzin Delek was feared by the Chinese Government as he was gaining popularity among his Tibetan followers and soon he became a target for the Chinese government policies’ wrath. He was falsely blamed for planting bombs and imprisoned for life.

We have faith in the Human Rights Council and we believe that the member states will pay attention to the above mentioned points. We thank you for your initiative in solving human rights problems around the world and we appeal to you for the urgent need of action towards resolving human rights violations in Tibet.

Thank you,

Tsering Deckyi
Jampa Choedon
Sonam Yangchen
Tenzin Nganan
Tsering Dolma