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.

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