Sixty action heroes pledge action to create a gender sensitive and a legally empowered Tibetan Community in exile
Dharamsala, August 7, 2014: The five-day ‘Training for Trainers’ program on ‘Legal Empowerment of Tibetan Women in Exile’ concluded today with sixty participants including eight men taking a ‘safe community pledge’ for action, empowerment and development.
Changing one’s mindset, being gender sensitive and instilling that knowledge and awareness in the community remained pertinent in all pledges.
“I will not look at her as women or him as men, but as human beings with human values with the basic right to live with dignity,” read one pledge by a 45-year-old female Tenzin Dolma.
“I will protest any individual who commits sexual harassment and violence against women.” Phuntsok Dorjee, 23, male, student activist.
During the course of the training program His Holiness the Dalai Lama blessed the organizers and the participants and expressed appreciation for such programs. His Holiness advised that it should bear the foresight to benefit all sentient beings. “This legal empowerment training program should continue and also use its potential to empower not only women and men but also the sentient beings on earth,” said His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
His Holiness the Karmapa Rinpoche led a discussion on the topic ‘Gender Identities’ and shared his thoughts and concerns on the gender disparities that exist in Buddhist traditions and beliefs. Karmapa Rinpoche advised the participants to not allow these restraints to deter them but encouraged them to identify, communicate and network and build alliances with the other women groups and support each other’s endeavors and actions.
Honorable Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay held a lengthy discussion on the pressing issues of child molestation and gender-based violence that has unearthed in the recent times in the Tibetan community in exile. “We should have zero tolerance against such crimes and the perpetrators should be trialed under the court of law as criminals instead of being let free and forgiven,” said Dr. Sangay.
As the chief guest of the opening ceremony of the training program, Honorable speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile, Mr. Penpa Tsering, said that these training programs on gender sensitization and taking legal recourse to tackle sexual harassment and violence should be given more to men who tend to be the perpetrators of such heinous crimes.
The Tibetan Women’s Association and its global network of regional chapters successfully organized a series of actions during the 33rd Kalachakra initiation offered by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and held in Ladakh from July 03-14, 2014.
TWA organized a series of public discussions oriented towards advancing public discourse on democracy, gender, women’s leadership, women and health and Tibet’s environment. The events catered to the general public and particularly Tibetan women who have converged in Ladakh for the Kalachakra program.
On July 5, TWA organized a public talk titled ‘Significance of Women’s Political Participation in Exile Tibetan Democracy.’ Speaker of Tibetan Parliament in Exile (TPIE), Mr. Penpa Tsering, Member of TPIE and women empowerment activist Ms. Dhardon Sharling and Asia program officer of National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and women empowerment activist Ms. Tenzin Palkyi engaged the mass audience on the vitals of democracy-women’s political participation.
On July 7 and 8, TWA organized an exclusive training program for Tibetan women devotees. Doctor Lhadon, Tibetan Medical and Astro Institute and Dr. Tsering Lhadol popularly known as Ama Shema, a Ladakh based obstetrician trained the women participants on women’s reproductive health, parenting and pre-natal and post-natal child care.
TWA also aimed to achieve advocacy at the international level and to this end, on July 13, TWA organized a panel discussion titled ‘Tibet the Earth’s Third Pole and its implication on Asia’s Future Sustainability.’ The panel of experts included; Dr. Chewang Norphel, environmental scientist and recipient of many national and international awards; Tenpa Gyaltsen Zamla from Tibet Policy Institute of Central Tibetan Administration and Dhardon Sharling, co chair of International Tibet Network. The 2- hour event discussed how in the age of climate change, Tibet’s environment is under threat thus posing greater threat to Asia and how this could be averted.
Pertaining to TWA’s slogan; ‘Action in Exile’, 160 women members hailing from 30 regional chapters based in India and Nepal were officially recruited by the Kalachakra Organizing Committee to provide organizing, security, disciplinary and social services during the two-week Kalachakra event that saw a gathering of over 1,63,000 devotees from 73 countries.
On July 15, TWA members and volunteers were blessed with a special audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) is the second largest Tibetan Non Governmental Organization (NGO) based in exile India and the only Women’s NGO in Tibetan history. We are today a 16,000 member organization with 56 chapters in four continents; Asia, US. Europe and Australia. TWA’s slogan is ‘Advocacy for Home’ and ‘ Action in Exile.’
Today, Tibetans inside and outside Tibet commemorate the 55th anniversary of Tibetan Women’s Uprising. On 12th March 1959, thousands of Tibetan women from all the three provinces of Tibet stood up against the Chinese forces thereby triggering a peaceful resistance that continue even today.
During the uprisings and thereafter, we lost hundreds of Tibetan women in the brutal crackdown enforced by the Chinese forces. We hail them as martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the cause of Tibet.
The Tibetan Women’s Association, which was initially established in Lhasa on 12th March 1959, was reinstated in India on 10th September 1984. The core purpose of establishing this association is to continue the works of all the great women of Tibet, who have sacrificed themselves to preserve our identity, freedom and our culture. We pledge that the hardships endured by these martyrs for the cause will not go in vain and that we will continue to stand resolutely united and be of firm commitment the to the cause of Tibet. We also revere all women who made great efforts and sacrifices during the hardest period of early years in exile.
Today, the situation inside Tibet is faced with intensification of crackdown and systematic repression on Tibetan people. The results are evident in the spate of self-immolations that persists. Since 2009, 127 Tibetans in Tibet including 19 women have set themselves alight calling for the return of His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama to Tibet and freedom for Tibetans. In exile, since 1998, six Tibetans have self-immolated to protest against the callous crackdowns inside Tibet. We stand in solidarity with all the supreme sacrifices made by these martyrs.
Today in Tibet, any expression of identity and patriotism is dealt with in the most severe manner. The arbitrary arrests and sentencing of Tibetan singers, writers and social activists, who work for the welfare of all the Tibetans, have increased over the years. The Chinese authorities also continue to criminalize the family members, friends and relatives of these self-immolators by calling them as murderers or inciters.
In august last year, the intermediate court in Ngaba region, meted out death sentence to Dolma Kyab, husband of Kunchok Wangmo who self-immolated on 13th March 13 last year. The court charged Dolma kyab for murder of his wife. In December 2013, Geshe Ngawang Jamyang, a senior Tibetan monk from Diru was beaten to death by Chinese police. In January this year, Kunchok Dakpa, a young Tibetan man was beaten to death. He was arrested for his participation in May 2013 protest against mining in Diru in May 2013. These incidences bring to light the harrowing human rights situation inside Tibet.
TWA remain gravely concerned about the continued abduction of the XIth Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima who will turn 25 years old this year. The imprisonment of Tulku Tenzin Delek despite his ailing condition is worrisome.
TWA calls on the Chinese leadership to acknowledge their 60 years of failed policies in Tibet that has proven to be catastrophic and review their policies and deal sensibly with the Tibet challenge.
TWA’s steadfast commitment to resolving the long-standing issue of Tibet through the Middle Way Policy seeking genuine autonomy for Tibet, remain strong. In this light, TWA has sent appeal letters and substantial reports to the concerned UN bodies and other world governments to urge the Chinese government to resolve Tibet’s issue through dialogue and non-violence.
TWA respects His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the spiritual leader of Tibetans inside and outside Tibet and as the global ambassador of peace and compassion. We abhor the Chinese government’s hurling of abuses against His Holiness and the ruthless warnings issued by the Chinese leadership to the world leaders refraining them from meeting with His Holiness.
We also received response letter from the Indian Nursing Council for our appeal to the council to reconsider and reassess the resolution passed as per the letter dated 25th March, 2013 titled ‘Equivalency-Foreign Nationals’.
TWA dedicates this 55th anniversary to the women inside Tibet. This year, TWA announces a fellowship program for young women in Tibet pursuing professional studies. The fellowship will be imparted to the target group through a reliable international foundation.
Despite the draconian policies of the Chinese government to weaken the use of Tibetan language, Tibetans inside Tibet have been taking creative and sustained efforts to preserve and promote Tibetan language, culture and identity. This inspires Tibetans in exile to follow suit.
In a bid to laud their efforts, this year TWA announces two informal researchers’ seats (in Tibetan language) for two Tibetan women in exile. The research topics are ‘Intermarriage between Tibetans and Chinese under China’s rule in Tibet’ and ‘Intermarriage between Tibetans and foreigners in exile’. The details will be made available on TWA’s website after April 1 this year.
In exile, in honor of the 19 Tibetan women who died of self-immolation protests, TWA announces an honorary award of 25,000 INR to Tsering Dolkar, also known as ‘Tibetan Mother Teresa,’ for her work for humanity and the haggard.
TWA believes that the Tibetan struggle is not only a political struggle of the Tibetan people against the Chinese Communist regime, but also essentially a struggle against injustices that bears moral weight on the international community to respond to travesty of justice taking place at an unprecedented stage, thus stirring the human conscience. Beginning March 12, TWA launched an online petition addressed to Navanethem Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council. The petition urges governments and people of the world to urge China’s government to response to the negotiation extended by the representatives of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Today, Tibetan women across the globe commemorate this day by offering offer our deepest respect to human rights defenders across the globe. We pledge to dedicate ourselves to work for human rights, peace, and freedom in Tibet and the other regions of the world where peace is held hostage by brutal regimes.
This is a request of TWA to the older generation to educate the younger generation about the values that exist in our culture and the younger generation must know and practice the essence of our unique culture. Tibetans in exile should not fail to preserve and promote our culture and tradition while we are struggling for a better livelihood. People inside Tibet endeavor to preserve the culture even under the duress of occupation.
With firm affirmation of our faith in the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we pray for his long life. May all the Tibetans be soon united in Tibet.
The Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) is the second largest Tibetan Non Governmental Organization (NGO) based in exile India and the only Women’s NGO in Tibetan history. We are today a 16,000 member organization with 56 chapters in four continents; Asia, US. Europe and Australia. TWA’s slogan is ‘Advocacy for Home, Action in Exile.’
Brief introduction to the Legal Empowerment of Tibetan Women in Exile Project- 2013-2014.
Beginning last year (2013), the Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) carried out a special year-long project titled ‘The Legal Empowerment of Tibetan Women in Exile (LETWIE).’ The project received financial backing from KIOS (Finnish foundation for human rights). The sole aim of the project is to enable the social status of Tibetan women in exile to match the significance and vigor underlying the tenets and maxim of Tibetan democracy and human rights. It is also aimed to ensure that the exiled Tibetan population achieves a gender equal and healthy environment wherein women are protected against any form of discrimination, risk and violence.
With this undertaking, TWA reached out to Tibetan women across India and undertook an intensive education and awareness raising campaign, imparted training on topics such as; gender sensitization, combating gendered violence and awareness on the Indian laws protecting Tibetan women in India. The LETWIE-Action Team also engaged in a massive field-survey that had over 500 women fill out a questionnaire and an in-depth oral interview, the results of which are being assessed now.
An important component of the LETWIE project is the two-day symposium: a gathering of legal experts, women activists, grassroots leaders, stakeholders, representatives of civil society and the media. The gathering will discuss the gender status and social of Tibetan women in exile India based on the findings of the field research and survey carried out by LETWIE team across India. It will also engage in a dialogue to devise social programs and legal measures to combat the discrimination and violence facing women, while seeking to create a gender equal society and achieve social empowerment for Tibetan women exile.
The symposium will be attended by 50 people from different sections of the society and will be held on February 3 and 4 of 2014 at the India International Centre, New Delhi.
Legal Empowerment of Tibetan Women in Exile
February 3 and 4, 2014
India International Centre
Organized by Tibetan Women’s Association
Detailed Program Schedule
Day One, Monday, February 3
Mr. J.M. Mukhi, Barrister & Advocate at Supreme Court of India, will speak on the topic:
‘Strategic measures to ensure the legal protection of Tibetan Women in exile India.’
Mr. Tempa Tsering, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, New Delhi, will speak on the topic:
‘Importance of understanding the Indian legal system for Tibetans living in India.’
Ms. Kamla Bhasin, Feminist Activist and Gender Trainer in South Asia, will speak on the topic:
‘Understanding the Quest for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in India.’
Welcome note by TWA President
Thank you note by TWA General Secretary
10:30 – 11 am: Tea Break
11 am – 01 pm : Presentation and Discussion on Social and Legal issues facing Tibetan Women in Exile.
Interpretation of Quantitative Survey Findings
Presentation by: Tsering Choedon, Advocate and Project Coordinator, Legal Empowerment of Tibetan Women in Exile.
Large Group Discussion: on the Social and Legal Issues presented in the Findings.
Moderator: Tsering Choedon
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm: Lunch Break
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm:
Plenary Session One
Ms. Jasmeen Patheja, Artist, Activist, Feminist, will speak on the topic:
‘Challenging Attitudinal Differences Towards Sexual Harassment against Women in India.’
Ms. Karuna Nundy, Advocate at Supreme Court of India, will speak on the topic:
‘Women Security and Legal Safeguards in Indian Law and International Law.’
Dr. Ananya Vajpeyi, Historian and Professor, will speak on the topic:
‘How Improving Rights Awareness and Legal Education Strengthens Women’s Intellectual Growth in the Society.’
Dialogue Chair, Dhardon Sharling, Creative Head, Legal Empowerment of Tibetan Women in Exile.
Followed by Question and Answer Session
4:00-4:15 pm : Tea Break
Workshop Session one: Participants work in groups
Facilitator: Dhardon Sharling
Individual responsibility and civic engagement
Tsering Choedon and Vinayak Narayan (Legal matters)
A picture can paint a thousand words and in no way does that ring more true than in a recent exhibition titled ‘Silent Genocide’, which highlights the harrowing ordeals suffered by Tibetan women as they are subjected to forced sterilisation.
The exhibition is the creation of Claire Kern, a freelance photographer and student at the University of Wales. In an interview, Claire described her approach to her work:
“I wanted to deliver a series of photographs that not only contains symbols of womanhood but Tibetan culture and the current situation. I would like to make the viewer question his/her own perception: What is it I am looking at? Where does this come from? Where does this of skin belong to? How was that scar made?”
There is overwhelming evidence that Tibetan women have been subjected to forced sterilisation by the ruling Chinese government, such methods include the pill, the implant, the coal (also called the Chinese ring for its specific design), and Laparoscopy; which is the severing and tying of the fallopian tube. Injustices in Tibet can often be overlooked internationally, because ostensibly women have more freedom than those in China – with a two child rather than one child policy. However interviews with Tibetan refugees reveal that women are often given no choice before undergoing these procedures and even when there is a guise of choice, they are entirely unaware of their reproductive rights.
Claire’s inspiration first came from her parents who openly discussed the situation in Tibet and Buddhism and its basic principles, such as Karma. Such an upbringing would continue to play a role in her choices however it was the viewing of a documentary of a documentary that was pivotal for Claire. The documentary, ‘Dispatches: Under Cover in Tibet’, was made by a Tibetan and British duo, Tash Despa and Jezza Neumann respectively. Broadcast in March 2008, the documentary saw Tasha Despa return to her country after an 11-years of self-exile after fears for her safety. Alongside Jezza Neumann, they uncovered evidence of the suffering by the Tibetan people to which his holiness the Dalia Lama described as ‘cultural genocide’. The documentary revealed the horrors inflicted on the Tibetan way of life, not least of all evidence of forced sterilizations on ethic Tibetan women. It was these accounts that inspired Claire’s work, she recalls:
“I was going through choices of my own at the time … I felt hugely lucky to have the freedom of my own at the time so her story resonated with me,… and I found myself asking ‘Why is it that I can make these choices when others cannot?…A woman should always have the choice to make such a decision.”
Claire’s work is truly a brutal insight on forced sterilisation, however perhaps what is most striking about her exhibition is that it only a brief glimpse of the on-going atrocities, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. We can only wonder what the true consequences felt by these women and future women if action is not taken. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but what does this say about the thousands of pictures already taken and at what cost? A generation of Tibetan people have been lost but lest they not be in vain.
The Chinese government has been eager to show the world it has changed however Claire’s piece is a reminder that although we must press for change for Tibetan women, we must not forgot those who have suffered and who continue to do so. Mothers, daughters, sisters, friends; these woman have suffered atrocities that no person should ever go through again and thus change in China is imperative.