Intern’s testimony – Carolin Wichtermann

Carolin-1TWA through the lens of an intern

From April to July I was able to get an insight into TWA’s work as an intern at the headquarters. Climbing the narrow stairs up to the hidden TWA office on my first day of my internship, I did not know at all what to expect. At the end of these stairs there turned out to be some impressive experiences.

Trying to match my skills to the tasks, I was assigned with assisting the ‘Legal Empowerment of Tibetan Women in Exile’ Project. This program lasts one year and had just begun when I joined it. We wanted to strengthen women through an approach which was new for TWA: the legal provisions for the women in Exile. The program not only stresses on the importance of official birth- and marriage certificates, the Indian Penal Code and procedural provisions in cases of violence against women, it also provides a glimpse into Human Rights and international women’s rights. Since I studied law, it was a great challenge to implement justice not only in theory but in the daily lives of exile women. In contrast to sitting at university and just repeating the theories we were taught, as part of the Legal Empowerment Training, I had to orientate towards the actual needs of the women in exile.

And this is in my opinion one of the biggest reasons why TWA does such a great work: it is a well-established and democratically organized institution and therefore knows what the people in exile need the most. The executive members have extensive experience in working with the Tibetan community and therefore know what issues to target and the support women in exile need. This greatly differs from organizations run by foreign institutions that sometimes do not have the experience and sources of information to provide the support that is needed.  And this contact to the women outside is even noticeable when you sit at a desk inside the office.

Also a very interesting experience and so different from what I normally do in Germany was being a substitute teacher at Stitches of Tibet:  This program of TWA gives women the opportunity to learn stitching and basic knowledge in English, Math and computing. I experienced how hard it can be to transfer knowledge and to make even fractions lively and interesting. At the same time it is a great feeling to see these women’s concerns and their interest in the program.

What stood out to me the most was hearing the feedback from the legal empowerment training in the first five regions: a third of the women think that they are born as women due to their bad Karma. As long as being a woman is seen as bad Karma it is worth still fighting for women’s rights.

I am very thankful to TWA for giving me insight into their various works. I plan to spread my knowledge and understanding of the Tibetan issue back in Germany. With a coordinated effort, I believe we can address the suffering of people all over the world to help build a better world together.

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