Tibetan Women’s Association honors Fifty Years of Tibetan Women in the Freedom Struggle
March 12th, 2009: Today is a historically significant date for Tibetan women across the globe as they stand in observance of the 50th founding anniversary of the National Tibetan Women’s Uprising Day in Lhasa, Tibet. Â In chronicling 50 years of struggle, from the 1st National Women’s Uprising Day to the 50th, the story of Tibetan women elucidates the consistent efforts, perseverance, and selfless dedication that characterize the integral role Tibetan women have played in the Tibetan freedom struggle.
Over the last fifty years Tibetan women have displayed courage in the face of the Chinese Government’s illegal occupation of Tibet and heroism in exposing the numerous atrocities perpetrated upon Tibetan people. Since its inception in 1959 in Lhasa, Tibet, the Tibetan Women’s Association has worked unceasingly to mobilize the political struggle and to preserve and promote Tibetan culture and religion. TWA has played a major role in building and sustaining the identity of Tibetan women and serves to instill within women the spirit of dedication both to Tibet and the next generation.
The year 2008 bore witness to an unprecedented uprising, a spontaneous expression of the universal human desire for freedom that saw brave brothers and sisters from all corners of Tibet rise up in peaceful protest against repression and injustice. The March 2008 protests tragically exposed the seething resentment within the Tibetan people, a resentment born of decades of coercion, intimidation, and oppression at the hands of the Chinese regime. Amidst this deplorable state of affairs the demand for basic human rights in Tibet has been silenced, and the calls for justice have gone unheeded. A year now after this peaceful uprising over six thousand Tibetans are still imprisoned and over four thousand Tibetans are missing, on top of the over two hundred lives lost during the subsequent military clampdown. These sacrifices will not be made in vain. We stand now, with the strongest conviction, in step with these martyrs and pledge to forever strive to make their demands reality. We Tibetan women stand in unreserved condemnation of the oppressive policies of the Chinese Government that has kept our country in chains for the last fifty years.
To commemorate fifty years of peaceful resistance against the illegal occupation of Tibet, beginning on March 12, TWA will mark 2009 as the ‘International Year of Tibetan Women.’ With a genuine intention to make a true portrayal of the ‘Fifty Years of Tibetan Women in the Tibetan Freedom Struggle’ and provide a historical coherence that has up till now been lacking, the Central TWA will on the occasion of the public commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the National Tibetan Women’s Uprising Day, release seven new publications all oriented specifically towards the condition and experience of Tibetan women, and debut an exhibition of 150 politically and socially significant photos along with a screening of a documentary film projecting the Tibetan women’s struggle. TWA will also organize a photo caption contest and open an art piece to all members of the community in which we encourage participants to creatively express women’s experiences, aspirations, motivations, and history through the medium of poetry and painting.
Following the Dharamsala premier of this showcase, the photo and publications exhibition along with the documentary film will travel through Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Australia and will be displayed and screened at the regional TWA chapters spread across the globe. This observance of the ‘International Year of Tibetan Women’ is to honor the great sacrifices made by our Tibetan sisters, sacrifices that allow us our futures, and to renew our conviction to be the support, the encouragement, and the inspiration of the upcoming generation of Tibetan women.
We would like to express our most sincere gratitude to the government and people of India who have entrusted us with a safe haven here and to the international community for their overwhelming support. However, there can be no rest, no respite while conditions within Tibet remain unchanged. The repressive policies of the Chinese government remain unchanged, and Tibetan women continue to be the victims of systematic oppression, coercion, and state-sanctioned violence. TWA pledges to step up its efforts to address these violations of human rights in general and women’s rights in particular. The Tibetan Women’s Association appeals to human rights advocates, international governments, Non-Governmental Organizations, the Chinese people, and women’s groups across the world to join us in our fight for justice and freedom, not only in Tibet but in any regimes across the world where a woman’s body is ruled by the state.
The restoration of a peaceful Tibet as envisioned and outlined by His Holiness the Dalai Lama through the Middle Way approach will benefit the whole of Asia politically and environmentally and will contribute fundamentally to world peace. We urge the Chinese leadership to seize this opportunity, to change the image of China from one of despotic tyranny to one of open transparent government, from of a regime of violence and oppression to a nation founded upon freedom and justice. We beseech the Chinese Government to open actual, honest negotiation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and work sincerely towards resolving the issue of Tibet in the interests of both Chinese and Tibetan peoples. Under the indomitable leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we call on our people and our women from all walks of life to be the force for profound change, to be the fundamental foundation of our struggle for freedom, to be the agents of our own destiny and to strive always to make our goals into reality.
The Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) has 49 regional chapters and over 15, 000 members outside Tibet. Today, TWA is the second largest Tibetan NGO and the only women’s NGO in exile that advocates human rights for Tibetan women in Tibet and works to empower Tibetan women in exile, in particular newly arrived refugees from Tibet.