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

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


Tibetan Women at the UN conference in Beijing 1995

Tibetan Women’s defiant voices: the World Conference on Women in Beijing 1995

Voices that refused to be silenced: the inspirational story of the Tibetan Women’s Delegation in Beijing 1995

Tibetan Women at the UN conference in Beijing 1995
TWA partnered with seven other NGOs concerned with Tibetan women’s issues to take part in the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing 1995.

This conglomerate was comprised of:
1. Tibetan Womens Association, India
2. Tibetan Women’s Organisation, Switzerland
3. Tibet Rights Campaign, USA
4. Norwegian Tibet Committee, Norway
5. Canada Tibet Committee, Canada
6. International Campaign for Tibet, USA
7. International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet, USA
8. UK Tibet Support Group, Britain.

A neverending journey; Tibetan women’s fight for representation in Beijing

One problem met us before the long struggle for representation in Beijing; should we even participate? We knew that Tibetan women would never be treated fairly and thus the potential of boycotting was discussed by the Tibetan Support Groups (TSGs) and Tibetan Associations (TAs) involved. We decided that to boycott would only please the Chinese government and also would fail our duty as free Tibetan voices to tell the world what is happening to our Tibetan sisters.

Following the decision to take part, under TWA Central’s committed leadership the NGOs involved spent over two years in preparation, attending Preparatory Conferences held around the world. Whilst uncertain as to whether we’d be able to participate, we gathered for strategy meetings and finalised a group of 80 planned attendees.

The event was comprised of two parts; the NGO Forum held from August 31 – September 8, and the official UN conference held from September 5 – 15. All of our eyes were fixed on gaining attendance at the official UN conference, with TSGs and TAs having already been present in past NGO Forums. The NGO Forum attendance was confirmed without problems, although this meeting was then moved to Huairou, an hour’s drive from Beijing, in a transparent but unsuccessful attempt to stop it drawing any attention.

The Forum organizers also assured us that those registered would not have problems gaining a visa. However, at a meeting in Canada a representative from the All China WomenUs Federation refused to guarantee visas to Tibetan women even if they are citizens of other countries. Following this, at a local Chinese consulate, response to an inquiry about Tibetan women getting visas indicated that they would be granted. However, they never were.

As for the battle for representation at the important official UN conference, this held many struggles, with our eight groups being part of a total 200-300 NGOs excluded from the conference – initially without official reasons. Eventually the baffling reason for our exclusion was given as; “the objective and purpose of the organisation was either not clearly relevant to the conference or outside the scope of the conference”!

We then focused all of our efforts and those of our supporters upon lobbying member states of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).We had a clear argument, with our exclusion adding us to a long list of other NGOs excluded in ways that similarly denied human rights and discriminated; namely, gay & lesbian groups, Catholics for Free Choice, Taiwanese and Tibetan groups.

All Tibetan groups appealed the decision and the applications were reviewed at the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meeting in Geneva, June 1995. However the decision for exclusion was only confirmed for all eight groups, despite the fact that three groups had been recommended by the U.N. Conference Secretariat. Six organizations from Taiwan were also excluded.

Finally, none of us were officially granted permission to participate or able to obtain visas. However our voices would not be stifled so unfairly; nine exiled Tibetan women of the Tibetan Women’s Delegation participated in both the Conference and Forum nonetheless, including TWA’s Tsering Dolma Gyalthong.

A monumental event for Tibetan women and our defiant message sent across the world; what took place in Beijing

The demonstration staged by the nine Tibetan women in Beijing and the continuous harrassment from the Chinese authorities (as well as from Tibetan women from the official ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’ delegation) resulted in unseen levels of media attention and our message being sent out not only to Tibetans in exile in India and Nepal, but non-Tibetans around the world.

Our nine brave representatives were: Tsering Tsomo, Yoden Thonden, Chimi Thonden, Dorji Dolma, Tenki Tendufla, Phuntsok Meston, Tsering Dolma Gyalthong, Kesang Wangmo and Tenzin Jimpa. These nine women were from a total of fifty Tibetans in exile who attempted to gain visas by hiding their affiliations; they went to Beijing along with a dozen supporters, the small but resolute delegation arriving on August 26, 1995.

On day one of the NGO’s Forum the delegation presented a film on Tibetan women refugees, during which a Chinese man took the video from the player and attempted to run away with it! At the time, Chinese propaganda press stated that this “was an attempt to split China, and was deemed unacceptable to the police officers on duty and an infringement on China’s sovereignty.”

On day two the delegation staged a striking event that would symbolize the treatment of Tibetan women by the Chinese regime, as well as garner deserved media attention: they marched single file to the Forum’s center in heavy rain, with their mouths gagged with silk Chinese scarves – those that had been distributed at the opening ceremony. A crowd gathered quickly, captivated by this candid demonstration, and spontaneously began to sing freedom songs such as “we shall overcome” (from the American Civil Rights movement anthem). Photographs of these courageously gagged, silent and still Tibetan women with tears freely falling down their faces were broadcast to the world – a vivid and emotive symbol of China’s unjust silencing of Tibetan women’s voices.

The Tibetan delegation continued to communicate its message throughout the conference, taking this opportunity to educate others about the many human rights violations against Tibetan women. This included setting up an unauthorized booth with banners such as ‘Tibetan Women in Exile’ and ‘STOP the KILLINGS”. The women continued their efforts despite constant surveillance and harassment from the Chinese authorities, even including physical assaults.

Despite the considerable difficulties, all involved agreed the seemingly neverending efforts had been comprehensively worth it; with hitherto unseen media coverage of Tibetan women’s issues spreading its way around the world, including many headline news stories.

The courage of our sisters in undertaking this unprecedented direct action cannot be overstated; they managed to speak out whilst not knowing what punishment and harm they may come to by the Chinese authorities.

Their impertinence in challenging the Chinese on their own land presents a truly inspirational and touching moment for us all.

In addition to the Tibetan Delegation and countless unyielding support we received, we were urged on in our fight by official messages of support from the Dalai Lama, as well as the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies and the Kashag.

Following Beijing, TWA’s Tsering Dolma Gyalthong went to Washington DC for a public talk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, where she prostrated to His Holiness onstage and was greeted by a standing ovation in the crowd. She was then presented with a long kata (the distinct white ceremonial Tibetan scarf) in recognition of the Tibetan women’s work prior to and during the conference.

This event was profoundly moving for all involved, with Tsering Dolma Gyalthong sharing the stage with His Holiness as the entire audience rose to their feet and applauded her, aware not only of the many troubles the Tibetan women had endured to send their message out to the world, but also now aware of Tibetan women’s many struggles against Chinese treatment – thanks to the bold and inspiring actions of Tsering Dolma Gyalthong and the Tibetan Women’s Delegation

For more information, there is an excellent report by the Tibet Justice Center here, written by Eva Herzer who was present at the conference.

You can view the Tibetan Women’s Delegation Report here, which was submitted to the UN Fourth World Conference on Women Beijing 1995.

Also view the photographs on Flickr.

United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995

United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995

United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995

United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995

United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995

United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995