The contemporary Tibetan history since 1959 stands testimony to the sheer courage and leadership roles that the Tibetan nuns in Tibet displayed by initiating and participating in the peaceful demonstrations on the streets of Lhasa and elsewhere in Tibet. Although, Tibetan nuns in exile display such acts of patriotism as well, Tibetan Women’s Association felt the tremendous need to address the issue of nuns’ leadership and empowerment so that they are better able to further their individual goals and also meet the needs of national interest.
TWA in conjunction with Science Meets Dharma, (a foundation aspiring to introduce science to Buddhist monks and nuns), organized the first-ever leadership workshop for Tibetan nuns at Jayang Choeling nunnery. The workshop that lasted for three days was attended by 21 earnest and interested nuns. Three trainers from TWA; Dr. B. Tsering Yeshi (President of TWA), Tsering Yangzom Oshoe (General Secretary), and Tenzin Palkyi (Research and Media officer) worked on the concept, content and manner for the training and handled all the training sessions.
Ven. Jamphel Dakpa, Principal of Sarah College for Higher Tibetan Studies, honoured the workshop with his eminent presence as the Chief Guest for the workshop’s opening ceremony. Ven. Dakpa delivered an awe-inspiring speech where he encouraged the nuns to take individual initiatives and not to contrive themselves by heeding the conventional norms. He stressed since the nuns make for a significant portion of our community, it is imperative for the nuns to step into leadership roles.
The three-day workshop zeroed in on certain leadership qualities such as; communication skills, goal setting, visualization, leaving a legacy, thinking out-of-the-box, time management and team management skills and albeit the training was limited to three-days, but the trainers saw to it that not a single minute went in vain and that the training procured positive impact on the participants. Documentary screenings in the evenings were well received by the trainees and the three films; ‘The Unwinking Gaze,’ ‘March to Tibet ’and‘ Leaving Fear Behind’ did stir the emotions in the participants and rekindled patriotism.
TWA firmly believes that active participatory and interactive sessions are the most effective methods of leading any workshop. Thus, sticking true to our belief, we designed the entire program to create a space for self-expression and stimulate the participants to actively express their thoughts. We also deemed it of utmost importance to introduce the nuns to think creatively and find out-of-the-box solutions to any issues concerning them and their lives.
The training saw a heightened avatar when the two other distinguished guest speakers; Jampa Monlam and Ven. Lobsang Dechen, who spoke on the contribution of Tibetan nuns in the Tibetan freedom struggle and the role of modern Tibetan nuns respectively. Jampa Monlam enlightened us on the tremendous contribution Tibetan nuns have made in Tibet’s freedom struggle and quenched the participants’ thirst for information regarding the issue. Ven. Lobsang Dechen, being an accomplished nun herself, stuck a chord with the nuns and truly inspired the nuns into believing that they can become anything they want if they give it their best shot.
The final day involved the participants in a daylong practical evaluation where the groups were engaged in a replicated Sino-Tibetan dialogue. The entire dialogue session was video-taped and later screened for the participants in a bid to garner authentic and discerning feedback. The training did make a credible difference in the outlook and lives of the participants and this we believe will go a long way in making them effective leaders of tomorrow.
In their feedback for the workshop, majority of the nuns expressed their extreme liking for the morning yoga sessions and the last day’s dialogue session. They said the dialogue session was particularly helpful since it gave them an opportunity to put in practice what they learned for the past two days. Many participants found the goal setting session to be very effective and all other sessions were equally appreciated. All of them unanimously agreed on the need for creative thinking and heartily enjoyed all the training sessions and games that pushed them to think beyond their common boundaries.
Following a close and a keen observation, one of the nuns raised a questioned on why the Tibetan nun in exile weren’t provided with this kind of workshops earlier?
Many participants requested for more workshops of this kind and asked for longer training sessions. Yeshi Sangmo, a participant from Janchup Choeling, Mundgod, particularly requested the trainers to organise similar programs in her nunnery.
TWA would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all the participants for attending the workshop and we hope that this workshop will be a catalyst of positive and credible change for the nuns. This workshop would not have been possible without the generous financial assistance of Science Meets Dharma. We genuinely hope that in being able to break the mould of leadership for the nuns, these schemes will be further explored by like-minded groups. With all of us earnestly and genuinely working together for nuns’ empowerment, a better future for the nuns and an empowered society in exile is not only a possibility, but a certainty.