Current Perspectives: Tibetan Women's Assocation

Tibetan Women's Association
Bhagsunag Road
P.O. McLeod Ganj 176 219 Dharamsala, District Kangra 176 219
Tel: 0091-1892-22527
Fax: 0091-1982-22374


The Tibetan Women's Association (TWA) was founded on March 12, 1959 in Tibet when the women of Lhasa gathered together in their thousands to protest against the illegal occupation of their homeland.Protesting peacefully outside the Potala Palace, many women suffered brutally at the hands of the Chinese troops. They were arrested, imprisoned, tortured and beaten without trial.

TWA was officially reinstated in 1984 by Tibetan women in exile and currently has 27 branches in India and Nepal, 9 branches abroad. TWA sees itself as the natural continuation of our many brave sisters who sacrificed their lives for the freedom and protection of Tibet.

TWA's main objective is to raise public awareness of the abuses faced by Tibetan women in Chinese-occupied Tibet. Through extensive publicity and interaction in national and international affairs, TWA alerts the communities to the gender-specific human rights abuses committed against Tibetan women in the form of forced birth control policies, such as sterilizations and abortions, and restrictions on religious, political, social and cultural freedoms.

In exile TWA also places great priority on the contributions of Tibetan women towards the preservation and promotion of the distinct religion, culture, and identity of the Tibetan people. TWA serves the Tibetan community as a whole, with activities addressing religious and cultural issues, educational needs, social welfare, the environment, and the political participation and social empowerment of women.


  • Social, political and economic empowerment of women in Tibet and in exile.

  • Preservation and promotion of Tibetan culture, language, tradition, and the arts through education, literacy and publications.

  • Addressing the drastic human rights abuses committed against Tibetan women in Tibet including the denial of fundamental reproductive, religious and political freedoms.

  • Assisting with the poorer sections of the community including economically disadvantaged families, single parents, children, nuns, the handicapped, infirm, and the elderly, through sponsorship schemes.

  • To ensure Tibetan women have access to adequte health care, child care and educational information about family planning.

  • To join hands with the women of the world to promote peace and justice for all.

  • To raise international awareness of the critical situation inside Tibet so that international pressure can be exerted for the improvement of conditions for Tibetans living in illegally occupied Tibet.


    In 1984 the first General Conference of the revived Tibetan Women's Association was held in Dharamsala, and was attended by representatives from 12 branches across India. Today, the number of branches has grown to 37 world-wide.

    TWA functions as a democratic organization. The members of the Central as well as the Regional Working Committees are elected by their respective members for a fixed term. The headquarters of the Association is based in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, and it is from here that TWA issues guidelines and directives to the branch offices for the coordination of their activities.


    The Central office of TWA in Dharamsala and the branch offices in exile are all involved in the following activities:


    Religion is the basis of our cultural and social identity. As a community we believe it is very important to encourage institutions which enable women to devote themselves to spiritual practices. A total of seven nunneries have been established in exile, with TWA assisting with the management and coordination of three. These nunneries function as comprehensive learning and spiritual centers for the preservation of a unique religious and cultural tradition.

    In 1987 TWA launched The Tibetan Nuns Project in conjunction with the department of Religion and Culture. It was begun to assist the many newly arrived nuns with shelter, food and clothing as well as a an environment conducive to learning. Today the vision and energy of The Nuns Project has grown to accommodate over 500 nuns in exile and the project operates as an autonomous body.


    In order to preserve and promote the unique Tibetan cultural tradition, the various branches of TWA have been active in organising and encouraging Tibetan cultural events, including performances of folk and traditional dance, music and theatre.

    The International Year of Tibetan Women was initiated from March 12, 1994 to March 12, 1995 and successfully highlighted the distinct cultural traditions of Tibet. In April 1994 a National Hearing on Tibetan Women was organised, as a forum to discuss and debate issues specific to Tibetan women today. And to mark the end of this special year, a festival of Tibetan culture was held in Bombay, in January 1995.

    Furthermore, regional TWA branches are active in promoting the sustenance of Tibetan culture within local schools and often award prizes to students showing potential and capabilities in Tibetan language and studes.

    TWA recognises the important role that Tibetan women play in the family nucleus in their roles as mothers, nurturing and encouraging the cultural and linguistic Tibetan traditions.


    Under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, education has assumed one of the prime focus_ and responsibilities of Tibetans in exile who see the value of a literate and informed society in the struggle for freedom. Educational development is therefore a major concern of TWA and all the branch offices.

    At present TWA provides scholarships for many Tibetan school children to attend secondary school, while also providing sponsorship for six students (at any one time) to pursue higher tertiary studies. TWA hopes this will encourage more students, particularly girls, to realise their full academic potential.

    At the regional level TWA actively promotes and organises adult and community education in the settlements. This includes basic English and Tibetan language literacy, as well as issues such as health care, and the environment. TWA branches also provide basic health training and awareness to recently arrived women from Tibet.


    It is a priority of TWA that we work towards increasing the social awareness of our people. We endeavour to assist needy people regardless of race, sex, class, caste, or religion. TWA also undertake to provide family guidance and counselling, and this programme of self-help within the community has been a success and a valuable contribution.

    Other social activities include environmental clean-up campaigns, lectures and public information on health, diet and hygiene, assisting poorer families, the needy, the elderly, the sick and the handicapped. Our volunteers organise "broom-squads" during religious gatherings and offer this service at many other local community events to ensure a clean and safe environment. TWA continues to promote and sustain a healthy social environment for the many Tibetans in exile to nurture and support the community.


    TWA is actively involved in the public political arena promoting both the political issue of Tibet and the empowerment of women. As well as becoming increasingly active in international meetings on development, environment, gender and political issues, TWA's work encompasses lobbying governments and NGOs, organising press releases, conferences, petitions supporting the Tibetan cause, and raising general public awareness of the human rights conditions in Tibet, particularly against women. Rallying for local and international support is one of the key ways TWA raises its political voice.

    To highlight the involvement of women in the political sphere and the increasing focus on women's issues, TWA organised the International Year of Tibetan Women from March 12, 1994 to March 12, 1995. During this year Tibetan women globally organised demonstrations, festivals, video screenings, lectures and public gatherings to discuss the many issues of Tibet and its women. A festival of Tibetan culture was staged in Bombay India, in January 1995 to commemorate the year.

    One of the most comprehensive campaigns has been to attend the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women , held in Beijing China in late 1995. While the majority of exiled Tibetan women were denied the right to participate, an extensive lobbying campaign was launched that succeeded in gaining widespread international attention for the plight of Tibetan women. Wherever possible TWA participate at international UN and NGO conferences world-wide.

    Since the revival of TWA, the anniversary of the March 12th uprising in 1959 in Tibet (by the women of Lhasa) is observed by all the branches of TWA in the form of local demonstrations and rallies. TWA also fully participate in the March 10th uprising gathering and rgard this day as one of the most important days in the history of occupied Tibet.

    TWA joins hands with women's organisations worldwide to gain solidarity, contact, exchange of information and support.


    In recent years the Tibetan community has come to know of the enormous environmental destruction of Tibet. Vast areas of forest have been logged causing incalculable damage to local eco-systems. Tibet is reportedly being used as a nuclear testing and dumping ground, the effects of which will not be truly felt for years to come. Tibet's rivers are polluted with industrial waste and large scale mining of precious resources has created widespread imbalance of local ecologies.

    In order to bring to world attention this continuing destruction of Tibet's precious environment, TWA alerts the local communities by focusing attention on local environmental issues. By accepting and nourishing the local eco-systems, a better understanding of the global environment is achieved.

    TWA organises regular clean-up drives in immediate areas as well as taking part in local reforestation programmes. Every year on World Environment Day , June 5, our Regional Working Committees have planted saplings in the settlements. His Holiness the Dalai Lama regularly blesses large quantities of fruit tree seeds and distributes them among the settlements. TWA has made special efforts to ensure that blessed seeds are planted properly on His Holiness_ birthday (July 6th) and are cared for.


    With all sponsorship programmes managed by TWA, we encourage contact between you and whomever you sponsor. We send you photos and keep you up to date as well as issue you with receipts of all payments.

    1.Elderly People

    In the Tibetan refugee community, the concept of family takes on greater significance and it is of paramount importance that we regain our togetherness in exile. Because of the financial difficulties which many poorer families face, some of them are unable to support their elderly relatives and are forced to put them into old people's homes.

    In order that they can remain with their children and grandchildren, and continue to lead active and useful lives, TWA provide monthly allowances for some elderly people in the Tibetan community. TWA recognises the valuable contribution of the older generation in preserving Tibetan traditions of language and culture and the importance of passing on knowledge, customs, folklore, legends and elements of a unique Tibetan social history.

    By guaranteeing a monthly contribution of $US20 for a minimum of three years, you can help us to give a GRANNY ALLOWANCE to provide an elderly person the opportunity to remain with their family.

    2.School Children

    Due to the unavoidable restrictions which have been placed on the number of children from each family who can be admitted to the Tibetan schools, parents with large families are sometimes unable to provide an education for all of their children. To assist these families TWA offers financial support to send children to schools. In addition to paying for their school fees, the financial support covers meals, clothes, stationery and general expenses.

    To sponsor a school child costs only $US20 per month for a minimum of three years. In retur we will keep you informed of their progress, their activities, put you in personal contact with the child and send you a photograph. Visits by you or your family are welcomed and can be arranged through the TWA central office.

    3.Hospital Patients

    TWA provides financial contributions to aid people from economically disadvantaged families in need of health care and hospital treatment. In addition to providing funds to cover medical expenses we provide needy patients with a small stipend to assist them with follow-up care such as food and medicine. Such assistance enables us to ensure that the patient recovers completely and regains sufficient energy to carry on with a normal, healthy life.

    A minimum contribution of $US10 per month for a guaranteed period will mean that we can extend our follow-up service to ex-patients and people in need of special and emergency health care.


    TWA attaches great importance to the welfare and education of nuns. We are currently in association with: the Mahayana Buddhist Nunnery in Tilokpur, Ganden Choeling and Shung-Seb nunneries in Dharamsala, Dolma Ling Nunnery outside of Dharamsala, Jhangchup Choeling Nunnery in Mundgod South India, various nunneries in Nepal and independent nuns of Manali, Rewalsar and those on private retreats.

    TWA has become very involved with providing support for recently arrived nuns from Tibet, as we feel these women have made grave sacrifices in the political struggle, often risking their lives in demonstrations. Their bravery and determination require support and refuge in exile. We have been able to contribute to their welfare by providing temporary housing, food and education.

    By contributing a minimum of $US20 a month you are able to support a nun in a nunnery and help cover the financial expenses of independent nuns (not assigned to a nunnery). Your valuable financial assistance will help us to provide adequate and safe housing, food and support.

    5.Story books for Tibetan Children

    The preservation and sustenance of the distinct Tibetan cultural and social identity is one of the prime concerns of the community in exile, and TWA promotes activities which enhance the learning and understanding of Tibetan roots and ancestry. After over 30 years of Chinese influence, the importance of the Tibetan linguistic tradition takes on even greater significance. As there is a distinct shortage of books, and reading material available to Tibetan children in their own language, TWA has taken up the task of translating a series of traditional tales for children in Tibetan, written in the handwriting script that is taught in schools.

    Books will be sold at nominal rates throughout the scattered refugee settlements of Tibetans, and two books are already complete. In the future we hope to produce many translated books for older children and adults, and to publish traditional Tibetan folk tales and original works by Tibetans to create a series of children's religious books.

    6.Tailoring Project

    In October 1995, TWA established a tailoring and handicraft initiative in Dharamsala to provide training to unskilled and economically disadvantaged Tibetan women so that they can become self reliant. Due to educational and employment disadvantages inside Tibet, many of the women refugees who escape into exile are not in the position to seek many vocational options. TWA recognises a need to offer alternative vocational avenues so that young women can become economically self-reliant. The Stitchs of Tibet initiative offers 12 months of tailoring and skill training which includes a small stipend for the trainees, English language and basic numeracy tuition. Garments produced during the training workshops are then sold through the Stitches of Tibet shop, and the profits are used for other community based activities of TWA.

    The TWA branch offices in Hunsur, Bylakuppe (South India) and Ladakh also have functioning tailoring centres.

    7.Tibetan Babies Project

    Begun in early 1993, a creche was established at the Tibetan Handicraft Centre to provide day care facilities for working mothers. The facilities include providing daily milk and eggs to the infants, a wet nurse and a supervisor. TWA also provides assistance to the Little Flower Project, a creche run by parents working at the Central Tibetan Administration by bearing the expense of one staff salary.

    TWA has purchased land to build a comprehensive children's day-care centre to assist the growing number of working mothers in the Tibetan community. At present we lack the funds to finance a building. If you would like to assist us in someway, please contact the Projects Coordinator at our central office.

    8.Flower Drying Project

    TWA is in the process of establishing a training centre where economically disadvantaged women can learn the art and skill of flower drying, for handicraft purposes. At the successful flower drying project in Auroville South India, flower products are made only from flowers native to the South , and the wildflowers of the Northern regions have yet to be explored as a market. Young Tibetan women will be trained in Auroville and will then transfer their skills to more women in the Tibetan settlements. This activity will provide the means for income generation for many women and poses the advantage that women can work from home and to flexible hours. The project is due to commence in early 1996.


    TWA research, write and publish brochures and reports for circulation to local, national and international audiences on issues concerning human rights violations of Tibetan women in Tibet. These issues include restrictions of fundamental freedoms including political, social, educational, economic and religious violations. This has been successful in increasing the general public's knowledge of Tibetan women, the TWA and issues in Tibet and in exile.

    In addition to print media, TWA has produced video films about life in exile for Tibetan women, both lay and nuns, and have plans to produce more in the future. TWA also produce posters, T-shirts, bookmarks and commemorative diaries to promote their projects and activities in an effort to increase more awareness. TWA's magazine, Dolma , serves to keep TWA members, the general community and friends informed about our activities and to create awareness. For more information about our products and publications please contact our Projects Coordinator.


    TWA are currently planning several new programmes and activities for the future. These include a day-care centre to assist and support working mothers with educational and social care for their children, and a vocational training centre where academically weaker young women can learn skills to enhance their employment opportunities. Projects aimed at increasing overall health and nutritional status of the community are also intended.


    In order to enable us to continue our service to the community and succeed in the long term, ther are many ways in which you can offer us your support:


    Our main and regular source of income is the monthly membership fee of one Indian rupee from each of our members, fifty percent of which is then channelled to our branch offices. Concessions are made for those members who are unable to contribute even this amount. The membership fee is then supplemented through income generated via cultural shows, lotteries, and sale of products. To date almost all of our funds have come from within the Tibetan community.

    Non-Tibetans are encouraged to become a FRIEND OF TWA (FOTWA) with a yearly financial contribution of $US30. The donation (unless specified for a particular project) will help us finance our various initiatives


    We welcome donations to assist us in our fund-raising and financing of various activities. Unspecified financial contributions will be used to fund our many different projects , as well as financial support for newcomers from Tibet, needy families or individuals in a time of crisis. All contributions are placed in our central fund and receipts given.


    As noted we operate a number of different sponsorship schemes ranging from schoolchildren, nuns, the elderly, infirm, poorer families and students pursuing a higher education. Your monthly contribution of $US10 to $30 for a fixed period of time will ensure that you make a difference to the lives of needy and deserving Tibetans.


    TWA would like to express heartfelt thanks and eternal gratitude to our many well-wishers and supporters who continue to show solidarity during this darkest period of Tibet's history. Your support is a source of strength for which we are enormously grateful.

    You can help Tibetan people in many ways. We need your support and assistance in our struggle for equality and peace.

  • LEARN more about the history and struggle of Tibetan people so that greater awareness of the injustices committed in Tibet can be known by the world.

  • JOIN a local Tibet Support Group in your community and help elevate the critical situation in Tibet to national and international attention.

  • ORGANISE fund-raising, cultural shows, and speakers on Tibetan issues for your local community and DISCOVER the rich and diverse culture of Tibet.

  • SPONSOR a needy member of the Tibetan community in exile and contribute to a better quality of life.

  • LOBBY local governments, the United Nations and International Human Rights bodies for decisive political action and recognition of the occupation of Tibet.

  • WRITE LETTERS seeking support and acknowledgment of the critical situatio in Tibet and your action will contribute to the pressure needed to change the conditions created and imposed by China.



  • Silent Prayers and Collective Screams: Suppression of Religious Freedoms in Tibet
  • State-Owned Womb: Violations of Tibetan Women's Reproductive Rights

  • BOOKS:

  • Tears of Silence: Tibetan Women and Chinese Birth-Control Policies
  • Illusions of Stability: Socio-Economic Conditions of Tibetan Women in Tibet
  • Our Will Against Their Might: Women Prisoners of Conscience in Occupied Tibet
  • The Trek to Freedom: Tibetan Women and the Refugee Experience
  • The Road to Beijing: The Tibetan Women's Association's Campaign Strategies for the Fourth World Conference on Women
  • Dolma: The Voice of Tibetan Women, TWA's Magazine

  • VIDEO:

  • Voices in Exile: Tibetan Women's Journeys

  • This WWW is maintained and updated by The Office of Tibet, the official agency of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in London. This Web page may be linked to any other Web sites. Contents may not be altered.

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    Last updated: 13-Feb-96