Current Perspectives: Tibetan Women's Assocation
Tibetan Women's Association
P.O. McLeod Ganj 176 219
Dharamsala, District Kangra 176 219
Social, political and economic empowerment of women in Tibet and in exile.
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.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
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
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
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
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
PROJECTS AND PROGRAMMES
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
A FINAL WORD
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.
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.
a local Tibet Support Group in your community and help elevate the critical situation
in Tibet to national and international attention.
fund-raising, cultural shows, and speakers on Tibetan issues for your local community
the rich and diverse culture of Tibet.
a needy member of the Tibetan community in exile and contribute to a better quality
local governments, the United Nations and International Human Rights bodies for decisive
political action and recognition of the occupation of Tibet.
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
ALSO AVAILABLE BY TWA:
Silent Prayers and Collective Screams: Suppression of Religious Freedoms in Tibet
State-Owned Womb: Violations of Tibetan Women's Reproductive Rights
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
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