Dharamshala — “Women should lead countries; women should lead the world… The time has come for the Central Tibetan Administration to be led by a female Sikyong, female Speaker and a female Chief Justice Commissioner,” democratically elected Sikyong, Dr Lobsang Sangay, said at the first official Tibetan Women’s Day event on Sunday, March 12th.
Tibetan spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama graced the event, which was held at the main temple in accordance with the day in 1959 when women resisted the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese.
The Kashag declared March 12th as Tibetan Women’s day to honor the courage and sacrifices of Tibetan women in the freedom struggle and empower Tibetan women and recognize them as equal partners in the Tibetan freedom struggle.
The event was attended by Senator Lisa Singh from Australia, Senators Annick Billon, Andre Gattolin and Michel Raison from France and retired parliamentarian Consiglio Di Nino from Canada. Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, members of the Kashag, Speaker Khenpo Sonam Tenphel, members of the Tibetan Parliament and Chief Justice Commissioner Kargyu Dhondup also took part in the ceremony.
In his keynote address, His Holiness the Dalai Lama welcomed the celebration of Tibetan women’s day and acknowledged women as innately more compassionate and empathetic.
Speaking about women in Tibetan culture, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said “We’ve done quite well in Tibetan society—but we can still improve… Tibetan culture, which is primarily based on Tibetan Buddhism, considers all sentient beings as equal including men and women. However, due to societal influences, there are instances where women are sometimes considered inferior or weaker in the community, which should not be the case.”
Applauding the first batch of Tibetan Buddhist nuns who achieved the Geshema degree, comparable to a PhD, in December this past year, His Holiness said, “It is a moment of great pride that after a lot of hard work, the first batch of Tibetan Buddhist nuns received their Geshema degrees. I congratulate them.”
“Peace is not brought about through conflict, but through compassion—creating peace of mind within ourselves. We all need compassion and women can take a lead role in bringing this about. My own first teacher of kindness and compassion was my mother.
“On this occasion of the 58th anniversary of the Tibetan Women’s Uprising Day and the first Tibetan Women’s Day I urge women to be more active and courageous in taking the lead.”
Tibetan political leader Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, in his address, said that today is the day to honor Tibetan women for their courage and sacrifice, and expressed his hope that the Kashag’s consistent efforts as well as the celebration of Tibetan women would pave the way for a brighter future for women and create awareness about women’s indispensable role in the community.
“Since coming into exile, from the day one, the Central Tibetan Administration under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that Tibetan women should have equal rights and opportunity as stipulated in the Tibetan constitution of 1963,” he said.
“Moreover, the first Tibetan women to enter Tibetan parliament as representatives were in 1963. If you recall, it was only in the 1970’s that Switzerland had women representatives in their parliament. In that sense, just after three years of coming into exile, His Holiness the Dalai Lama have felt the need of women leaders in the Tibetan community. Therefore, as per his vision, the Central Tibetan Administration has been trying our best to empower women.”
Commenting on the social status of Tibetan women, Sikyong said “there is no discrimination against Tibetan Women in the constitution and in the institutions per se but discrimination does exist in the mindset and habit of men. We need to change that and hence we need ‘Tibetan Women’s Day’ and ‘Women’s Empowerment Policy’ to make both women and men equal partners in achieving gender justice and women’s empowerment. Such efforts will engender Tibetan women to lead the Tibetan freedom struggle and champion the cause of peaceful global leadership.”
Sikyong further emphasized the need for more women leaders in the world to fulfill His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s vision of turning the 21st century into a century of peace. “Women should lead countries, women should lead the world because as His Holiness believes, women have an innate potential for compassion which they would share with the citizens,” he declared, expressing his optimism that the time has come for the Central Tibetan Administration to be led by a female Sikyong, female Speaker and a female Chief Justice Commissioner.
Other speakers on the occasion included French Senator Annick Billon, who said, “The democratic organization of the Tibetan community living in exile is unfortunately not well known in the rest of the world. But it deserves our full admiration for the reforms that it has undertaken over the last several years. And as far as the role of women is concerned, the same reforms will be achieved and women will retain their place,” she said.
Australian Senator Lisa Singh lauded the sacrifices of the Tibetan women who rose up peacefully against the Chinese government in 1959 and said that they provided the blueprint for Tibetan activism and solidarity that followed afterwards. She also said that women would always rise up to be leaders and advocates, determined to stand up for the things that they believed in.
Calling His Holiness the Dalai Lama the first feminist Dalai Lama, she expressed her admiration for the efforts that His Holiness and the Central Tibetan Administration has undertaken to bring gender parity in Tibetan Buddhism and community. She further expressed her solidarity with Tibetan women and said, ”as an Australian woman and a senator, I stand with you as do thousands of other women from Australia and across the world.”
The rest of the ceremony included four Geshemas who led chanting of introductory prayers taken from the LamRim concluding prayer. They were followed by female performers from TIPA singing a ‘Song of Tibetan Women’s Uprising Day’.
On the commemoration day of the Uprising Day, Central Tibetan Women's Association in collaboration with the RTWA Dhasa has led a protest rally from McLeod Ganj to Lower Dharamshala on March 10, 2017. The function was briefed by the President of TWA Dolma Yangchen and the chief guest for the event was Mr Subash Nehria who graced the 58th Tibetan Women's Uprising Day in support calling for Human Rights inside Tibet.
The women's organization in its official statement urged the Chinese leaders to heed to the ‘repeated appeals’ of Tibetans and world leaders to resume the stalled Sino-Tibetan dialogue.