Tibet: First Women Empowerment Conference Held in India
On Tuesday 21 February 2017, the political leader of the Tibetan people Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay opened the first “Women’s Empowerment Conference” in Dharamshala. The event’s focus is on bringing to the fore women’s issues in Tibet and the diaspora, and their role in the social and political development of the Tibetan community. Sikong also applauded the increase in representation of women in Tibetan administrative bodies and reaffirmed the Central Tibetan Administration’s commitment to ensuring equal opportunities for women.
The following article was published by The Tibet Post:
The political leader of Tibetan people, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay inaugurated the first 'Women's Empowerment Conference' at the helm of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in Dharamshala, India, on Tuesday, February 21, 2016.
The conference will feature four plenary sessions–Governance and Leadership, Mainstreaming Gender Perspectives into the Development Process, Achieving Social Empowerment of Women and Tackling Sexual and Gender Based Violence. The CTA said that "The conference aims to widen the horizon of grassroots public engagement and action on gender issues and women's empowerment initiatives and thereby strengthen the social foundations of both personal and public life."
The three-day Tibetan Women's Empowerment conference–an undertaking of Women's Empowerment Desk of Department of Home–witnessed an awe-inspiring attendance of more than 340 participants, including Tibetan nuns, lay women and men, from across the social and political spectrum.
The inaugural ceremony was also attended by top officials such as Chief Justice Commissioner Kargyu Dhondup, Justice Commissioners Ngawang Choedak Choetri Tengpa and Dr Ngawang Rabgyal, Speaker of Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, Khenpo Sonam Tenphel, Deputy Speaker Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok, members of the Kasha and as well as other officials.
Speaking on the occasion, Sikyong said that the organisation of the conference is a step in the right direction to carry forward the shared vision of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration to promote leadership and compassionate qualities of women in social and political development of the Tibetan community.
Dr Lobsang also lauded Tibetan women's crucial role in safeguarding Tibet's unique and rich religious, linguistic and cultural traditions beginning from the non-violent Tibetan women's uprising against the repressive policies of the Chinese government on 12 March 1959.
Highlighting the consistent increase in representation of women in Tibetan administrative bodies, Sikyong said that the vision of the conference is aimed beyond gender equality and on furthering women's role in all socio-economic and political activities.
"The Charter for Tibetans in exile and CTA rules and regulations provide for equal opportunity for men and women. Women parliamentarians were elected as early as 1964 when even some advanced economies still did not have women parliamentarians. In fact, today women constitute over 20% of the elected representatives in the Tibetan parliament. Women now make up forty-five percent of the overall workforce of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). Forty-eight and sixty percent of the staff of Education and Health departments respectively are women. Over half of all new and incoming CTA staff are women," Sikyong prided.
As part of its commitment on women empowerment, the Tibetan political leader also announced that 12 March on every year will formally be observed as Women's day. "The observance of Tibetan Women's Day on 12 March will reflect the collective will of the Tibetan leadership and people to accelerate the Women's Empowerment Policy agenda. Also with the implementation of affirmative action through various upcoming initiatives, the departments of CTA will continue to prioritise Tibetan women's empowerment initiatives as its flagship agenda," he said.
Introducing the background and objective of the three-day conference, Kalon Sonam Topgyal Khorlatsang of the Home Department said the conference aims to rake in intellectual and public discourse on the understanding of the revised 'Women's Empowerment Policy' and to garner recommendations on the effective implementation of the clauses of the policy. He further highlighted His Holiness the Dalai Lama's emphasis on promoting women's leadership in the world, and quoted a recent remark made by His Holiness at a National Women's Parliament that 'In order to produce warm hearted and compassionate humanity, women should take more active role in promoting deeper human values. In all professions, we need promotion of values.'
The Home Kalon hoped that the vast participation of over 300 Tibetan women and women will bode well for further scope in empowering our community.
The revised seven-point women empowerment policy was drafted by a committee composed almost entirely of senior women officials of the CTA and was adopted by the Kashag following due consultations and comprehensive deliberations with women from all walks of life including ground level women leaders, students, teachers, nuns, homemakers, etc.
The revised women empowerment policy outlines seven key points in its stated objective of making Tibetan women equal partners in all aspects of Tibetan society. The points include Women and human rights, Education, Health, Economy, Governance and Leadership, Social, and Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV). On Sexual and Gender-based Violence, the Kashag has promised to adopt a zero tolerance policy. It further promised to sensitise community members on SGBV and establish a redressal mechanism for those who have experienced gender based harassment and discrimination.
Based on the WEP policy, the conference will feature four plenary sessions–Governance and Leadership, Mainstreaming Gender Perspectives into the Development Process, Achieving Social Empowerment of Women and Tackling Sexual and Gender Based Violence. Today's plenary session on Governance and Leadership will be led by esteemed speakers including Kalon Karma Gelek Yuthok, Department of Religion and Culture, Mr Lobsang Jinpa, Secretary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ms Lynda Lepcha, corporate trainer and author, Kalon Ngodup Tsering, Department of Education, Kalon Choekyong Wangchuk, Health Department, Ms Asha Ramesh, Gender and Development Activist.
The theme for last year's International Women's Day is "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality." The year 2030 is the deadline for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include targets on achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, as well as ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning.
The other half of the theme is a reference to UN Women's Step It Up initiative, which asks governments to make national commitments that will close the gender equality gap, by the 2030 deadline. As part of this initiative, more than 90 Member States have pledged concrete actions "to crack some of the fundamental barriers to achievement of gender equality in their countries," said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.