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<-Back to WTN Archives Tibetan Women - Where do they stand?
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World Tibet Network News

Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

5. Tibetan Women - Where do they stand?

August 17
By Tenpa Dugdak

They lost again and this time it was a big loss: 47 - 0. I am talking about my school's all-girl
basketball team and as expected everyone blamed those girls for not playing well, especially me. I
was in the boys' basketball team at the time and we had just won the inter-school basketball
competition. We, on the other hand, were highly praised.

Now it is years later and I can see why the boys in my school do really well at sports and the
girls do not. For a start, the basketball court is pretty much ruled by boys - the girls get to
play only during their inter-house match and there are only 3 of these matches each year. I am
quite sure that if those girls were able to practise as much as the boys their results would be a
lot different.

This is an example of how women in our society are not getting equal opportunities. Fortunately I
have never seen discrimination against Tibetan women first hand (although I have heard about it
happening behind closed doors) but there is most certainly unequal distribution of opportunities
amongst Tibetan society. Put simply: Women are not supported or encouraged by our society as much
as men.

Tibetan women are merely seen as the ones who wash dishes or do the laundry and cooking. Don't you
think it's right time to move from this sort of stereotype? It is a shame that we are losing the
abilities of Tibetan women not because they are not competent but because they are not given a
chance. This sort of thing is happening in Tibetan families all over the world, not just in Tibet.
Recently I visited a Tibetan family and lucky me, momos were being prepared. Of course I was asked
to stay. The husband was sitting on the sofa, sipping his tea while his wife prepared the momos. I
gave her a hand and later she thanked me for helping her. The husband never got up to help.

I really do think we can learn something about the equal treatment of woman from the west. There
are no rules in Buddhism where women have to do all the cooking and domestic chores and the men
sit on sofas and do nothing. I am not saying this particular man is bad for sitting on the sofa -
it is simply a representation of our society!

It might be a bit strange for my school friends to hear me say this as I always used to say
Tibetan women were incompetent in our society. But back then I was ignorant and probably wanted to
fit into our society where it is normal to have these beliefs.

It is no wonder why girls in my school lack confidence in all areas as compare to boys. Reasons?
When you have some orthodox and stupid rules and regulations in girls hostel how can anyone expect
them to be self-reliant and frank in open society. Please let me share some rules here as it does
chuckle me and I am sure you will too. 'Girls have to sleep like lord Buddha Postures'. Cannot
listen to any music, cannot engage in-group discussion at hostel and many more.

It is quite funny to think about how many Tibetan songs and verses describe the figure of the
Tibetan women. Frankly speaking, I always enjoyed these songs and just went with the flow and
laughed about them. Let me tell you the girls in my school were laughing too! These songs and
verses are not only discrimination but it clearly shows the hypocrisy of our society. I have heard
conversations between Tibetan and westerners: Most Tibetans would say to westerners, "see all
people as human beings first and their other characteristics as second"; their sex, education,
power, etc. So, such songs and verses clearly depict how hypocritical we as Tibetans are on this
issue. By the way, we Tibetan men are not that behind in terms of fashion compared with the
western men! Sometimes we are more western than western men. But you don't hear any songs about us
like this do you?

I heard that Professor Samdong Rinpoche was looking for a female cabinet in parliament and
couldn't find any. So, why is that? Is that because our women are not as capable as other women in
the world? Of course not. We have women like Tenzin Norzin who was a marathon runner for India and
won many medals. We have Ama Taring la and Ama Jetsun Pemala and so many learned Buddhist nuns.
Guess what? All these women had a chance to excel in their field because they were supported and
encouraged by their peers. Just look around your community and I bet everyone would talk about a
woman's goodness in terms of how quiet she is or how shy she is, not because she is strong and
confident. So, whose fault it that? If our society suffers from not having enough women
principals, doctors, and Kalons then it is our society's fault, not the fault of individual women.

We all expect women to be equal in terms of being politically pro-active yet why so much
discrimination and unequal support? I was a bit surprised to hear that there isn't much support
for the 'Tibetan Women Association' rallies and programs in Dharamsala.

I was keeping a close eye on the last 'Miss Tibet'. Although I am not too fond of the concept of
'Miss Tibet' but I must admit I was also not fond of the condemnation for "Miss Tibet" from
different government officials and Tibetan elders. For me 'Miss Tibet' is much better than all
those violent soccer matches but there is no condemnation for those soccer matches, is there? Is
that because we all love soccer? Or is it because men play it? I agree true beauty cannot be
judged on stage but events such as "Miss Tibet" do bring much-needed media attention to our women.
And really, it's a non-violent action by some very confident Tibetan women. Let's face it, the
time is now to move into the 21st century whether we like it nor not.

When I was in school I loved 'Shating' because there are to me back then there were lots and lots
of negative things about women. But now it just disgusts me having been taught such things in
school. Having said that, one Tibetan here told me that Shating is actually intended for monks and
I thought that does make sense but then why teach this in school where the system is
co-educational? It is psychological and emotional abuse for Tibetan women. I heard this incidence
where one nunnery had invited a 'Rinpoche' to their nunnery to give them a blessing and teachings.
Upon his arrival he said to them, ' Pray hard in this life in order to be re-born as a male'. What
a hypocrite!

The word 'kaimein' means inferior of birth. One of my friends told me that this word was used in
one part of Tibet and now it has spread across the Tibetan Community in India. So, it might be a
good idea next time to think twice before using this word to describe a woman, as this is not a
Tibetan Buddhist word. The word 'nigger' is no longer used in western society unless purposely
used to discriminate against black people so 'kaimein' has to go as it too is clearly
discriminatory against women and it is abusive.

The rising number of educated Tibetan women and number of them being in the workforce may seem to
indicate that women have attained a high degree of empowerment. However, when I apologize to some
of my female classmates for my discriminatory behavior at school most of them reply with, "No,
it's fine really, you were a good boy and student'. To me this just shows how brainwashed they are
to believe what they have been taught.

In Tibet My Story [Jetsun Pema] 'I regret that so little has been written on the role of women in
our society'

Tenpa Dudgak graduated from Tibetan homes School, Mussoorie in 2002 and currently resides in
Australia, Sydney. Had studied Community Service [welfare].

Articles in this Issue:
  1. Nun or prostitute? Tibet's women face few choices (Reuters)
  2. Fight To Free Tibet Deserves Attention (TD)
  3. Braille Without Borders Gives New Hope to Blind Children in Tibet (VOA)
  4. Spiritualism and Science In The Modern World: His Holiness the Dalai Lama Leads Symposium in Houston, Texas
  5. Tibetan Women - Where do they stand?
  6. Duckworth making a difference all over the globe (MDP)
  7. Tibetan monk brings call for freedom to Montrose (MDP)

Other articles this month - WTN Index - Mail the WTN-Editors

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