Each day I am more impressed and motivated by the thriving community of Tibetan artists, careers centers, NGO’s, and resources and assistance available around this beautiful, hilly town.
Today I met with the Tibetan Women’s Association, which empowers Tibetan women living in communities not only in Dharamsala, but all across India and abroad. Seeing women working for women and ready to have frank and decisive discussion about the progression of their community always invigorates me, as well as further solidifies my belief in the power of women. No matter where you go in the world, small groups of strong, dedicated women working together create progressive environments that nurture and challenge. I am excited to learn more from TWA in the future.
Afterward, as per TWA’s suggestion, I crossed town to meet Dolker, a woman working at the Tibetan Career Center. With her firm gaze and unabashed discussion of women’s issues, violence against women, and the need for sex education, I stumbled upon another wonderful resource in the world of Tibetan women. She immediately had a handful of suggestions for me, from groups to check out to events for attending.
I have, after years of study and preparation, finally met one of the ani (Tibetan nun) face-to-face. The meeting gave me great hopes for this project’s success.
Stepping onto the grounds of Geden Choeling, the oldest ani gompo (Tibetan nunnery) in Dharamsala, I looked from door to door, saw nuns doing laundry, cooking together, thriving in their own community in exile from their homeland, and felt a rush of surreal excitement. This was Geden Choeling, the place I’d read about and imagined, this was the place. A true dharamsala – because the name itself literally means “Safe haven for the people of the dharma.”
I want to take a moment, since there are so many new people finding out about Restored Voice Project, to talk about this project’s scope and mission.
Restored Voice Project seeks to empower these women, who have been silenced by the Chinese authorities (and whose kindred and kin are still being silenced), by giving them a chance to finally share their perspectives. What’s happening in Tibet is happening to Tibetans, and yet the story we hear is moderated by the Han Chinese. It’s a Tibetan story told by non-Tibetans, in our mainstream media.
Often, in reading the nuns’ TNP bios, I encountered a familiar sentiment at the end of their abbreviated life story:
“The West needs to remember what is going on in Tibet…”
“I want to learn English so that I can tell the world about Tibet…”
“I am going to be a teacher, so that I can go back to Tibet and teach in my village, where there was no school… I will keep fighting peacefully for Tibet to be free….”
“I am going to learn English because the world cannot forget about what is happening in Tibet…”(*)
Now, decades since the Chinese invaded, we still haven’t heard from these women, and most of us don’t even know they exist. Why not?