Tibetan Women's Uprising Day event in Dharamsala
Sunday, 12 March 2017
It's an honour to be here with you today for this inaugural Tibetan Women's Uprising Day event in Dharamsala in the presence of HH the Dalai Lama, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, Members of parliament , and my fellow Senators from France and Canada and supporters from Australia and the US.
It is a privilege to have this opportunity to commemorate the fifty-eighth anniversary of the Tibetan Women’s Uprising, to celebrate the very first Tibetan Women’s Day, and to pay tribute to the contributions made by generations of women to the movement for a free and peaceful Tibet.
The women we honour today provided the blueprint for Tibetan activism and solidarity in the years that have followed their uprising.
It's was this day On March 12th, 1959, that thousands of Tibetan women marched through the streets of Lhasa to protest the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Women from all walks of life and from different parts of Tibet came together to form the first national association of Tibetan women.
Faced with the occupation of their homeland they protested peacefully; armed only with their steadfast belief in independence, they gathered in the streets of Lhasa and demanded their voices be heard and responded to.
And, as is the case today, the peace and tolerance that characterised their actions was not reciprocated. Innocent women were tortured, and many were beaten to death; the leaders of the movement were arrested and sentenced to indefinite terms of imprisonment.
And yet they stood together and persisted. Ten years later in a second uprising, these women were executed, brutally and publicly – but their deaths served not to discourage you as Tibetan women from engaging in political protest, but to lend new energy and determination to your movement, which continues to grow.
But Despite decades of resistance, Life in Tibet continues to be marked by the oppression of those who seek to peacefully express their spirituality or exercise their right to political expression.
And you as women continue to stand at the forefront of the movement for Tibetan people’s freedom. Your activism is notable for its quiet persistence, it's compassion and for its nonviolence.
Your willingness to participate in political protest is a tribute to Tibet’s enduring values of inclusiveness and democracy.
Through His Holiness’ leadership and advocacy to promote Tibetan women’s role in global leadership, Just last month, I was pleased to learn of the first Tibetan Women’s Empowerment Conference here in Dharamshala, that brought over 300 women and men together and created the Tibetan administration’s first women’s policy, an initiative which will empower a new generation of women to be strong and passionate advocates for change.
I want to thank HH for his ongoing support for the role of Tibetan women including awarding Tibetan Buddhist nuns the historic Geshema Degree, the highest academic degree awarded in Tibetan Buddhism.
The Sikyong has highlighted the Kashag’s commitment towards making Tibetan women equal partners in all aspects of Tibetan society.
So I have no doubt that as women you will take up the torch you hold, to campaign for freedom and human rights in Tibet and for global peace.
Because we know that no matter the circumstances and whatever the obstacles, women will always rise to be leaders and advocates, determined to stand up for the things we believe in. For peace and compassion and justice. And that is exemplified in the women we honour today.
As long as women are prepared to stand where they stood, to lend our voices to the movement for a free and peaceful Tibet, then there is hope – that one day our vision for a free Tibet will be realised. That the ongoing suppression against the women and the communities of Tibet will end. That Tibetan people will live without fear of persecution, free to practise their religion, language and culture and free to participate in political expression.
And that when women raise their voices, the world will listen.
As a woman from Australia I stand with you as do thousands of Australian women and indeed women across the world to work towards that day to come.