We Celebrate Women's Day Twice a Year in Tibet
    2009-07-17 10:55:36     CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Zhang Jin

Tibetan women drink traditional barley wine to celebrate Tibetan Women's Day. Called "Beleri Dri," the holiday is held around December of every year in memory of a kindhearted fairy. [File photo: Xinhua]

Special: Tsering Deky's Diary

By Tsering Deky

Recently some foreign friends have asked me about the lives of Tibetan women, especially whether women in Tibet go to work or just stay home. We talked some more about this topic.

We Tibetan women had low status in the old days. Now I think we have the same position as men, and sometimes even higher than men, because we celebrate Women's Day twice a year in Tibet, once on March 8, along with the rest of China, and once according to the Tibetan calendar.

Tibetan Women's Day, called "Beleri Dri," is held around December of every year in memory of a kindhearted fairy who was filial to her mother, unlike her two older sisters, who treated their mother badly. Before their mother died, she prayed the young daughter, named Belamu, would become the most beautiful girl and have a good family while the others would become ugly. The mother died and the prayer became true, so now people always teach their children to be good to their parents. Belamu is also a goddess for Tibetan women. On Women's Day, people visit this goddess and men give money or presents to girls and women. On that day, men always should prepare some cash for the women in their lives, and some even stay home and never go out.

When I was in Tibet I received a letter from India from a man who asked me if Tibetan women enjoy the same status and political rights as men in Tibet. Women in Tibet have become driving forces in all aspects of life and enjoy good living conditions and the right to take part in government and political affairs. I answered him with a letter saying, "I am a Tibetan women and I have the same status as my male colleagues." That means equal salary and station. We also have women leaders.

But before the democratic reforms of Tibet, women in this region were at the bottom of the social ladder and had no political status at all. My grandmother, who is 92 years old this year, always told me about the status of women in old Tibet. I couldn't believe it was true that pregnant women in old Tibet were sent far away from home and were regarded as dirty. She also said that some men didn't take care of their wives at all.

Now the Tibet Autonomous Region's government codes stipulate that women should be given the right to participate in government affairs. After the reforms of the late 1950s and early 1960s that completely abolished the feudal serfdom system, Tibetan women began enjoying status and rights equal to Tibetan men in line with China's constitution and law. Now more than 90 percent of Tibetan women have consistently taken part in elections for deputies to the regional people's congresses.

The present proportion of female deputies in the region's people's congresses is above 20 percent. More than 30 percent of all cadres in the region are women. The All-China Women's Federation has set up branches at town-level and above, ensuring all women's rights are available in Tibet.

These days, women in Tibet enjoy good living conditions and improved education. Since last year, about 400,000 women have taken part in courses on agriculture, animal husbandry and wool processing technologies. 58 healthcare centers for women and children have been set up.

Thanks to the work of Project Hope, a program that helps poor school children in rural areas receive primary education, and the Spring Bud Program, a national effort to re-enroll girls who drop out of school in poor areas, the illiteracy rate in Tibet has fallen by 22.2 percent since 1995, with more than 10,000 young girls now going back to school.

My grandmother can tell stories and sing songs that use many beautiful proverbs. She can also recite many Buddhist texts, but she can't read. She always said that she admired me because I can work just like man. If I lived in her time, I couldn't do that, because I would be totally illiterate, like my grandmother.

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