|To Participate in Government Political Affairs and Be Masters of the Country|
For 90 percent of the women in old Tibet, to be "tralpa" and "duiqion, " was to be a serf. Five percent of the Tibetan women were "Hangman," which meant that they were hereditary serfs. The 13-Article Code and l6-Article Code, which were enforced for several hundred of years in old Tibet, divided people into three classes and nine ranks, stating that people were unequal in legal status. The code said " ... as people are divided into different classes, the value of a life correspondingly differs ... "
The highest class included the Prince and the Great Living buddha whose lives were calculated in gold to the same weight as their dead bodies; the lowest class included women, butchers, hunters, artisans; their lives were worth a straw rope.
In other words, the lives of women were as insignificant as a straw rope. The code also stipulated " ... do not give women the right of discussing state affairs ... " and " .. slaves and women are not allowed to participate in matters concerning the army and the government ... " These statements had completely deprived women of their rights to participate in government and political affairs.
"'Women's status was the lowest in old Tibet. Even a woman like me who comes from a noble family did not enjoy political status, let alone a slave," said Nagapoi Tsdop Dollar, Vice-president of the All-china Women s Federation.
Today, Tibetan women are protected by the Constitution like all women from other ethnic groups. The Constitution states clearly, "Women in the People s Republic of China enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life, in political, economic, cultural, social and family life."'
In accordance the Constitution, the Fifth session of the Seventh National People's Congress approved the ''Law of the People s Republic of China on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests'' on April 4, 1992. This is China's first special law and regulation which comprehensively protects women's rights and interests. Article 11 of this law stipulates that ''the state shall actively train and select female cadres; State bodies, public organizations, enterprises and institutions must, in appointing cadres, adhere to the principle of equality between men and women; The state shall pay attention to the training and selection of female cadres of minority nationalities.''
Tibetan women, who have been granted rights in the light of the state law, have entered the political arena to participate in government and political affairs. Today there are about 19,000 women cadres in Tibet, comprising 34 percent of the total number of cadres, higher than the 30.26 percent proportion of women cadres in the country.
At the Autonomous Region level (equivalent to provincial level) there are six women leading cadres who are all of the Tibetan nationality. Women leading cadres are working at almost all prefectures, city and county level. According to 1991 statistics, women leading cadres at the Tibet Autonomous Region account for 10.5 percent, higher than the 6.25 percent proportion of women cadres at the provincial level. In the Tibet Autonomous Region, 1l.6 percent of women leading cadres are at the prefecture and city level, which is also higher than the 4.11 percent proportion of women cadres at the state's prefectures and city level. Most of the women cadres are of the Tibetan nationality.
Tsering Dollar Vice-president of the People's Government of Tibet Autonomous Region, used to be a serf, ''I was born in 1943 to a serf's family in Zedang, Shannan Prefecture,'' she said, ''My mother died of massive haemorrhage when she gave birth to me. I was brought up by my aunt. From age 7 to 13 I was a maid at the tribal chief Wangdu's home. I had to carry water, carry the baby on my back and wash the diapers. I was often beaten.
''In 1955, the first health organization-the Zedang medical team was established by the People's Liberation Army in Zedang, I resigned from the corvee the following year and went to the medical team as a member of the nursing staff, soon afterward, the medical team was expanded into the Shannon People's Hospital. They recruited me and some other Tibetan young people and sent us to attend a medical training course. I learned how to recognize and use common medicines, and to diagnose and treat common diseases.
''We Tibetans have a saying: 'Without growing highland barley where comes the wine;' 'only bags that are filled up with things can stand up.' Later on I got chance to study at the Medical Department of the Northwest Institute for Nationalities and the Public Health Management Department of Beijing Medical University.''
In 1971 she became the Vice-Director of the Autonomous Region's Public Health Department and in 1980, the Director of the Public Health Department.
Many people say that Tiering Dolkar is the founding member of Tibet's health service. During the 1960s she went to rural and pastoral areas to prevent and cure diseases among the herdsmen; in the 1970s she built hospitals and epidemic prevention stations in cities and prefectures, and trained medical personnel; in the 1980s, she set up hospitals for women and children at prefecture and county levels, making use of the economic reform and open-door policy to attract more humanitarianism support from international organizations to accelerate the development of Tibet's medical and health service.
Tsering Dolkar's efforts at every stage have achieved outstanding results. The promotion of Tibet's medical and health services has prolonged the average life-span and increased the Tibetan population. All these factors are inseparable from Tsering Dolkar's hard work. People in Tibet say, Tsering Dolkar is a woman of action; The work she has done is like "the stars in the sky-visible but uncountable."
Tsering Dolkar enjoys the love and esteem of the people. At the end of 1993. she was elected Vice-president of the People's Government of Tibet Autonomous Region, in charge of culture, health and education. Under her leadership, an unprecedented large-scale project of prevention and treatment of diseases, and to strengthen immune systems was carried out in the Autonomous Region in which 2,09 million people received preventive inoculations. After the promulgation of the ''Teachers' Law of the People's Republic of China,'' Tsering Dolkar actively led and organized a project to move the Teachers' Law into effect in Tibet Autonomous Region.
The first woman to hold the post of Vice-president of the People's Government of Tibet Autonomous Region before Tsering Dolkar was Pasang.
Pasang's parents were slaves, and she herself was a slave for nine years. When she was eight, an epidemic killed her mother, By ten she was summoned to be a slave for her mother's previous feudal lord. When she turned 12, her feudal lord gave her to another noble family in Lhasa. where she continued as a slave.
''Slaves were like beasts of burden who could speak. They were ordered about, beaten, abused, bought and sold at will,'' Pasang said, ''They did not have the least personal freedom. they did not have enough to eat or dress and went about barefoot. Many times, I stood at the edge of the river thinking that if I could meet my family members once more, I'd die, then the P.L.A. arrived in Lhasa in 1951.''
'The P.L.A.'August 1st Farm' was just opposite our village. l could see that the people worked and lived there freely and unrestrained. I envied them greatly. I started to think about running away. In 1956, when l was 19, I was beaten by my master again. That same night I finally escaped. I hid myself in the mountains during the day and hurried on with my journey at night. After five days and six nights, I managed to arrive at Vdam-gzhung airport, where 1 found the P.L.A. My original name was Kalsang. I was afraid that I'd be sent back to be a slave again so I changed my name to Pasang.
"I signed up for work to repair the road. Nine years of life as a slave came to an end. In 1957 I was sent to attend school in the inland and returned to Tibet in 1959 and participated in the Democratic Reform at Shannan Prefecture. I witnessed with my own eyes that many slaves like me were emancipated."
Pasang is an able woman among a million emancipated serfs. After she gained freedom she studied and worked hard. In 1971, in order to exercise the right to become masters of the country, Pasang, then 34, took the post of Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region Committee of the Communist Party of China.
She is delegate to the Tenth and Eleventh National Congress of the CPC, a member of the Twelfth Central Committee of the CPC, a delegate to the Thirteenth and Fourteenth National Congress of the CPC; a deputy to the Fourth and Fifth Session of the National People's Congress, and member of the Standing Committee of the NPC.
From the early 1970s to the present day, Pasang has participated in many policy-making meetings on major issues concerning the Tibet Autonomous Region and has proposed many valuable suggestions in Tibet's long-term plan of development. She is a leading cadre who enjoys familiarity and esteem of the Tibetan people.
At the term-expiring nomination of the Sixth Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference of the Tibetan Committee. Pasang, the Deputy Party Secretary of the CPC Committee of the Autonomous Region, was appointed as first Vice-Chairman of the CPPCC Tibetan Committee.
Tangmai Kunchok Palmo is the daughter of former nobleman Sangpo. She joined the workforce in 1950. She was previously a teacher at the cadre school of the military region in Tibet, and later held the post of Vice-Director of Lhasa City and the Autonomous Region's Women's Federation. Rabshe Sonam Dolma is the mother of the late Tenth Bainqen Erdeni Qoigyi Gyaincan.
Tsetop Dolma is a famous singer and a leading actress in China. She is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Eighth National CPPCC, Vice-president of the China Federation of Literal and Art Circles, Vice-president of the Association of Chinese Musicians and Chairman of the Tibet Federation of Literary and Art Circles.
The CPPCC is a patriotic united front of the Chinese people under the leadership of the CPC. It is an important form of promoting socialist democracy in political life. It conducts political consultations of major issues concerned with state and governmental policies and people's lives. It brings into play the function of democratic supervision through suggestions and criticisms. The CPPCC of the Tibetan Committee is a patriotic united front Of people from all ethnic groups and all walks of life in Tibet. In 1993, 19 people were nominated as chairmen and vice-chairmen at the Sixth CPPCC of the Tibetan committee, among which four vice-chairmen are Tibetan women, accounting for 21 percent.
The Tibet Autonomous People's Congress is the highest institution of power in Tibet, there has always been a certain proportion of Tibetan women at all the previous People's Congresses and its Standing Committees of Tibet Autonomous Region. Among the 30 members of the Standing Committee of the Autonomous Region's People's Congress elected in 1993, five are women. They are Tibetan nationality women Gao Shizhen Yang Jin and Lu Sheng; Tsomo of the Naxi nationality and Lhamo of the Shar-pa people, comprising 16.6 percent of the total number of the members of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of Tibet Autonomous Region. Sashing Dorje Dhagmo Dechen Choedon was elected as Vice-Director of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of Tibet Autonomous Region.
In 1947 Sashing Dorje Dhagmo Dechen Choedon was elected as the Twelfth Living Buddha of Samdhing Monastery. She was later named the Vice-Director of the Standing Committee of the Fourth and Fifth People's Congress of Tibet Autonomous Region; Vice-chairman from the First to the Fifth CPPCC of the Tibetan Committee; deputy to the Fifth and Sixth NPC. Today she is a member of the Standing Committee of the Eighth National CPPCC. She is a woman who enjoys the respect of the Tibetan people.
In the People's Government of Tibet, there are 40 Tibetan women cadres who are directors of departments and bureaus and assistant directors of prefectures. Among them are Gao Shizhen who is Director of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress in Lhasa; Dolkar is Deputy Assistant Director of Shannan Prefecture; Sonam is Vice-Director of the Autonomous Region's Cultural Department; Tsomo, of the Naxi nationality, is Vice-Directo'r of the Autonomous Region's Committee of Nationalities and Religion Affairs.All are outstanding cadres.
The NPC is the highest organ of state power. There are Tibetan women among the deputies of the NPC. They exercise, participate and manage state power on behalf of the Tibetan women.
Soinam, who comes from a serf family, is from Xigaze Prefecture. She is a graduate of the Northwest Institute for Nationalities. As a deputy to the Seventh NPC, before attending meetings in Beijing, she listened to the opinions, requirements and suggestions of the local people and would prepare her proposals in advance. In 1988, Soinam, along with other deputies, proposed to the NPC to develop the valleys of Yarlung Zangbo, Lhasa and Nyang Qu rivers, which received great attention from the state and was placed in the state's Eighth Five-Year Plan. Beginning from 1991, the state invested one billion yuan (RMB) to carry out a project to open up the river basins and valleys of the three rivers, gradually building it into a base area of Tibet for producing commodity grain, nonstaple food, light industrial goods, textiles and handicrafts, and processed food, as well as for the demonstration and popularization of scientific and technological achievements.
Soinam also proposed to open up the Sino-Nepal Highway, so as to benefit economy and develop tourism. In 1991 the original Sino-Nepal mud road was replaced by an asphalt highway. In the Eighth Five-Year Plan, the state has begun to invest over one billion yuan (RMB) to repair and renovate the Qinghai-Tibet, the Sichuan-Tibet, the Nagqu-Qamdo and the Sino-Nepal highways. Soinam also has proposed to guarantee the continuity of Tibet's free medical system, which has also been adopted.
Tashi Lhamo, deputy to the Seventh NPC, is a Tibetan woman from Qamdo Prefecture. In 1988, when she first entered the People's Great Hall in Beijing, she put forward two proposals: to renovate the discarded Bamda airport; and to change the route of Qamgdo Vdar-mala Mountain Highway because snow accumulates heavily on the roadway and accidents often occur. This was the response Tashi Lhamo received in 1990 to her proposal: the state will start to invest money from 1991 to expand and rebuild Bamda airport; 200 million yuan (RMB) will be allocated to repair the Kangding- Tibet Highway. At present the reconstruction of the Bamda airport is coming to an end, and people are being trained to work at the facility. It is expected that the air service to Lhasa, Chengdu and Qamdo will be opened soon.
In 1993, a Tibetan woman named Pad-sgron, a principal of Lhasa No.1 Primary School, was elected as deputy to the Eighth NPC. At the First Session of the Eighth NPC, President Jiang Zemin participated in the discussion with the Tibetan delegation.
Pad-sgron reported to President Jiang that teacher's wages were too low and she called on society to attach more importance to education and respect to teachers. She said that leading cadres especially should place education on their work agenda. President Jiang approved, commenting, "lt's a very nice talk indeed.''
Many NPC deputies put forward various opinions and suggestions to develop China's education. Therefore the NPC formulated and promulgated the ''Teachers' Law of the People's Republic of China.'' The Chinese government has also formulated a series of policies and measures to develop education.
Citizens have the right to elect deputies to the People's Congresses at all levels.Tibetan women have actively participated in voting activites. In 1988 there were 784,754 voters in the election of the Fifth People's Congress in Nagqu, Nyingchi, Shannan, Xigaze prefectures and Lhasa City. More than 736,700 voters participated in the election. The women's voting rate was higher than 90 percent.
Women deputies elected by the people can be found at 11 levels of the People's Congress in Tibet. At every meeting the People's Congress, they would be fully prepared, walking into the meeting places with the demands of the people; women deputies account for 15 percent among deputies of Stodlung-bdechen County People's Congress.
Tibetan women not only have their own women representatives, committee members and cadres, but have also set up their own organization. On March 8, 1953, the Lhasa Patriotic Women's Association was established-first women's organization in Tibet's history. In June, 1960, Tibetan women convened for the First Women's Congress and established the Tibetan Women's Federation. The Women's Federation has networks that reach out from the autonomous region to the prefectures, counties, townships and villages. For more than 30 years, the Tibetan women's organization has carried out work to safeguard and represent the rights and interests of women, organizing the Tibetan women to join in the construction and participate in development.
In recent years, the women's federation has carried out the ''learn and compete'' campaign in villages where women compete with each other in knowledge and skills and in their achievements and contributions; in urban areas ''contributions from women'' activities as well as other activities that promote the implementation of the ''Law of the PRC on the Protection of Pights and Interests of women." ''All these are welcomed by the Tibetan women. The women refer to the women's federation as "mother's home."