Tibetan WomenAs part of a marginalized sovereign state in East Asia, the people of Tibet have endured immense social, economic and religious challenges within their cultural community due to the external pressures of neighboring countries. Hailing from the mountain territories that skirt the peaks of Everest, the inhabitants of Tibet have long-held traditions of national pride and spiritual independence. Within Tibet, gender equality and health play a crucial role in the development of Tibetan women in society.

Economic Progress in Tibet

Despite the territorial and governmental tensions that mark contemporary Tibetan life, the small yet mighty community has progressed immensely in terms of overall socioeconomic well-being and universal rights for local citizens. Chief among the recent improvements in Tibet is the notable reduction of the poverty rate. In just four years, the poverty rate descended to one-fifth of its initial percentage, currently stabilized at almost 6%. International aid projects and development efforts have all helped to strengthen the Tibetan economy and improve the quality of life.

The Place of Tibetan Women in Exiled Society

Although the plight of Tibetan countrymen against Chinese occupation has received wide recognition, Tibetan women frequently experience neglect in public discourse. The women of Tibet have had to navigate a gender system that is fairly fluid yet rigid in its intricate pattern of sexuality, duty and societal standing. All of these factors tie into the physical and emotional well-being of women.

Tibetan women are free to attend school if they have the material means to do so and Buddhist nuns have permission to pursue the same level of higher education as monks, thanks to the advocacy of the Dalai Lama for Tibetan gender equality. However, Tibetan society still views women as part of the less favorable gender.

According to an interview by international journalist Cornelius Lundsgaard, parliamentary leader Tenzin Dhardon Sharling is one of the few women that holds a leadership position within the Tibetan government, serving both the Tibetan Parliament in Exile and the Tibetan Women’s Association. During her interview with Lundsgaard, Sharling comments on the manner in which gender roles affect the structure of household responsibilities. Sharling stresses that “there is more of a need for basic, sustainable projects.” Essential needs such as healthcare, access to food and education are all crucial for gender equality.

Tibetan Women’s Health

Maternal and public health are the most immediate priorities for equalized health among Tibetan women. Unfortunately, the maternal mortality rate is exceedingly high in comparison to the rate in other nations. In comparison to the national average, Tibetan mothers are five times more likely to die during childbirth. Given how dire the situation is, it is clear that Tibet’s healthcare system has several gender-related deficiencies that require addressing.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of obstetric clinics in Tibet meets the minimum amount to serve the population. However, based on the occurrence of maternal mortality, it is evident that a larger number of centers would be beneficial. Part of the discrepancy in women’s healthcare lies in the perceived cultural differences between men and women. Although women are active participants in movements for political change and have access to higher education, most Tibetan households still divide domestic practices along gender lines.

Tibetan households reaffirm the patriarchal principles that exist in certain Buddhist teachings. Thus, investing in Tibetan gender equality and women’s clinics may not appear as valuable to male members of the community. Leaders need to reevaluate the patriarchal attitude that is prevalent in society. This will help ensure that resources for women receive adequate funding.

The Future of Tibetan Women

In spite of the gender imbalances, the region has made considerable progress to improve equality. The Tibetan Women’s Association continues to strive for women’s empowerment. The Central Tibetan Administration has held workshops on how to address gender concerns and prevent discrimination. Furthermore, the rise of female leaders like Tenzin Dhardon Sharling will bring women’s rights and political representation to the forefront. As Tibetan women continue to advance in society and serve as health practitioners and doctors, equal representation is becoming a reality in the sphere of Tibetan public health. With the growth of the gender equality movement, the healthcare system will be one step closer to addressing the needs of Tibetan women.

Luna Khalil
Photo: Flickr

China’s Continued Hold on Asia
China is a country with a long cultural history and an equally long and tumultuous political history. Throughout history, there has been a power dynamic due to China’s continued hold on Asia.  Power in Asia has shifted many times, not only within China but also with respect to other nations. One can still observe China’s influence in the backbones of other nations.


In recent years, the rate of poverty in Vietnam has gradually been decreasing, bringing it to 9.8% as of 2016. There are plenty of untapped agricultural resources, such as coffee, black pepper and rubber. They exist in the region where Vietnam’s poor population is most concentrated. In harvesting these resources, the hope would be to jumpstart the economy in these impoverished areas. China gained power over Vietnam several times between 111 BC and 1427.

China’s power over Vietnam lasted until the fall of the Tang dynasty in 938 AD. Well into the modern era, China and Vietnam have had governance and structural similarities, due to similar obstacles they have encountered, including the establishment of communist power structures within their governments. Moreover, China has remained Vietnam’s largest trade partner – unsurprising given China’s advancement to the forefront of the global economic stage.

Keeping the Upper Hand

China’s interests in Vietnam stems largely from its want to keep the upper hand regarding disputes surrounding Hanoi, both in keeping Hanoi pro-China on most issues and making Chinese goods the most sought after in the market. Vietnam remains reliant on China to further develop its economy, utilizing China’s trade channels to yield more export growth than import growth, at 16.6% to 11.7% respectively. Vietnam’s top exports are broadcasting equipment and shoes, which are items that put the nation’s large supply of rubber to good use. These exports could potentially infuse more cash into Vietnam’s impoverished areas that are sitting on unused rubber deposits by creating jobs and growing the economy. However, a sustained reliance on China means that China can use its valuable trade channels and own booming economy to leverage its influence on Hanoi.


Currently, 28.4% of Mongolia’s population lives below the poverty line. Mongolia declared its independence from China’s last imperial dynasty in 1911 and established the Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924. China did not recognize Mongolia’s independence until a little over 20 years later. Like Vietnam, Mongolia’s economy is very much reliant on China, primarily concerning foreign trade. With Mongolia benefiting from its neighbor’s wide array of trade routes, China sends out 90% of Mongolian exported goods.

Moreover, China’s choice of trade partners in certain industries has impacted the growth of Mongolia’s mining industry. Mongolia’s economic growth spiked 5.3% from 2016 after China banned North Korean coal, which shifted the demand to favor what Mongolia could supply. China’s influence on Mongolia’s economic growth is an iron grip on a nation still struggling to fully develop and establish a sound infrastructure following a recent tumultuous, political history. This feeds into China’s continued hold on Asia.


Today, China is struggling to declare Tibet an independent region. In fact, Tibet still operates as an autonomous region of China. Xi Jinping, the president of China, plans to eradicate extreme rural poverty by the end of 2020. As of 2015, the poverty rate in Tibet’s Autonomous Region (TAR), the western part of historic or ethnographic Tibet, was about 25%. In declaring extreme poverty gone, China has determined that those in TAR make a minimum of $328 a year.

Tibet is heavily reliant on China, with Beijing being a significant investor. Beijing’s investments are inclusive of the dam on the Lhasa River which energizes much of central Tibet, including the capital. Tibet’s reliance on China’s economy and investments only gives China the ammunition to continue its claims to Tibet.

This economic hold on the state inhibits Tibet’s ability to thrive and grow, despite the money it receives from China. This also continues despite China’s claims of having eradicated Tibet’s poverty. China’s political maneuvers included the exile of the 14th Dalai Lama following Tibet’s uprising. China’s continued economic hold on Asia has made way for cultural, political and social influences China’s exacted on Tibet and other nations throughout history.

Buddhist Global Relief

Buddhist Global Relief (BGR) has partnered with Maitreya Charity. It is based in Washington in the U.S. Its goal is to help bring hot meals and educational resources to impoverished children in Mongolia. A relatively new project, BGR’s first run with the Hot Meal Project allowed it to feed 32 kids. This number grew to 34 within the year. With a capacity to serve 50, BGR is looking for ways to get funding and expand its reach in the area, where about 30% of the population lives in extreme poverty.

BGR is not only trying to feed and educate the children but also distributes clothes and daily vitamins. It is also offering games to try and improve the socialization of the children. In looking to grow its operation, BGR enlisted the help of volunteer dental professionals. It knows that dental health is a prevalent issue in the area. BGR hopes to have a well-stocked library accessible to the children, a dish sterilizer and funds for dental checks. These are ways to help mitigate dental hygiene issues in the region.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Himalayan Cataract ProjectIn 1995, Dr. Geoff Tabin and Dr. Sanduk Ruit launched the Himalayan Cataract Project to eliminate curable and preventable blindness in under-resourced Himalayan communities. The two founded their innovative campaign after recognizing that cataracts account for 70% of unnecessary blindness in Nepal. Cataracts, or cloudy, opaque areas in the eye that block light entry, occur naturally with age. Poor water quality, malnutrition and disease tend to exacerbate the issue in developing countries.

For years, Dr. Tabin and Dr. Ruit had seen Nepalese villagers take blindness as a death sentence. “It was just accepted that you get old, your hair turns white, your eyes turn white, you go blind and you die,” Dr. Tabin told the Stanford Medicine magazine. But after Dutch teams arrived in Nepal to perform cataract surgery, he explained, “People came back to life. It was amazing.”

The Strategy

The Himalayan Cataract Project delivers sight-restoring cataract surgery at a low cost. Dr. Ruit’s groundbreaking procedure lasts 10 minutes and costs just $25. Today the organization has succeeded in providing permanent refractive correction for well over 500,000 people.

In an effort to leave a more sustainable impact, the project works from a “train the trainer” model that empowers community health providers and enhances local eye care centers. Rather than simply treating patients in need, specialists introduce new methods and technology to strengthen the practices of existing clinics.

As a result of these and other advances, the blindness rate in Nepal has plummeted to 0.24%, similar to that of Western countries. The Himalayan Cataract Project now operates in India, Tibet and Myanmar. Dr. Tabin has also initiated training programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Ghana and Ethiopia. He hopes to see the same successes here as achieved in Asia.

The Link Between Blindness and Poverty

Addressing blindness is a critical step in the fight against poverty. Blindness prevents able-bodied workers from supporting themselves, shortens lives and reduces the workforce. Children of blind parents often stay home from school as they scramble to fulfill the duties of household caregivers and providers. In short, blindness worsens poverty, while poverty magnifies the risk of blindness.

The Himalayan Cataract Project aims to break the cycle of blindness and poverty. Studies have shown a 400% return on every dollar that the organization invests in eradicating curable and preventable blindness. Their procedures stimulate the economy by helping patients get back to work.

Individual success stories continue to power the organization. Adjoe, a 40-year-old mother from Togo, traveled to Ghana for surgery when she determined that her blind eye was hurting business. As a street vendor selling beans, she saw customers avoid her stand for fear of contagion. She consulted Dr. Boteng Wiafe, a partner of the Himalayan Cataract Project, who performed oculoplastic surgery and gave her a prosthetic eye. Carefully matching the prosthetic to the size, color and shape of her good eye, Dr. Wiafe ensured that Adjoe could return home to provide for her family once again.

Response to COVID-19

In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a halt to live clinical training and elective surgeries, but the backlog of blindness continues to grow worldwide. Meanwhile, concerns about the virus may dissuade blind patients from seeking treatment for the next several years.

While eye care has been suspended, the Himalayan Cataract Project is using this time to redesign and restructure their programs so as to emerge even stronger than before. The organization is also working to equip partner clinics with information and resources to keep their patients safe. Some communities have even taken part in the shift to remote education and implemented a virtual training system.

Despite the uncertainty of the months ahead, the Himalayan Cataract Project remains firm in its commitment to fighting blindness and poverty. Its partner clinics around the globe have been tireless in their efforts to affirm that the poor and vulnerable will receive the eye care they need once patients can receive in-person treatment again.

Katie Painter
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in Tibet
Sustainable agriculture in Tibet is crucial, because of the lack of arable land and the volatile weather conditions the country faces. Ensuring the health of crops is important for the wellbeing of people living in the country.


Despite the fact that only a very limited portion of the Tibetan region is arable due to extreme weather conditions and altitudes, farming supplies grains that are essential to the population. Farmers are accustomed to using sustainable farming methods to maximize output and to ensure crops remain healthy through extreme climate. Crop rotation and mixing crops help to maintain the fertility of croplands in an area where there is a limited growing season. Barley is the main crop produced in Tibet, due to its use as a beneficial food source for the abundant livestock in the country. Other crops have been introduced, including rice, maize and wheat.

Livestock is the main type of farming on the plateaus of Tibet because of the lack of fertile land. Farmers are nomadic, and usually have a mixture of yaks, sheep and goats. The constant migration the farmers and livestock engage in gives adequate time for the pastures to recover lost fertility. It is estimated that 75 percent of the land in Tibet is pasture-based, with the natural wealth of animals present in the country.

Biogas Program Aims to Boost Farmer Incomes

A Beijing-based non-profit and Worldwatch Institute partner, the Global Environmental Institute (GEI), developed a biogas program in the mountainous Chinese province. The project provides clean, renewable energy to households and helps the region’s agriculture trade market. Located in Wujinmai Village, it is the most recent of GEI’s sustainable rural development program and based on a similar model used in a three-year-old program in the Yunnan province that boosted farmer incomes 20-fold.

GEI’s program, launched in April 2006, uses three aspects to address issues of pollution and poverty. The first area is composting animal manure, a potential groundwater pollutant, into both biogas for energy and fertilizer for growing organic crops. GEI trains farmers to manage and maintain the biogas systems, which use small tanks that require only one cow or three pigs to provide 1–2 five-person households with year-round heating and cooking fuel. According to the Worldwatch Institute, “the clean, renewable and free source of energy eliminates the need for Tibetans to spend hours each day collecting firewood.”

The second aspect of the program, greenhouses for organic agriculture production that double as homes for the biogas tanks, which would otherwise freeze, compliments the Tibetan climate of extreme heat and cold. The third involves “capacity building and skills training to help the farmers learn to better manage their new businesses selling surplus organic vegetables.”

Focusing on Long-Term Efficiency

The Department of Home of the Central Tibetan Administration has taken an initiative to conduct training on sustainable agriculture development in Tibet. This will be done through modernization and market access combining Israeli agro-techniques. This training is aimed at improving crop production, collective marketing and community agribusiness management. The overall goal is to ensure that communities are well-informed about efficient agricultural practices, to benefit the communities in the long term.

Casey Geier
Photo: Pixabay

Unrepresented nationsIn 1991, The Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization (UNPO) was founded in The Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. The UNPO is an international body with a membership comprised of “indigenous peoples, minorities, citizens of unrecognized States and occupied territories” who use The UNPO as a collective means of participating in the major international community. Over forty unrepresented groups currently make up The UNPO’s General Assembly with a few notable members such as Tibet, Taiwan and Washington D.C.

UNPO’s Mission

The communities joined together in The Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization are united in a shared mission guided by the five major principles of nonviolence, human rights, democracy, self-determination, environmental protection, and tolerance stated in The UNPO Covenant. The Covenant draws off of language used in ubiquitous international documents like The United Nations Charter, The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and others to validate the need for a forum such as The UNPO to exist.

Through its mission, The UNPO is also an ally in the fight to alleviate global poverty. According to estimates from the World Bank, indigenous peoples make up about 5 percent of the population and about 10 percent of those living in poverty around the world. These statistics reveal how indigenous groups are disproportionately affected by poverty. By empowering indigenous and other marginalized people through international representation, The UNPO is taking important steps to combat poverty.

How The UNPO Works

The main decision-making body of The UNPO is the General Assembly, made up of delegations from each of the member communities. The General Assembly convenes every 12-18 months so that UNPO members can discuss the pressing issues in their communities. In addition, the Assembly elects members of the eight members of the Presidency, including the President, two Vice-Presidents, General Secretary, and Treasurer for three-year terms.  

The Presidency has the duty of implementing the policy put forth by the General Assembly during a term. The current President is Mr. Nasser Boladai of West Balochistan. Under the direction of the General Assembly and the Presidency, The Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization acts as a key intermediary between the unrepresented communities it represents and international institutions such as The U.N. and E.U.

The UNPO approaches international forums in the role of an advocate for their members as well as a consultant about international decisions on issues relevant to UNPO members. For example, thanks to the work of  The UNPO, marginalized groups and minorities have been able to actively participate in various U.N. sessions of The Human Rights Council, The U.N. Forum on Minority Issues, and The U.N. Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues.

In addition, the UNPO has successfully lobbied for their inclusion in The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process launched in 2008 to review the human rights records of all UN Member States. As a result of the advocacy and lobbying done by The UNPO, many of the marginalized and unheard voices that The UNPO represents now have the chance to be heard by those who wield power amongst the international community.

Who is the in the UNPO?

The Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization currently represents 43 Nations/ Peoples throughout the world. Each member community has its own set of specific aspirations and concerns that they hope The UNPO can help them verbalize. The UNPO compiles detailed profiles on each of its member communities and then uses this information to help advocate in their interest.

Tibet, or the Government of Tibet in Exile is a member of the UNPO and has a history that is familiar to many. In the 1950’s, Tibet became an occupied territory of The People’s Republic of China and lost its national autonomy and political rights. The Central Tibetan Administration or the Tibetan Government in Exile claims that the Chinese occupation is an illegitimate military campaign. Although the Chinese constitution grants political autonomy to the occupied areas of Tibet, the reality from the Tibetan point of view is that the Chinese preside over them with an authoritarian rule.

Through the influence of The UNPO, The Tibetan Delegation hopes to plead it’s case to the international community and address grievances (violations of political rights, environmental degradation, and suppression of freedom of expression and association) against the Chinese government.

Since 1991, The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization has helped promote the rights and freedoms of minority/marginalized groups throughout the world. As we strive towards shaping a world of equality and justice, The UNPO serves as a fine example of how we can give a voice to the voiceless.

Clarke Hallum

Photo: Flickr

traditional Tibetan medicineDespite the ongoing desperate struggle in Tibet over freedom and territory, collaboration is growing between Tibetan healers and the Chinese healthcare system.

Advancing Medical Care, Advancing Camaraderie

Medical care and advancements have often been sources of truce, respect and mutual benefits between cultures in conflict or war with one another. Such medical neutrality is evident amid the chaos between China and Tibet.

Chinese authorities recognize value in traditional Tibetan medicine, and some Tibetans recognize value in merging with conventional technology.

The conflict in Tibet is still unfolding. Over 150 Tibetans burned themselves to death since 2009 in despair and protest of Chinese control, and some plead for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet from exile in India. The latest death from such desperate protest occurred in March 2018, with the self-immolation of Tsekho Tugchak in eastern Tibet.

Actions in Medical Neutrality

While the severe struggle for respect and freedom continues in Tibet, some traditional Tibetan healers are acting in medical neutrality beyond the conflict with China to preserve the benefits of their medical heritage and continue working as doctors. Also, mutual benefits are evident as traditional Tibetans are merging with more modern healthcare ways and patients are increasingly requesting integration of conventional methods.

New medical facilities and schools are growing in Tibet that merge traditional Tibetan medicine with more modern technology such as x-rays, MRI’s, antibiotic therapy and IVs. One such merging is happening in the Xinning, Amdo region of Tibet, where the Qinhai Tibetan Medical School connects with the Xinning Tibetan Medical Hospital.

The school includes a collaborative degree program of traditional and conventional medicine. At the hospital, traditional Tibetan doctors work with conventional Chinese doctors while innovating integrative treatments. There are several such schools and hospitals developing that integrate traditional and conventional ways.

Merging of Old and New

Scientific research efforts are also underway to use modern technological equipment for finding the active constituents of the plants that have been used for thousands of years by Tibetan healers. While traditional Tibetan healers use multiple plants in their remedies along with holistic methods, the research into active constituents may bring mutually beneficial “revolutionary drugs” and treatments.

Chinese authorities recognize such potential and are actively attempting to preserve ancient Tibetan medical knowledge. Employees of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine are working to translate Tibetan medical documents, and the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region dedicates at least 10 million yuan (~$1.5 million) per year developing traditional Tibetan medicine, which includes preserving twelfth-century documents.

Use of Tibetan Plants in Tibetan Medicine

Many of the herbs used by traditional Tibetan doctors are not found in other cultures’ medicines, and an estimated 70 percent of the botanicals used in Tibetan medicine are local to the Tibetan plateau area. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is known as “a gene bank for the world’s plateau plants.”

Many of these unique plants grow slow and don’t produce enough material to support a larger population’s medical needs. Therefore, an effort is underway to domesticate and cultivate wild botanicals unique to Tibetan land.

Tashi Tsering is the deputy chief of the Biological Research Institute of Tibetan Medicine (BRITM) at Men-Tsee-Khang in Lhasa, which is a hospital based in traditional Tibetan medicine that received quality-improvement funding of 256 million yuan (nearly $40 million) between 2014 and 2016 from the central government.

Cultivating Plants and National Success

BRITM has been working diligently to cultivate wild Tibetan herbs, which is no easy feat. Traditional Tibetan healers put extensive effort into learning what makes each plant medicinal, including many years of study and meticulous harvest and usage methods. These include efforts such as identifying which specific part of the plant to use and the correct weather for gathering.

Despite initially unsuccessful attempts at domesticating the Tibetan botanicals since 2011, Tsering and his team persevered and have since successfully cultivated at least 27 endangered medicinal plants.

The organization’s success is in part due to its careful efforts in mimicking the plants’ natural environment, including temperature, light, moisture and soil condition. BRITM continues to grow and improve its laboratory and technological equipment, aiding in the effort to cultivate valuable Tibetan plants.

While specific herbs are important in traditional Tibetan remedies, they are only part of the equation for health according to adherents of the ancient practice. Successes of Tibetan holistic methods have resulted in increased adoption of such ways.

Steps Towards Peace in Tibet

The president of Arura Hospital in Xining, Konchok Gyaltsen, explains that the combination of unique herbs and philosophy cause good health. For example, 94 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis at Arura Hospital are cured of the illness through medicated baths, psychology and dietary changes.

As several traditional Tibetan healers continue with medical neutrality working as doctors and researches, sharing ancient knowledge and leading schools and clinics, they rise beyond the desperate struggle in Tibet and help humanity overall. However, the self-sacrificing painful pleas for help from the Tibetan protestors against China are symptoms of major problems in the world.

The United States passed the bipartisan resolution 429 in March 2018, for “Commemorating the 59th anniversary of Tibet’s 1959 uprising as ‘Tibetan Rights Day,’ and expressing support for the human rights and religious freedom of the Tibetan people and the Tibetan Buddhist faith community.” The resolution also includes that “the Secretary of State should make best efforts to establish an office in Lhasa, Tibet, to monitor political, economic, and cultural developments in Tibet.”

With such support from the U.S., and collaboration between traditional Tibetan healers and conventional Chinese medical professionals, perhaps there is a way towards peace and respect in Tibet.

– Emme Leigh
Photo: Flickr

poverty in Tibet

Despite political tensions, Tibet has seen marked improvements in everyday life for its average citizens. The central government in Beijing and other nations may have ulterior motives behind their funding, but the result is the same: a more prosperous Tibet. Aid is flowing in from the Chinese government, the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) and Nepal, to name a few.

According to the regional authority, over the course of the past five years, over 530,000 people have escaped poverty in Tibet. It comes as no surprise that with a falling poverty rate, there is a rise in registered capital. Currently, the number stands at over $162 billion, a 39.4 percent increase from the previous year.

Tibetan Politics: A Delicate Situation

Tibet and China have been in a tense struggle over Tibet’s autonomy since the 1950s. Many Tibetans wish for independence, and in the past, the Chinese government has acted forcefully.

The most notable example of this is the situation with the current Dalai Lama who has been living in exile in India since the Tibetan Rebellion. Despite the Dalai Lama’s tension with Beijing, it seems even he believes that remaining with China is in Tibet’s best interest. Couple that with the many development projects China has enacted in Tibet, and it appears that their relationship is looking up.

China Tries to Tackle Poverty in Tibet

The government in Beijing gives the impression that its best path to quieting Tibetan independence talks is to tackle the region’s poverty problem. One such project that China has funded is in Amdo County, where once-nomadic herders who lived in adobe huts are now receiving homes paid for by the government with a market rate of approximately $47,000.

The Shopko family, one of the recipients of these homes, have gone on the record to express their heartfelt thanks for their new home. Their old hut sat at 16,000 feet with no heating or roads to connect them to the nearby villages.

To help with the move, the Chinese government is giving migrants jobs at local tourism centers, hotels and car washes. It follows up on this guarantee with monthly bonuses for locals who manage and protect the essential grasslands, as well as 5,000 yuan a year to residents who enroll in university.

While the Shopkos serve as an ideal for how the government attempts to tackle poverty in Tibet, the program has only reached 121 families so far, but in the previous five years, the government has spent more than $9 billion to try to alleviate poverty in Tibet. Seemingly, Beijing is looking for answers to its political issues.

Foreign Aid to Tibet

Foreign countries are investing in Tibet as well. The Nepalese government has been distancing itself from its neighbor, India, in favor of China. This political posturing could be for a host of reasons; however, the projects Nepal is planning in Tibet are apolitical for the Tibetan people.

Gobinda Karkee is a Nepalese diplomat who oversees development projects with China. The most famous of these is the Friendship Bridge, which was renovated in 2016. The plans are not all symbolic, though. By 2020, Nepal plans on finishing a rail network that will connect with Tibet and lessen its reliance on using Indian ports. The $226 million project is jointly funded by Nepal and China. Along this rail line will be multiple trading points and border checks. The two nations hope the plan will boost the local economy and help rebuild much of the infrastructure that was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake.

Poverty in Tibet has often gone unnoticed in the media because when the region is in the news, it is being celebrated for its rich culture and history. The UNDP sought to take advantage of this by building tourism infrastructure in rural areas, which in turn provides higher paying jobs for the impoverished people in the Tibetan Steppe.

Much like the Chinese government’s program, UNDP has put a heavy focus on preserving the local ecology and economy. The bulk of the project focuses on Old Lhasa City. The city is famous for its courtyards, which UNDP is mapping, landscaping and organizing the foundation of to make Lhasa a tourist destination. Old Lhasa has become an exemplary case of the economic and cultural benefits of the UNDP program.

Tibet rests in a political hotbed in South Asia, and the effects of the decisions made by its neighbors can have unintended consequences on the proud region. Throughout the religious and diplomatic dilemmas, poverty in Tibet has long been a debilitating issue. Thanks to organizations like the UNDP, this problem is now being dealt with and has already improved the lives of half a million people.

– David Jaques

Photo: Flickr

Facts about the Dalai Lama
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, writes in his book The Joy of Living and Dying in Peace, “the more we care for the welfare of the majority, the more we work for social welfare, the greater will be our own peace and happiness. Just as the citizens of a particular country have certain obligations as well as enjoy certain benefits, our obligation as followers of the Buddha and bodhisattvas is to benefit all sentient beings.” The Dalai Lama is a pivotal figure on the topic of spiritualism, politics and the oppressed people of the world. Learn more facts about the Dalai Lama.

Top 15 facts About the Dalai Lama

  1. The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was born on July 6, 1935, and was originally named Lhamo Dhondup. He was one of five children born to a peasant family in Taktser, a village northeast of Tibet.
  2. Gyatso grew up in Tibet’s ancient Potala Palace in Lhasa after being found at age two to be the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. In 1939, he took the throne in Potala, and two years later, at the age of six, he became a monk.
  3. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. Dalai Lamas are the reincarnations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who chose to reincarnate in order to serve people.
  4. Dalai Lama means Ocean of Wisdom. This was put to the test for Tenzin Gyatso, as in 1950, the Dalai Lama was asked to assume full political power as Head of the Tibetan Government while the country was being threatened by China.
  5. One of the more unique facts about the Dalai Lama is that he was forced into exile in 1959 following China’s military occupation of Tibet. His official residence was moved to Dharamsala in northern India. Dharamsala is now the seat of the Tibetan Government.
  6. In 1987, the Dalai Lama presented a five-point peace plan at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in Washington, D.C., as a first step toward resolving the future status of Tibet. This plan called to designate a Tibetan zone of peace, end the massive influx of Chinese into Tibet, restore fundamental human rights, end China’s dumping of nuclear waste in the country and urge negotiation on the relations between Tibetan and Chinese people.
  7. Of the 15 facts about the Dalai Lama, his dedication to preserving the lives of his people is perhaps the most recognized. On Dec. 11, 1989, the Dalai Lama gave his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize due to his ceaseless goodwill and desire for communication with China as opposed to conflict, as well as his humanitarian work.
  8. The institution of the Dalai Lama is relatively young. There have been thirteen previous Dalai Lamas, and the first two were given their titles posthumously. Buddhists believe the first reincarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion was Gedun Drub, who lived from 1391 to 1474.
  9. Following the death of a Dalai Lama, it has traditionally been the responsibility of the High Lamas and the Tibetan government to find the reincarnation. The search for the 14th Dalai Lama took four years.
  10. The current Dalai Lama is extremely interested in the sciences. He has a particular fondness for ecology and believes that working toward the preservation of the planet embodies the ideals of Buddha.
  11. The fourteenth Dalai Lama is unique in that he is the first Dalai Lama to have visited the U.S. and traveled the western world.
  12. He is also unique in that he has suggested the line of reincarnation may cease entirely. In 2015, he made comments to the New York Times to that effect, fearing that the Chinese government will use the issue of succession to split Tibetan Buddhism, with one successor named by the exiles and one by the Chinese government.
  13. China regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist. Chinese police in Tibet urge locals to report suspected supporters of the Dalai Lama and his “evil forces” in Tibet. China has become increasingly worried about how Tibet is portrayed throughout the world and are attempting to dissolve Tibetan culture. Tashi Wangchuk, an activist, could face 15 years in jail for promoting the use of the Tibetan language in schools.
  14. Mercedes-Benz issued an apology to Chinese consumers on Feb. 6, 2018 for an Instagram post showing one of its luxury cars along with a quote from the Dalai Lama. The quote: “Look at the situations from all angles, and you will become more open.” Instagram has been blocked in China since 2014.
  15. In 1995, the Dalai Lama named a boy in Tibet as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama is the second highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism. Upon learning this, China put the boy under house arrest and installed another in his place.

These 15 facts about the Dalai Lama showcase the plight of Tibet and the tenacious tenderness of its spiritual leader. Tenzin Gyatso is the only Dalai Lama to have been exiled from his own country. He is no longer allowed to freely visit his own place of birth. Even though the people of Tibet support him and would gladly start an uprising to take back their country, he has urged them not to in order to maintain peace and preserve the lives of his people. He holds true to his teachings of openness and communication, as well as his dedication as a follower of the Buddha to benefit all sentient beings.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

With the support of the Chinese government, progress continues to be made toward the alleviation of poverty in Tibet. Tibet has been controversially occupied by China since 1950, when the newly established communist regime launched an invasion of its sparsely populated neighbor with the goal of making it a permanent part of The People’s Republic of China. Today, international perspectives of China’s occupation of Tibet remain controversial, but many have become more receptive to China’s presence in the region due to Beijing’s insistence that the government has significantly reduced poverty in Tibet.

Part of China’s most recent Five Year Plan (2016-2020) are provisions to finish construction of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway, which will link the most remote and mountainous region of Tibet to the rest of the world. With an estimated cost of roughly $36 billion and a plan to build well over 1,000 miles of railway, this ambitious project will vastly improve economic access to the region, greatly .

Other provisions of the Five Year Plan include continued expansion of housing projects, which the central government reports have provided modern housing for over 236,000 Tibetans to date. Many of the people that benefit from this program were reportedly living without either running water or electricity previous to receiving government assistance. The Chinese government aims to eliminate these dire conditions by 2020.

Though many critics in the international political sphere have expressed concerns over the preservation of Tibetan culture while the region remains under Chinese control, the central government has sought to reassure the international community of its intentions to preserve Tibetan religious and historical sites. Western fascination with Tibetan Buddhism and history has caused an uptick in tourism in recent years, which has provided a boost to the Tibetan economy.

Many people continue to question the validity of the Chinese government’s statistics regarding poverty in Tibet. To this day, some see China’s occupation of Tibet as illegal, including exiled Tibetan political groups that advocate for its independence.

Though also living in exile in India, the foremost Tibetan religious leader, the Dalai Lama, has recently affirmed his pro-China stance, saying that Tibet’s inclusion in Chinese politics offers the invaluable opportunity for economic modernization and environmental protections. In a speech given at the Indian Chamber of Commerce in November 2017, the Dalai Lama urged the Chinese government to enhance its respect of Tibetan culture and heritage, but stressed that Tibet is not seeking independence from China. Rather, says the Dalai Lama, the development and alleviation of poverty in Tibet made possible by its dependence on the central Chinese government validates this arrangement.

– Savannah Bequeaith

Photo: Flickr

Education in TibetSince the seventeen-point agreement was signed for the incorporation of Tibet into the People’s Republic of China in 1951, achievements have taken place in Tibet over the past 65 years. The illiteracy rate in Tibet was reduced from a staggering 95 percent in the 1950s to 42 percent in 2000. This is according to the latest statistical data from the Department of Education in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The education of ethnic Tibetans is subsidized by the central government in People’s Republic of China. In the Tibet Autonomous Region, compulsory education in primary and secondary schools is executed in which the average educational period for individuals is 8.6 years, while preferential policies encourage young Tibetans to seek higher and more advanced education in and out of the autonomous region.

The distinguished achievements of education in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China comprises of several aspects. Kindergarten and preliminary schools are fast developing where the attendance of kids aged three to six had reached 52 percent until the end of 2013. Besides the great results from compulsory education in Tibet, education in high schools has been expanding and the scales of schools are continuously enlarging. The fast-development of high school education in Tibet is highly reliable on scientific planning, rational mapping, and have an active construction of education funds and reasonable allocations of teaching resources.

The autonomous regional government in Tibet also takes high concerns on sharing equal opportunities to children with disabilities, where schools with special support are given priority to these kids. In addition, the policy of covering all expenses on study and accommodations for children of herdsmen in Tibet are gradually improving while related treatments are continuously being enhanced since 1985.

However, despite the brilliant accomplishment of educational development in Tibet, due to various external difficulties and constraints, some apparent problems and barriers still exist and can be enumerated as follows:

First, the natural conditions in Tibet are harsh and this results in higher educational costs. Tibet is located in the roof of the world, with wide areas and sparse populations. It lacks oxygen in the plateau where the climate varies drastically with vast temperature differences between day and night. The construction and operational costs of schools are relatively high, as the budgets for schools in rural and pastoral areas are three to five times higher than the schools in the Mainland.

Second, the economic foundation and industrial development in Tibet are quite poor. Due to the smaller levels of revenue and resources, there is generally a gap in financial and social progress in Tibet. It is quite difficult for the majority of herdsmen in Tibet to increase their incomes. Hence, with respect to such kind of fiscal status, it would be difficult for Tibet itself to allocate sufficient funds to develop education.

In some areas of Tibet, the education concepts have placed constraints on the consolidation of development on compulsory education. There is also insufficient capacity of senior high school education which is becoming more and more prominent, and this will come back to have an impact on the future popularization, consolidation, and improvement of compulsory education in Tibet.

The third issue is related on the structural defects of training students in advanced education. It is rather hard to accumulate a large number of highly educated personnel in Tibet as for most areas, attracting and retaining talented professionals of all kinds are everlasting problems. This leads to an overall scarcity of high-end talents. Furthermore, the existing problems such as equality and quality of education, welfare towards poor families, and efficiency of education in Tibet also require intensive attention.

In early 2017, more than ten policy files were signed in Tibet on accelerating the reform and development of education in the Tibet autonomous region. These official documents clarified the tasks, policies and measures for the specific tasks on Tibet’s education progress in the 13th Five-Year Plan. Complementary education in addition to college enrolment will be prioritized for recorded poor families in Tibet. It is expected that penetration of bilingual education, as well as math and science curriculums with experimental classes will achieve 100 percent coverage in the compulsory teaching system. Technical schools in Tibet will also have to reach that goal. The five-year development plan aims to promote the healthy and rapid growth of education in Tibet.

Coming through the bottleneck and weaknesses of development, education in Tibet is improving in the current decade. Students of the next generation in Tibet are embracing a brand-new future.

– Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr