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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Becoming a Bald Tibetan Lay Woman

June 20, 2008

By Tenzin Dawoe Tsewang
June 19, 2008

Sitting on a cold steel chair, I gazed at the faces of people
gathered and felt a wave of sadness in my heart. One by one, those of
us who had volunteered to shave our heads in solidarity for the
Tibetans inside Tibet were called in front. "Father and daughter,"
was announced. I stood up and approached the front of the line. As I
looked to my left, I saw the small figure of my role model—my father
whose morale and public service I deeply admire. Wrapped in a white
banner with slogans printed in black and red ink, my head dropped in
sorrow. I closed my eyes and mourned. Chunks of my soft black hair
fell to the concrete floor. Rivers of painful warm tears ran
uncontrollably down my cheeks. As I sat there, haunting images of
protestors brutally suppressed by the Chinese authorities in Ngaba
County flashed in front of my eyes. In those few minutes with the
electronic razor, something in me transformed. I became a different person.

It was unexpected that my one gesture, captured in local newspapers
the next day, would touch hearts of people beyond my circle of
friends and family. I think what they saw in me was "sem-shuk" or
passion—something that I did not think I possessed until that April
morning. Through this experience, I realized that each one of us has
the potential to impact change whether it be hanging a banner from
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco or holding a candle light vigil
in the city of Santa Fe. However big or small the action, they help
to remind us that human suffering is universal and it is in our hands
to speak up and stand up to injustice -- anywhere for that matter.

Even though many Tibetans of my generation living in-exile have never
set foot in Tibet, our struggle for freedom and self-determination
burns deep within us. As a 23 year old Tibetan woman born and raised
in a refugee settlement in South India and later relocated under the
vast turquoise sky of New Mexico, I still feel the pain of Tibet. My
grandparents whom I have never met are few of the many thousands of
unfortunate victims of colonization of their native land.

A Tibetan woman's hair can be her pride and revered as a sign of
beauty. My baldness portrays the barrenness that we Tibetans have
felt for years, void of freedom and liberty, the greatest symbols of
beauty there is in the world. It was only in the spontaneous
uprisings starting in March of this year by the Tibetan people across
Tibet that the global community bore witness to the suppression of
Tibetans who demanded nothing short of basic human rights and
self-determination. These widespread protests by monks, nuns,
laypeople, and students inside Tibet galvanized acts of solidarity by
individuals and communities around the world; it illuminated the
message from Tibetans inside Tibet that they will not remain silent
and that the exploitation of their culture, religion and language
will not be tolerated any longer.

Being a bald Tibetan laywoman I felt vulnerable, different and
constantly stared at but I gradually learned to transform such
thoughts into something positive which deeply empowered me. I learned
to look beyond the mundane comforts of life and to truly use my time
wisely and carefully. I realized how important it is to educate
oneself on the issue and to not only have a passion but also to use
it effectively. Although acts like mine may seem minuscule on an
individual scale, it is my hope that actions big and small together
speak for people's desire for an end to man-made human tragedies.

The anguish and struggle of Tibetans inside Tibet are rightfully our
struggle for humanity. Even though our world is divided by various
boundaries of geography, economy, culture and language, when it comes
to the issue of human rights and human value, we ought to be on the
same platform. Everyone in the world should be able to live in their
country without fear of arbitrary arrest or torture. Each one of us
matter- what we believe in, what we stand for, and most importantly
how we act. Each time I stare in the mirror I am reminded of the
courage of those who chose to take a stance for justice despite the
inconceivable consequences. My hair is but a small offering for this
timeless cause.
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