A primary goal of the Tibetan Nuns Project is to help the nuns achieve self-sufficiency through education, skill building, and income-generating projects.
As each year goes by, the nuns at the seven nunneries we support take on increasing responsibility for managing their own institutions. At Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, for instance, a committee of eight nuns was formed to take care of the internal concerns of the nunnery. As the nuns take active roles running the nunnery, they are gaining confidence and skills. The nuns run a small “tuck” shop and a guesthouse, manage the pumps that send water throughout the complex, work on construction projects, tend to the cows, manage the garden and have a thriving handicrafts program. Several nuns have had training in digital technology, including computers, cameras and video production. It’s because of the skills they have gained that they are now able to work in an office environment, greet guests, give tours of the nunnery, make videos and edit and produce both an internal and external newsletter.
The Tibetan Nuns Project believes that education is the key to empowerment, and we seek to give nuns the resources to carve out independent, creative identities for themselves. Through its all its work, the Tibetan Nuns Project is strengthening Tibetan culture – under great threat due to the occupation of Tibet – through empowering women. These women, previously denied equal access to education and the opportunity in Tibet to freely and safely practice their faith, are both an integral part of the spiritual roots of the society and are teachers and leaders of the future.
Since the Tibetan Nuns Project was founded in 1987, many nuns have been educated and have assumed leadership roles in their community, such as teachers in Tibetan schools, instructors for other nuns, health care providers and other roles serving the Tibetan exile community.
To empower nuns to teach Buddhist philosophy in nunneries and schools, the nuns must achieve equal academic standing with the monks, proving their qualifications by earning the highest degrees. For monks, depending on their tradition, these degrees are called the Geshe or Khenpo degrees; for nuns, the equivalents will be the Geshema or Khenmo degrees.
Nuns are beginning to graduate from the 17-year program of philosophical studies required for a Geshema degree and the 12-year program for a Khenmo degree. In 2016, after a rigorous four-year examination process, the first batch of Tibetan Geshemas will receive this highest degree, equivalent to a PhD in Tibetan Buddhism.
Income Generation and Self-Sufficiency
The range of projects varies for each nunnery of the 7 nunneries that we support. Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute, home to over 230 nuns, has the widest scope of projects.
Here are some of the self-sufficiency and income-generating projects that the Tibetan Nuns Project has helped to start and grow:
- handicrafts made by the nuns including prayer flags, malas (prayer beads), shopping bags, kataks (prayer scarves), Tibetan door hangings, cell phone holders, monk and nun dolls and so on. These products are available for sale at Dolma Ling Nunnery and internationally through our online store at http://tnp.org/products/collection/catalog/
- our annual Tibetan Nuns Project calendar using photos taken by the nuns
- the tofu kitchen where the nuns make tofu for use both within Dolma Ling nunnery and for sale to local businesses
- the nuns “tuck” shop selling basic supplies to nuns and visitors
- a guesthouse at Dolma Ling Nunnery
- the nuns’ café at Dolma Ling which is being expanded
- cows for milk
- pujas – Note that through our online shop you can request that the nuns say prayers or perform special pujas for you or for someone dear to you who may need spiritual help. See http://tnp.org/products/pujas/
- small food gardens and greenhouses at different nunneries
If you would like to learn more about how the nuns are moving towards greater self-sufficiency, or if you would like to help fund these efforts, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org