Women delegates protesting at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conference

SECTION V B. TWD Involvement at the Official UN Conference

The TWD participated in several of the caucus groups, assigning 
representatives to those addressing issues important to Tibetan 
women. Specifically, the TWD attended the following caucuses: 
human rights, environment, indigenous women, refugee women and 
women in poverty. The TWD sent delegates to additional special 
meetings convened to discuss the upcoming UN Habitat II Conference,
World Bank policies and other issues.  

Equipo (Spanish for "team") meetings were set up to coordinate 
the separate NGO caucuses. Caucus members elected a representative
to inform other delegates of developments regarding the PFA and
lead discussion of strategies for the coming day. TWD delegates
attended Equipo meetings which were held at 8:00 a.m. each morning
at the Beijing International Convention Centre (BICC). These meetings
were quite well attended, often by over 400 women. On September 11,
a TWD member spoke at the Equipo meeting, addressing delegates 
about religious freedom in Tibet and the policy of non-violence as a 
means of conflict resolution. She was awarded a standing ovation and 
her speech was filmed by a Belgian television company, which wanted
to broadcast it by satellite across Europe.  

This speech to hundreds of delegates from around the world preceded
a hastily arranged press conference.Because NGOs were not permitted 
to host press conferences at the BICC, the Danish government delegation
 invited the TWD to attend the press conference at the Danish Embassy
in Beijing, where security could be ensured. However, at the last 
minute and without warning or explanation, the venue was switched
to the Sheraton Great Wall Hotel.Nevertheless many press representatives 
attended, as well as representatives from the governments of Iceland, 
Denmark, Sweden, Canada and Norway. Four members of the TWD 
attended and spoke about their experiences in China. The Danish 
delegation took it upon themselves to read a statement by the Kashag, 
the Cabinet of the Tibetan Government-in-exile. The press conference
came to an abrupt end after Chinese security officials, who had not been 
allowed into the press conference, began to bang loudly and persistently 
on the door, in protest at the Tibetan attendance. This disturbance 
escalated and the Tibetans had to leave the building quickly, escorted 
under protection of government delegates directly to taxis which were
waiting outside. 

By September 11, the majority of TWD members had left China for 
home, leaving only three delegates to maintain the momentum achieved
during the past active days. Nevertheless, those three continued
to meet daily with government delegations including those of the United 
States, Canada and Britain. Informal meetings were also held with
government delegates from Ireland, Gambia, Iran, El Salvador, 
Mexico and Egypt.  

The TWD participated in the "Women in White" demonstration agains
 poverty and the demonstration against nuclear armament which was
sponsored by a coalition of organisations from Latin America, North
America and Asia. Additionally, the TWD signed a joint declaration
on the rights of refugee women which was circulated to all government 
delegates. The TWD distributed its petition, directed to the Special 
Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (see Appendix V), among the
caucus groups and the many NGOs from different countries.    

The TWD's official request to address the plenary session of the 
official conference (a privilege given to selected NGOs each day) was
denied. Therefore, the delegation decided to circulate the text of 
the Dalai Lama's speech presented at the Vienna Human Rights Conference.
It was placed on delegates' desks, distributed to press representatives
and left in the NGO lounge.  

On the final evening session, in which the final wording of the PFA
was determined, the conference plenary continued until 5:00 a.m. 
the following morning. The conference hall was so full that many NGO 
representatives were sitting and lying on the floor, lining the walls
all the way to front of the hall. It was perhaps the only time in which
all NGO and government delegates were together in one room, sitting 
side-by-side. During this session the Contact Group on Foreign 
Occupation reported its decision to allow foreign occupation language 
in several paragraphs, a thrilling moment for the TWD.  This final 
session was a moving one for everyone involved. Differences dissolved
as individuals exchanged addresses and applauded each others' efforts.  
Euphoria filled the room in the heart of Beijing, as cultural 
differences dissolved and women celebrated their achievements.  

On the final day of the conference, the TWD planned to give a special
thank you to media representatives who had been so supportive throughout
both the NGO Forum and UN Conference. The TWD prepared "thank you" 
posters and hung them in strategic locations. As soon as they put up
the posters, the Chinese security tore them down, a scenario which 
happened repeatedly. However, some media representatives saw this 
comic routine and passed on the word that the TWD was trying to 
thank media. Several representatives of the world's press came to 
express their appreciation of this gesture.  

Throughout the official UN Conference, communication was maintained 
with the outside world through e-mail. However, facilities in Beijing were
 surprisingly much less functional than they had been at the NGO Forum,
with large line-ups and limited time access. This necessitated 
increased use of long-distance phone, which was an added expense 
for shrinking resources.

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© Copyright Tibetan Women's Delegation, April 1996.