The voice of literature in culture
Like many other people Iâ€™m sure, one of my very favorite books of all time is J.D. Salingerâ€™s Catcher in the Rye. I consider it truly brilliant, and it has had a remarkable influence on me. When Salinger died in January of 2010, the tributes lauding his talent flooded the media. One phrase I recall reading by several different writers was that Salinger â€œdefined a generation.â€ (You could argue he defined two). Such praise is deservedly lofty and not handed out on a whim. But what does this have to do with Machikâ€™s Womenâ€™s Writing Program? A lot.
And hereâ€™s why: giving a voice through literature is â€“ and has been for a very long time â€“ an integral part of what we understand as â€œculture.â€ Deeper than that, the voice of literature within culture is inextricably conjoined with identity, whether it be on a wide or personal scale, which is precisely why we say of writers, â€˜he/she defined a generation.â€™ We say it because we identify with that particular literary voice; itâ€™s as if the voice is speaking for us. We perhaps take this truth for granted, but when you stop to consider it, you can truly appreciate how invaluable those voices are to us, how much they have shaped the narrative of not only our own lives but that of an entire country. This, then, is what Machikâ€™s Womenâ€™s Writing Program in Tibet is going some way to achieve for the culture and identity of Tibetans.
Two historic Tibetan publications
In 2004, under the auspices of Professor Palmo Tso, Machik sponsored the development of two historic publications: the first ever anthology of Tibetan women’s writing, and the first print newsmagazine on Tibetan women’s affairs, The Land of Snow Tibetan Women’s Journal. Yes, these are the first ever of their kind for womenâ€™s literature in Tibet. Just think of the myriad anthologies of British and American womenâ€™s literature in comparison. Then think how rich Tibetan language and culture is, and how powerful a component womenâ€™s voices must be (or should be) within that. And yet this surface has only just begun to be scratched.
Breaking the shackles of marginalization
Ultimately, though, beyond culture and identity, giving Tibetan women a recognized voice through literature is about empowerment; empowerment against gender inequality. Womenâ€™s literacy rate in Tibet, for example, is that of approximately one third compared to menâ€™s. And in a country where voices are largely marginalized, womenâ€™s especially, it becomes abundantly clear the scale of the struggle Tibetan women face. In the light of such facts, Machikâ€™s Womenâ€™s Writing Program, and the projects it has brought to fruition, become all the more extraordinary. Not only that, they become all the more critical. This is why we as the Intern Team here at Jolkona have chosen to support this project for theÂ 12 Days of Giving Campaign. Here’s our very bookish campaign video:
Give Tibetan Woman a voice
Weâ€™re asking for donations starting at $5 in order to support the publication of twelve stories or essays by Tibetan women in the tri-annual Snowland Tibetan Women’s Journal, which is produced both in print and digitally. $40 covers the publishing costs of one story or essay. By donating you contribute to the improvement of womenâ€™s literacy and education, whilst helping give Tibetan women a conduit to greater empowerment and gender equality. In this way, you assist in shaping the narrative of not only the personal lives of the Tibetan women, but also the very narrative of Tibet as a whole. That is no small privilege.
So if you care about gender equality, if you love to read, or if youâ€™ve ever read a book by a woman and enjoyed it, then giveÂ here via our campaign page.
Give Tibetan woman a voice – through literature.