• Annamari Nahide Ali
Tibet was annexed to the People's Republic of China in 1959. This caused the exile of the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans. The majority of these refugees settled in India, where the Tibetan government-in-exile was established too, but an estimated 20 000 Tibetans stayed in Nepal. They are not recognized as refugees by the government of Nepal and they do not have passports, neither Nepali nor Chinese. These exiled Tibetans have become stateless, formally non-existent, lacking any legal identity documentation. They are stuck living in the Tibetan refugee camps in Nepal with increasing police interventions stopping any “anti-China activities” and with very limited possibilities to improve their situation.
This paper examines the effects of statelessness on Tibetan refugee women residing in Nepal. This is done primarily through interviews and participant observation in the Tashi Palkhel refugee camp, in the city of Pokhara. The empirical data is analysed in the light of the conceptual pair of vulnerability and resilience. The vulnerabilities of these women are identified with the help of Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen's capabilities approach, which determines what is required for a good life. After finding out what is missing from the lives of these stateless women from being considered of good quality, their reactions to those vulnerabilities are analysed. The aim of this study is to unfold the strategies of increasing resilience that Tibetan refugee women in Nepal have developed.
The biggest vulnerabilities of these women all derive from statelessness. These have to do with restricted mobility; lack of income, employment and property rights; prohibition to participate in politics and assemble; limited access to education; and banishment from Tibet. Since eliminating the source of these vulnerabilities – statelessness – is practically impossible, the strategies of increasing resilience that the women have developed are ways of learning to live as good a life as possible with the vulnerabilities, or despite them. This paper contributes both to understanding the living conditions of Tibetan refugee women in Nepal and to the development of a theoretical tool for social scientific research of vulnerability and resilience.
Publication dateMay 2016
ID: 234138744