|Although the number
of shops on the street is less than 10, and the street itself is less than
100 meters long, a sense of fashion abounds here in Lhasa, the capital of
the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The street, known locally as "women's street," has become an
attraction for Tibetan women, some of whom have become followers of fashion.
Cosmetics stores, beauty parlors and fashionable dress shops are springing
up in the city, and big department stores and supermarkets in Lhasa showcase
women's fashions and cosmetics in their most eye-catching locations.
"What retailers and shops have done proves that a 'women's economy'
is booming," said Ceyang, a female professor with the Tibet University
and an expert on women's issues in Tibet.
Statistics show that in recent years a Tibetan woman in urban areas spends
on average 800 yuan or more each year on cosmetics, approximately half
the monthly salary for a government worker in Lhasa.
Ceyang said Tibetan women are becoming more economically independent
than ever before. Over the past five decades, the government has made
"painstaking efforts" to upgrade women's living conditions and
increase their work opportunities.
More education means more jobs for Tibetan women. The government made
special efforts to raise women's education and economic status. In schools,
43 percent of students are girls and the illiteracy rate among women has
fallen dramatically since 1995.
Statistics released in March by the government of the Tibet Autonomous
Region show that eight percent of all the leaders of the regional government
are women, and approximately 30 percent ofgovernment officials at all
levels are women.
A government report on Tibetan women's issues showed that over the past
five-year period, more than 110,000 Tibetan women have learnt work skills,
and professional women now account for 43 percent of the region's total.
A "working class" of Tibetan women is growing, with stronger
purchasing power to buy clothes and cosmetics to look as modern and fashionable
as people outside the region, said Ceyang.
In old Tibet, both women and men wore long hair braided into a big pigtail
and wrapped on top of the head. They never cut their hair from the time
they were born.
But with much easier access to modern society, shorter hair hascome into
vogue in Tibet. An increasing number of young men and women often dye
their hair and follow the fashions of pop film stars and singers.
"I deeply admire and envy today's girls wearing bobbed hair, which
looks neat and tidy and is very easy to look after," said Zhaxi Zholma,
a 65-year-old lady.
More than 500 beauty parlors line the streets of Lhasa. A young Tibetan
woman said she was particular about her hair fashion and had spent approximately
1,000 yuan (some 120 US dollars) on her hair every year.
Benba, a noted research fellow at the Tibet Regional Academy ofSocial
Sciences, said Tibetan women's spending on hairstyle was indicative of
social change and a rise in income.
"It's a sign that Tibet is on the way to becoming a civilized modern
According to Prof. Ceyang, a prosperous "women's economy" is
evidence of social progress in Tibet. She said Tibetan women used to live
at the bottom of society, and were suppressed by discriminating customs
and traditional prejudice. Now Tibetan women not only enjoy equal rights
as men, but have also become a pillar force in social and economic development,