In old days, the slavery system that had lasted for more than 1,000 years since the Tubo Kingdom period divided people into nine classes of three ranks. Classified into the bottom rank of the system, women were forbidden to participate in military and political affairs and had no chance of work out of family. Over 95 percent of Tibetan women were illiterate. Some even couldn't tell their correct age. Furthermore, the feudal marriage conventions caused numerous tragedies to women. Under the feudal serfdom, women were speaking tools and marriage meant one more serf of the serf-owner to whom her husband belonged to.
Over the past 40-odd years since the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region, the broad masses of Tibetan women have received training and mastered one to three skills. Over 5,000 literacy classes have been set up in farming and pastoral areas, helping tens of thousands of women learn to read and write. The special handcrafts and aprons with Tibetan ethnic features, made by Tibetan women, are exported to many countries including the United States, Canada and Finland.
Today, women in Tibet, like women in other parts of China, enjoy the same democratic rights with men. These rights include political right, the right to cultural education, the right to work, the right to own wealth, personal right, and the rights in marriage and family. Of the government workers in the autonomous region, those of the Tibetan and other minority ethnic groups make up 74.9 percent and upwards of 30 percent are women. There are Tibetans serving as top leaders in the people's congresses and governments at various levels, and local committees of the CPPCC, there are also Tibetans working as leaders in the State government institutions and the Central Government organs. Of the leaders at the regional and local levels, Tibetan and other minority ethnic groups make up 70 percent; of the scientists and technical personnel in the region, those of the Tibetan and other ethnic groups make up more than 60 percent.
With the improvement of their status in political and economic lives, women in Tibet enjoy equal status in families. Free marriage and the monogamy system have gradually become the common pursuit of them. Women have grown to be an indispensable force in the construction of Tibet.