The Women’s Alliance of Ladakh (WAL) is an NGO formed in 1991 by Helena Norberg-Hodge. After spending many years in Ladakh Helena witnessed the impact tourism, modernisation and society consumerist pressures was having on the Ladakhi culture. As such WAL was formed to empower local women and communities, to preserve traditional skills and to promote Ladakhi culture.
Today WAL has over five thousand members and covers the regions of Leh, Nubra, Sham, Changthang and Zanskar in Ladakh, India. A part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh is located in the North Indian Himalayas where the capital Leh is at an altitude of 3650m.
Traditionally a self sufficient society, Ladakis (until recent years) produced all their essential needs. Homes were made from stones and mud, herds of hardy mountain livestock were kept and local varieties of vegetables and grains were grown. Water from mountain streams was channelled in an elaborate network of shared channels and the animals provided meat, milk, butter, cheese, draft labour, transport, wool & fuel. Nothing was wasted and all was reused including human waste that was mixed with ash and earth and used in the gardens.
Often referred to as Little Tibet, Ladakh is a Buddhist culture and follows a set of teachings that encourages respect for the earth and its inhabitants. The challenge that faces Ladakh today is finding a balance of traditional practises amongst the change and progress of an increasingly modern society.