Tuesday, June 30, 2009



WAL Handicrafts Shop
The WAL’s Handicrafts shop was set up in 2001 with two main objectives. To empower women by providing an opportunity for them to earn an income through the sale of their handicrafts and to preserve traditional handicraft skills that would otherwise be lost in the face of imported substitutes. This in turn boosts the rural economy and prevents people from migrating to towns for work.

As local skills are recognised, the WAL handicrafts shop has an ever increasing range of merchandise including traditional clothes, pottery, woollen textiles, Pabu (shoes) and apricot jam.

An example of the role the handicraft shop plays is through the preservation of Pabu or Ladakhi shoe making. These shoes traditionally made for home use only and were rapidly being replaced by modern varieties however the possibility of selling them to tourists is reviving this skill and helping Ladakhis realise their value.

Local Food Café
The local food café was set up in 2006 with the idea of promoting local agricultural and culinary culture of Ladakh. Open from 11:00 to 16:30 in the summer period, the Local Food Café offers traditional Ladakhi dishes such as Thukpa (vegetable soup). Mok-Mok, Chutagi and local bread (khambir) with apricot jams or curd. International volunteers can also be found assisting kitchen staff.

Handicrafts Skills workshops
WAL promotes the development of traditional handicrafts to maintain these valuable skills and cultural assets and to bolster local economies. Providing village based self employment opportunities for women, enables them to remain in their homes during the cold winter months when agriculture related work slows.

WAL provides many handicraft workshops from which the attendees can bring their goods to the handicraft shop at the WAL centre in Leh.

Workshops include:
- Weaving
- Natural Dye
- Knitting
- Tailoring

Summer Exhibition of traditional local knowledge and skills
WAL sponsors and organises the annual summer exhibition to provide women the opportunity to demonstrate traditional skills, practises and goods to Ladakhis and visitors. At the exhibition women from fourteen villages present workshops on a variety of topics, including mud pot making, weaving, local foods, churning milk, local plants and traditional dress. There is also a presentation of traditional singing and dancing.

Saving Traditional Skills from extinction
The Women’s Alliance continues to endeavour to maintain the traditional Ladakhi skills amongst women in rural areas. Certain skills such as metal work, Pabu (local shoes) and pottery are in danger of extinction. For instance, the village of Chilling was well known for its metal work and produced items such as kettle tea-pots, spoons and decorated pots. With the younger generation choosing cash-based jobs, there is only one man left who has the knowledge and skill to do this. In the case of pottery in the village of Likir, there are only two.

Special efforts are being made to transmit these skills to the younger generation before they are lost all together. Women of Likir are already being taught the art of pottery and there are plans to train other women in metal work and making Pabus (local shoes) in several villages in the region of Nubra Valley.

Medical Camps
With the collaboration of the Amchi Sban (Traditional Ladakhi Medicine Union) medical camps are set up in May/June in different villages including Igo and Sakti. During these camps villagers can get free check-ups and medicines. The objective of these camps is to provide health care to the villages and to ensure the maintenance and survival of traditional forms of medicine.

Village Meetings
WAL arranges on site village meetings for women to share information and ideas and offer mutual support. WAL working committee members organise and attend meetings, raising awareness about the impacts of globalisation on the economy. WAL members encourage the restoration of co-operative and self-sustaining agricultural systems and the preservation of traditional culture.

Meeting topics include:
- Women’s skill-building
- Educating children about traditional skills
- Traditional and local foods
- Encouraging cultivation of diverse local vegetables
- Encouraging less packages foods and packaging
- Discouraging use of PVC pipes for tea preparation
- Discouraging purchase and burning of plastic products and packaging
- Discouraging disposal of batteries and electronic devices in canals which carry drinking water and irrigation
- Discouraging use of asbestos for cookware
- Discouraging use of pesticides and chemical fertilizer
- Encouraging self respect and pride in traditional skills and culture

Other campaigns include programs for World Environment, International Women’s and Clean Up days.

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