Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Be Involved

The Women's Alliance of Ladakh is in the process of building a new training centre in Leh. This centre will be used for training in Ama-les traditional skills and income generation activities.

WAL is also seeking funding to purchase a vehicle for travelling and transportation as this is highly expensive for us.

Donate to help continue our work in person at the WAL centre or to the following account:

Account # 10942146412
State Bank of India
Branch- Leh, Ladakh

When in Leh:
· View the documentary ‘Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh’ screened daily (except Sundays) at Women's Alliance of Ladakh, Sankar Road Chubi, Leh at 3pm during the summer season. A selection of other documentaries are also screened at 11am.
· Volunteer during the summer season in the Local Food Café or for WAL’s other projects.
· Respect local culture
· Say no to plastics! Plastic bags are banned in Leh.
· Save water
· Conserve energy
· Limit vehicle use to reduce pollution
· Support the local economy when you shop and eat
· Spread the word!

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.



• To maintain respect for the ethical and spiritual values on which Ladahki culture is based.

• To promote development in harmony with the above values benefiting the entire community without harming the nature of future generations.

• To encourage a respect for Ladakhi culture and to counter the embarrassment that many young people feel about Ladakhi food, dress, language, song and dance.

• To highlight the importance of agriculture for the Ladakhi economy and to encounter the
notion that farming is an inferior occupation. Also to protect indigenous knowledge and seeds and warn against the dangers of cash cropping, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and hybridised seeds.

• To maintain respect for local knowledge, crafts and practical skills.

• To affirm and support extended families and strong communities (res. Bes. Phaspun).


• Annual festivals and skills workshops celebrating local knowledge including traditional spinning, weaving and dyeing and the preparation of indigenous food.

• Informing women on the importance of seed saving as a means of promoting the cultivation and protection of local varieties of grains and vegetables.

• Regular clean-up campaign aimed at encouraging community responsibility for the environment. (In 1998 WAL succeeded in banning the use of plastic bags).

• Networking with farmers groups elsewhere in the South.

• Tours for Ladakhi farmer’s representatives to visit sustainable farms in the West.

• Assisting Ladakhi people in need of financial assistance who are in critical situations.

• An on-going campaign about the hazards of pesticides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers.

• A wide range of meetings, from hands-on village workshops to seminars and conferences.

• A handicraft shop to promote the products made by farming women thereby supporting the self-reliant local economy and preventing urbanisation.

• Regular handicraft courses for rural women in skills such as weaving, natural dyeing, knitting and tailoring as a means of providing cash income while remaining as farmers on the land.

WAL’s initiatives have had positive impacts in various sectors of Ladakh society. Our efforts have helped fuel a growing dialogue among members of the community about appropriate paths towards the future. We continue to emphasise the centrality of women and agriculture in Ladakh’s future.


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.