Traditionally we raised our children according to the teachings of the Buddha. Now, with development, everyone sends their children to school. Now they all think, ‘I want to be a doctor, I want to be an engineer.’ The traditional ways of kindness, compassion, and helping one another are slowly dying out. – Dolma Tsering
Dolma Tsering is a leader in the the Women’s Alliance of Ladakh, an NGO with the twin goals of raising the status of rural women and strengthening local culture and agriculture. Since its inception in 1991 the WAL membership has swelled to over 5000 women belonging to over 100 villages from all areas of Ladakh.
According to the Women’s Alliance, “Recent economic changes have had a profoundly marginalizing effect on the position of women in Ladakh. As men and young people flock to the city in search of jobs and schooling, women are being left on their own to tend their farms. As a result their decision-making power has decreased while their workload has increased.”
The aims and objectives of the WAL include:
– To maintain respect for the ethical and spiritual values on which Ladakhi culture is based.
– To promote development in harmony with the above values benefiting the entire community without harming nature or 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 counter 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 hybridized seeds.
–To maintain respect for local knowledge, crafts, and practical skills.
– To affirm and support extended families and strong communities.
In 1999 Dolma Tsering and another WAL member, Tsewang Dolma, traveled to London to participate in the documentary film “Paradise with Side Effects.” On this journey they witnessed firsthand both the upside and downside of modernity – the fabulous wealth and convenience, but also the isolation, stress, environmental destruction, homelessness. Perhaps most striking to Tsering was modern society’s treatment of the elderly. After a visit to a nursing home, she commented, “How could people do that to their own mothers?” Tsering now travels to Ladakhi villages and conducts meetings to share these experiences and to help strengthen Ladakhi women’s self-respect and pride in their own culture.