The enormous motivation and the purposefulness of the women of Yulchung village have been the success factors for the successful sale of felt flowers and cushions in the summer season of 2016. In June 2016, I spent three intense weeks in Ladakh. The focus of my trip was placed on their handicrafts and networking.
Felting and knitting
Wet felting cannot be done at temperatures below zero. In the winter time, the women have knitted woollen socks on their own initiative. The socks, which are decorated with traditional patterns, can be used to make ingenious hut slippers. In the springtime, the motivated and creative villagers created individual felt flowers and cushions.
The manager on site, Lobzang Rinchen organised a meeting with the chairperson of the village council, Sonam Dorje, in Leh. Sonam is an important government official in the area and is responsible for the development of infrastructure, health services and education. He supports the project with valuable tips. Sonam called for a parish assembly in Yulchung which was then organised by the village people.
During a meeting with the ”Women’s alliance of Ladakh” (WAL), important organizational information was exchanged. The development of the infrastructure in the Singe La area with its new road allows the surrounding villages to become members of the WAL Women’s Alliance too.
Twelve women between 24 and 65 years of age and sixteen children participated last winter in our schooling efforts. The children enhanced that which they had learned in the summer. For the adults, emphasis is placed on learning the Tibetan script and the Roman alphabet.
Learning goals for the coming winter
As a result of the development of the area, more and more plastic wastes find their way into the village. For this problem there is still no solution available. The plastic is often burned in stoves. This fact has led to the teacher Stanzin Mingyur’s wish to be able to give the topic of environmental protection more attention next winter. The learning aims are aimed to awaken interest and responsibility in the environmental area and provide competence for shaping the future.
Arrival in the village
After the village women greeted me with a ceremonial and cordial reception, a meeting was held. The women showed me all the things they had made out of felt. With great pride they reported on successful learning efforts at the school and recited the alphabet and numbers in English. The women had implemented their own ideas and found possibilities for carrying out further work which they want to do in winter.
During our conversations, I noted that twelve of the women would like to increase their know-how in the area of felting. In order that their work in the fields was not neglected, they divided themselves into two groups. For five days they were busy felting from eleven o’clock in the morning until four o’clock in the afternoon.
Village council assembly
On the last day before my departure, a village council assembly was held in Yulchung. The responsible village president and representative of the Singe La area, Sonam Dorje, the local project manager Lobzang Rinchen, the Women’s Cooperative and the men of the village who were present took part in the council assembly.
Basic needs were addressed during the council assembly as were questions on how donations could be used. The basic question was how to clarify what is important for the women and the village and what should be done next.
The women expressed three wishes: A room in which they can create their products in summer and winter without being disturbed, a little more basic equipment and a teacher for summer teaching.
An unused house with two rooms can be made available immediately. The space at the back of the building, however, has been filled up by continuous land erosion. When snow falls, water accumulates in the walls and mold has grown in the rooms. It was decided to free the back wall from rubble next year and install drainage.
As far as furnishings are concerned, the women would like a table, thick cushions for seating and a kitchen set, consisting of a cooking stove and dishes.