In 2012 me Tsering Dolma and Mr Sonam Jorgyes, my husband, founded Ladakh Rural Women’s Enterprise to help empower Ladakhi women and preserve Ladakhi culture. We try to bring about a lifetimes change for the artisan working for us. As a child, I learnt a lot from my mother, to be a skilled artisan, and as an adult, I feel grateful to my mother for training me and guiding me. And to attain 20 years of professional experience with LEDeG (Ladakh Ecological Development Group). Mr Sonam Jorgyes, my husband, is a great supporter of my work and plays a key role in the success of our organisation. The inspiration to create women’s self-help groups in Ladakh came to me during a trip to Rajasthan (India) with LEDeG where I visited the Barefoot College and various others women’s handicrafts NGOs in villages around Udaipur. After that trip, I felt motivated and inspired to help the women in my area, by forming women’s groups for income generation and empowerment through LEDeG in locations across Ladakh.
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A Sit-down with Tsering Dolma
What was the main reason behind this startup enterprise ?
It was in the year 2010, when Ladakh faced a major crisis, caused by a natural disaster, an immediate flash flood, destroying many lives, and damaging the livelihood and property of the people living in the surrounding area. The area suffering the most due to existential calamity in Leh, was the Choglamsar area. The flood destroyed many homes leaving people homeless, convicting them to survive in tents provided by the government. At that time I Tesring Dolma, was working with an NGO, during which I visited that area and observed the living conditions of the people, and I couldn’t help myself but to do something to help these people out, and whilst stand up on their feet again. So I decided to gather all the women of that area and talk to them, somehow convince them to come out of their mourning and motivate them to enhance their conditions by making some products and then sell those products in the market. This way they could generate good amount of income and help their families out. Luckily, the idea was liked by many women, they showed interest in moving forward with me. So I decided to train these women first in order to accomplish our goal. The plan came to action in 2012, when we finally formed our group after many circumstantial issues, but still we faced some major set backs causing hinderance in our plan. One of the problem being money, as at that time, I didn’t have enough money to help those women out, to buy resources and raw materials to make the products. It was then, my husbands friend suggested me, royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and by gods grace they were ready to provide me with some funds. After getting the funds from RBS I then, started looking for a shop to rent where we could sell our products, we found one but not being in a prime location, the sales of ours products suffered. So I went ahead, and requested the government for a shop in a competent location and it took me some time to get a place, but eventually we got one, which corresponded to my needs. Though the shop is a tiny one but the location is prime. In the beginning it was difficult slowly and gradually everything is improving, with a better sales report every year.
When did you start this campaign?
I started this campaign in the year 2012.
What inspired you to work on this campaign?
Earlier I was working in a group called Ladakh ecological development an NGO. For 20 years but there I could not do what I actually aimed to achieve, which was to do something better and bigger to contribute to the society, soon my wish was granted when I got a chance to help out these women in the troubled areas of Ladakh and thought of starting my own project where I could help the women generate some income.
What were the hardships faced by you during the beginning of your project?
In the beginning it was little difficult to explain the women about self-sustainability as most of the were dependent on their husbands. It was then I explained them fact, about the benefits and satisfaction of having your own income. Actual bliss and encouragement it will give them to move forward and endless support they could give their husbands. Technically all those women did not have any agricultural or work exposure like many other Ladakhi women so it was a very innovative and helpful way for these women, to be productive and to keep themselves occupied.
Where there any difficulties faced due to family support?
No, not really, in Ladakh, there are not many restrictions on women like the rest of India. Here women enjoy equal rights in the household. In our group, many women want their singlehood. Other’s husbands are very supportive and encouraging, giving them proper backbone to move ahead and uplift themselves. Sometimes the women from the group itself, buy products for their families which makes them immensely happy.
What’s the estimate of the total number of women working for you?
The total number of women working earlier were more. The women are divided into two groups. One group which has around 20-30 women is in Domkhar village of Ladakh who is involved in making pashmina products and in Choglamsar I have about 20-30 women working with there.
Do the women feel uplifted in society through this enterprise?
Yes, the women feel very satisfied and uplifted working with me together as a team. Sometimes, around the year, there are international tourist travelling and visiting our workshop where they interact with the women and appreciate their work which encourages them to work more efficiently and adequately. Those tourists often give them bonus after seeing their dedication and hard work.
What attracted you to work with Giri?
The unique and a wonderful outlook of the foundation, to work and hope for a better society and to provide all their producers with a better and a capable platform to present themselves to grow themselves which I did not perceive well in the local markets of Ladakh. And I couldn’t be more grateful to receive such a huge foundation for my producers who deserve every penny of their product and to be known for their beautiful yet authentic products.
The Tata Institute has also supported and helped us a lot to advance further into our dreams and goals. They took the women on manifestation visits to places like Bombay, Rajasthan etc. Some of the women had never got to experience a plane or train ride but the Tata Institute made it possible for them.
Around the year we come across many tourists, but one such time I came across a foreigner who guided me towards the digital world of today's century, who helped us to sustain our business and to be known by many customers across the globe. She envisioned the idea of a website for our business, through it aiming to have a global outreach, which till date, turned out to be a successful scheme and we couldn’t be more thankful to her.