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Sunshine women in snowbound Ladakh

Leh, Sat, 03 Mar 2012 ANI

Leh, Mar 3 (ANI): The findings of the report of the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs that India is not a safe place for a girl child created ripples across the country, and shocked many Indians, but not in Ladakh.


Ladakh is one such pocket that defies this claim and breaks the pattern of shameful inequality. Practices like female infanticide and other atrocities on women makes for frequent news reporting in our metropolitican cities, but in Ladakh, everything seems to be contrary to these grisly reports.


The status of a woman in Ladakh is akin to a colourful streak enhancing the otherwise bland milieu of the region.


The first thing that greets you in the high altitude region of Ladakh is the wide and candid smiles of the Ladakhi women. Self -confidence, dignity and strength of character reflect through their charismatic faces and point to the strong cultural position they enjoy in their community. They walk around carefree, interacting with men in an uninhibited manner; even if the younger lot is a tad shy.


Traditionally, the focus of the economy in Ladakh was the household - the informal sector, which was headed by women. It played a much larger role than the formal sector, giving women a respected status in the entire region. Women were never forced to opt between being with their children and participating in social and economic activities. All important decisions were taken at household level.


Helena Norberg-Hodge, the acclaimed writer, in her paper, "Catalysing Change in Ladakh" explains: "The men tended to hold the public position and often sat separately from women at public functions. However, from my experience of several industrial societies, I would say that women in traditional Ladakh actually had a stronger position than any other culture I know. The public sphere in which men tend to be the leaders had far less significance than it does in the industrialised world."


With the advent of the external factors in the region around 1974, there was a massive disruption in the economic, cultural and political aspects of the traditional culture. However, there was an opposition to these changes from the community itself that urged them to restore their traditional heritage and promote it at the global level.


The communities, with support from various non- government organisations, are working towards refurbishing the ethnicity of the cold desert region. In almost every village - efficiently working away is the Women Alliance of Ladakh, locally known as "Ama - Tsogspa". Besides promoting and preserving the cultural and spiritual foundations of the Ladakhi culture, they work towards making their members independent and confident.


Members of the alliance are involved in certain income- generating activities like weaving, knitting, gardening and sewing. Their inclination towards society and culture gives them the confidence to contribute towards the betterment of society. lderly women actively participate in various social activities, thereby imparting their customary knowledge to the newer generation. They maintain a healthy coordination with their male counterparts in such fields.


The democratic space girls enjoy in the valley is an exception in this country. Parents in Ladakh accept and welcome the birth of a baby irrelevant of the gender. Both male and female children are brought up under similar healthy atmosphere -away from biased opinions, inferiority and discrimination. Opportunities at every level are similar for both.


Contrary to the sudden upsurge in the cases of the honour killings across the country - the women in Ladakh, are given the freedom to take decisions about their lives with families backing their decision. They breathe free.


But when several kilometers away from Ladakh, there are reports of a newborn killed or abandoned because of the gender bias, every woman sitting in this picturesque region share the infamy. They are against violence against women in any form. They want the rest of the country to learn the vital lesson of self- reliance, frugality, social harmony and environment sustainability.


Woman, indeed, is the most wonderful creation of God. However, over the years, they have been subjected to miseries, sufferings and discrimination. Yet, whenever they have raised their voice against a gender-biased society, they have created an uproar and compelled society to take notice and desist from discriminating them. To make the world understand their importance, we need to recognize our true selves - our capabilities.


The Charkha Development Communication Network feels that women in Ladakh are a shining example of individuals who have gained respect in the community by contributing morally and materially to it. There is much to learn from them! By Padma Deachen (ANI)


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