Empowering Tibetan women through social enterprise: The Maya Mountain story
Today I’d like to introduce you to a very meaningful Tibetan social enterprise. Many of you will know that I am a community development practitioner,and I am passionate about the potential of social enterprise to contribute to meaningful change and sustainable economic opportunities. I particularly love sharing projects that empower women who are living their traditional lifestyles, to allow them to develop in ways that honour their valuable cultural traditions and way of life, taking the best from globalisation, and keeping the best from their own culture. Today I want to share you the story of a very good friend of mine and her social enterprise that is making a difference to the lives of Tibetan women in remote villages on the edge of the Tibetan plateau.
(The words below are Danma’s. The photos are my own from my travels in some of the Tibetan regions of China in 2009)
This is the story of Danma, a nomadic Tibetan woman born to a herding yak family, who grew up in a small village on the edge of the Himalayan Plateau. The remote wilderness of the snowy Himalayan mountains is often associated with an array of medicinal plants; pristine lakes and herds of yaks. It is home to sacred traditions, rituals and cultural practices. But what is rarely talked about is the deeply ingrained patriarchal nature of Tibetan society, where gender roles are firmly defined.
Growing up, the only future Danma could feasibly see for herself involved bearing children, herding livestock, fetching water and collecting wood for fuel. She observed first hand the realities of gender inequality, where women took on the most menial yet difficult of tasks.
But Danma’s ambitions for education, independence and self empowerment defied the constraints of her community. At 19 years old, she led a community project that brought running water to her village for the first time. After that, she applied for international funding to run a solar panel project to bring new energy resources to her village – and she got it.
Spurred on by her resilience and vision, Danma’s network of friends and supporters get her over to Australia to further her education. She was granted a scholarship by the University of Technology and completed a Bachelor in Public Communications (Social Inquiry). She’s currently completing a Master of Social Work at the University of Sydney.
In 2015, Danma founded Maya Mountain, a social enterprise aimed at equipping Tibetan women with skills and opportunities to become self sufficient. Maya Mountain produces 100% natural soap, lovingly handcrafted by Tibetan village women.
The enterprise is now at a point where it needs to fund the development of a safe and permanent facility for the Tibetan Soap Ladies to continue producing the soap. To do this, Danma is launching a crowdfunding campaign in July to raise funds to further develop the centre and to begin paying wages to the soap makers.
To find our more about Danma’s project, and how you can support it, and to get yourself a lovely bar of soap from the pristine Tibetan plateau, visit the Maya Mountain crowdfunding campaign. This project is designed and run by Tibetan women, for Tibetan women. You couldn’t find a project with better community development and empowerment principles than this one, and strong urge you to consider a donation.