GlacierHub Writer Tsechu Dolma Wins Major Award

GlacierHub Writer Receives Youth Award

Tsechu Dolma at Himalayan grasslands in Nepal
Tsechu Dolma at Himalayan grasslands in Nepal (source: Tsechu Dolma).

The Asia Society recently announced the 2018 class of its Asia 21 Young Leaders program. Among the new awardees is Tsechu Dolma, a former GlacierHub writer.

Dolma’s award highlighted her achievements as the founder of Mountain Resiliency Project. As its name suggests, the NGO works to build climate resilience in vulnerable mountain communities. It focuses on the Himalayan region of Nepal, where economic and political marginalization are compounded by climate change impacts, particularly drought and glacier retreat. The strategy of the organization is to focus on supporting resilience through women’s empowerment in sustainable agricultural enterprises. These include honeybee farms, orchards, and greenhouses, all using locally available materials and drawing on traditional architectural forms and craft skills. They seek as well to promote opportunities for youth, as a way of stemming the outmigration from the region.

Tsechu Dolma during work with UNDP in Colombia
Tsechu Dolma during work with UNDP in Colombia (source: Tsechu Dolma).

Dolma grew up in a Tibetan refugee camp in Kathmandu, Nepal. She and her parents fled political violence in that country, coming to Queens, New York, when she was in her early teens. A graduate of Barnard College and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Dolma has also worked as a natural resource management consultant for the United Nations Development Programme in Latin America and climate change strategist for the Timor Leste Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Environment. She has received a number of other awards, including a Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship, an Echoing Green Fellowship, and a Brower Youth Award, as well as being recognized as one of the Forbes 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs.

Dolma worked as a writer for GlacierHub from 2014 to 2016. As a fluent speaker of Nepali and Tibetan, she conducted a number of interviews with community members and activists in the Himalayas. Her posts addressed challenges created by climate change, including impacts in a small village and the persistence of gender inequality in the Himalayas. She noted social obstacles as well, including policies which limit local engagement in small-scale tourism enterprises. She focused in detail on concrete activities to promote sustainability and social inclusion. One examined the construction of village greenhouses, and another discussed a post-disaster recovery program, which drew on local skills, knowledge and resources, rather than relying on contracting the work of rebuilding to outside firms.

GlacierHub spoke with Dolma about her award. She described what it means to her:

I was born and raised in a refugee camp. I spent the first 19 years of my life as a stateless person, until I became an American. It’s why I am so deeply honored and humbled to be recognized as one of Asia Society’s 21 Young Leaders, an unparalleled network of accomplished young Asian professionals representing the new generation of leaders in government, business, arts, media and the nonprofit sector. Having this level of recognition so early in my career is incredibly emboldening. I am so proud to fight alongside refugees and displaced peoples for equality, dignity and freedom. Leadership is the grit, vision, and communication skills to be a positive and effective steward to our community and environment. It is the tool to address inequities and development gaps, and improve livelihoods.

Asia 21 Young Leaders Program

Tsechu Dolma at community meeting in Nepal
Tsechu Dolma (standing) at community meeting in Nepal (source: IYFNET).

The Asia Society is a global non-profit organization that seeks to address issues of importance for Asia, and to build a deeper understanding of Asia around the world. It has long promoted international awareness of Asian art, and it has worked to advance public discussion of economic and policy issues in Asia. Well known for its architecturally striking headquarters in New York, which houses the Asia Society Museum, it also has centers in Hong Kong and Houston as well, with offices across Asia, the United States, Europe and Australia.

The Asia 21 Young Leaders Program honors professionals under the age of 40 from many different fields who demonstrate leadership and collaborative efforts, at local, national and global levels. This year’s group includes a number of women who are active in fields long dominated by men, including Bulgantuya Khurelbaatar, the deputy finance minister of Mongolia, and Ernestine Fu, an American venture capitalist who draws on her experience in cybersecurity and data science to provide guidance to philanthropic foundations. It also includes activists who work on social justice issues of ethnic discrimination, inclusion of people with disabilities and LGBT rights. Other awardees work on peace-making, poverty reduction and social entrepreneurship.

Sanjeev Sherchan, executive director of the Global Initiatives Group at the Asia Society, also spoke with GlacierHub about Dolma.

GlacierHub: What are the goals of the ASIA 21 Fellows Program?

Sanjeev Sherchan: To build a network of young leaders (under the age of 40) across the Asia Pacific as a way to promote mutual understanding and effective collaboration among the next generation’s most important and influential leaders. This will contribute towards creating a more connected, better integrated Asia-Pacific region with leaders capable of drawing on vital connections to move the region forward, for the betterment of all.


GH: How are the fellows nominated and selected?

 The people of Namgyal Village in Upper Mustang with donated tarpaulins in their hand
Tsechu Dolma (middle row, center, in red jacket and white scarf) at meeting in Namgyal Village in Upper Mustang, Nepal (Source: Tsechu Dolma).

SS: Nominations are sent by the Asia 21 Alumni community and Asia Society’s various networks. Selection process goes through two sets of reviews – first, by Asia 21 Secretariat and then, Asia 21 Selection Committee comprised of Asia 21 alumni

A typical Asia 21 Young Leader is someone who embodies the change that he/she wishes to see in the world and strives to create a wildfire of innovative approaches to addressing shared challenges within the region and beyond. Asia 21 Young Leaders endeavor to mobilize his/her counterparts locally, regionally, or globally to take action in affecting change—multiplying the number of people impacted, and extending the reach of Asia 21 through the power of the idea and the power of the people behind it.


GH: Are there any ways in which the class of 2018 is distinctive?

SS: The diversity of the expertise and their backgrounds is the distinctive feature of the Class of 2018.  The newest members of the Asia 21 network include activists and visionaries, policymakers and lifesavers, technology entrepreneurs and innovators—all affecting change in their own unique ways.


Readers can learn more about Tsechu Dolma and the Mountain Resiliency Project at the project’s website.

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