Interweaving her own journey from being labelled ‘cow-dung brain’ by her teacher, to becoming a documentary filmmaker, with her dreams for her 4-year-old daughter’s education, a young low-caste Nepali woman explores the state of education for girls in Nepal.
About Belmaya Nepali
Belmaya is a first-time director, 25. Born in a hill village near Pokhara, Nepal, to a low-caste family, Belmaya has had very little formal education. Orphaned at the age of 9, she moved to a home in Pokhara and was introduced to photography aged 14. She participated in exhibitions in Nepal and London and her work was included in a book, My World, My View. At 19, she married and had a baby daughter, and spent years in poverty and domestic labour. In 2014, aged 21, she got the opportunity to train in documentary filmmaking. Educate Our Daughters is her graduation project and first short film. She has gone on to make a short film on boatwomen in Pokhara for Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Filmmakers throughout the world tend to come from the educated classes. But what of the many women like me, who didn’t have the advantage of an education? I never dreamed I could make a film. I didn’t start school until the age of eight. I was mocked for being the eldest in the class. Before school I had to cut grass for the cow and collect firewood. When I was in Class 1 my parents passed away and I had to leave school. Later, I attended Class 3, but my teacher told me, ‘Your brain is filled with cow dung,’ and I felt hurt and humiliated and dropped out. Since then I have struggled with formal education. I married young and had a baby. By the age of 21 I’d given up hope of ever getting out of poverty and domestic drudgery. But then I got the opportunity to learn documentary filmmaking skills. It taught me to use my brain, and I feel proud of my achievement of making my first film. It proves that in societies where the uneducated are disregarded, there is still hope. Through this film I want to show that every girl should be given an education, and no one should suffer as I did. I am determined that my daughter should study and stand on her own feet, and face no discrimination. Filmmaking has given me a voice, and I want to give a voice to other women in Nepal, to tell their stories of the struggles they face in our unequal, male-dominated society.