Documentary film shows skill training for Nepalis

At the crack of dawn, Parvati Sapkota Gautam would walk from her small house on the outskirts of the city to an empty schoolhouse filled with logs and machines.

It was here that she would learn the basics of framemaking, long-believed in Nepal to be a man’s industry.

Women at work
Parvati Sapkota Gautam (center) works along with other women to carve out designs in the wood. These designs will eventually turn into wooden frames, hanging on the walls behind the women as they work © Anna Desmarais

She could never stay at the schoolhouse for long – by 6 am, Parvati would be back home to prepare food for her husband and five small children before the school day began.

She would do this for six months without her family’s knowledge.

“When I told them about the work I was doing, they said, ‘Women cannot do woodwork and are not made for it,’ she told me in confidence. “We are also blamed for skipping housework in their eyes, so we had to hide the training from them.”

Gautam speaks out
Parvati Sapkota Gautam speaks out about the lack of support she got from her family for the essential skills training. Their main concern was the danger of operating large machinery handled previously by men ©Anna Desmarais

Gautam is one example of dozens of women that have benefited from essential skills workshop trainings in Nepal.

These trainings are provided by HIMAWANTI Nepal, a non-government organization tasked with empowering women in forestry work. The programs trains rural women on how to create frames, statues and other goods made only from leftover forest resources.

The women told me the trainings empowered them to step outside of their comfort zone and employ their inner businesswoman.This is especially crucial after Nepal’s devastating earthquake in 2015 that launched 3 million people into poverty and displaced many families.

Some of the women who have benefitted from these programs were the subjects of my film ‘Women of the Forest,” a short documentary that explores small female business-owners that have benefitted from these programs.

I also began a fundraising campaign to create more educational workshops in Nepal, and completed a photo essay on Instagram to raise awareness for the film. For more on the social media campaign, search for the hashtag #WomenoftheForest on Twitter.

It premiered at Carleton University on March 7, 2017 as part of the university’s Faculty of Public Affairs Research Month.

Third year Journalism student Kat Topinka covered the film screening and the following panel discussion on Storify that will give those that missed the event a good idea of what was said at the panel.

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