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Born and raised in Kathmandu, Pooja Pant left home at 18 to pursue a ‘life education’ in the United States. She eventually moved to Europe and only returned back home four years ago bringing with her the experience and knowledge she learned from living and travelling abroad. Involved in various forms of activism, she is drawn to the power of narratives that can transform society.
Pooja Pant is the Executive Director of the Voices of Women Media, a non-profit organisation committed to providing women from marginalised communities with innovative media tools, such as video, radio and photography, to enable, empower and strengthen their voices. She is also a photographer and videographer at Final Take Films, a production house based in Kathmandu. Excerpts of a WOW conversation with the dynamic Pooja:

What has your life journey been like?

Rocking. But at the same time very adventurous, and I wouldn’t change anything at all.

Your inspiration

People around and life itself.

Describe yourself in three words.

Workaholic, free-spirited and unbound.

What drew you to photography, videography and direction… all considered a male domain?

I was interested in telling visual stories but since I couldn’t really draw that well, photography was the perfect tool. Slowly, still images turned to moving images and I began to understand the power that film has to start dialogue and change communities. Whether something was male or female dominated was never an issue for me. I did what I liked without really letting social boundaries define me. The idea to use videos as a tool for social change came about when I was living in London and working with a group of second generation migrant youth.

How difficult is it to portray reality?

We don’t try to recreate reality rather just present it in a creative way.

What made you use technical skills to make women empowered and independent?

Women are already empowered and independent. A lot of them just don’t see it. I don’t make anyone empowered. All I do is try to get them to see their own strengths. Technology is one aspect where women are ‘behind’ men so breaking the technical boundary allows women to see that they are just as capable which in turn empowers them.

Do you think the tools of digitisation are helping women in making their life easy or is it just opposite?

This age is a digital age. Women have to participate in the digital revolution. It’s not about making our lives easier or not, it’s just the way of the modern times. We have to adjust and learn new methods of communication and new skills or we will get left behind.

What do the multimedia trainings achieve?

Multimedia or any such technical education is usually held back from girls and women especially from marginalised groups. At most, women are taught how to sew and knit–no offence –but I think its time to move beyond this. Our multimedia trainings have two main goals:

Teach girls and women that they themselves can use these tools of technology to tell their own stories and

Show the world that these are the voices of women whose voices have not been heard before.

What are the issues holding Nepali women back?

We deal with issues such as menstruation taboos, witchcraft accusations, sexual harassment, online harassment, sexist language and culture that intimidates and devalues women etc etc. So in my opinion, its great that the young girls now have a “token” role model to look up to and say “I can be the president of my country” but in their daily lives what has really changed? Do they feel safer walking the streets at night? Are they still made to do the housework while their brothers can go out and play? Are they expected to cover themselves up and not laugh out loud in case they are seen as women with “loose” morals? Are they expected to marry and take care of their husband’s family? Unless things in our daily life don’t change; we will always lack our basic rights, whether its 2017 or 2027.

Three things that are essential to erase injustice and inequality for women in Nepal?

It is simply justice, equality and strength.

One life tip…

Keep struggling. Only through struggle, dreams become reality.

Future plans…

Continue on my path and raise not only my daughter but many other daughters so they can continue the fight long after I am gone.