We met Puja Dhungana for the first time in 2013, when she was 12 years old. She saw us when we were walking through Balthali. She was surrounded by a lot of friends, and invited us to her house. We didn’t accept the offer of a glass of water or homemade lemonade, as we were afraid the water was unsafe. Then Puja's mom offered us a boiled egg ...
Puja's casual, optimistic attitude and her eagerness to study… These qualities already struck us at the first meeting.
Puja sings from the heart. "Music and poetry are my whole life," she says. In addition, she wants to do social work in her village. Through YouBridge npo, she received a laptop after the earthquake, and via BIKAS, she followed an ICT training that allowed her to work with the laptop. She uses it to repeat the study material, and on her free Saturdays, she takes it to the even poorer schools in the Tamang villages in the area. She shows the children animated films and also carries a backpack, full of children's books and educational materials, 'Puja's travelling library'.
Puja has her own potato field, and pays for her studies with the proceeds.
The fact that Puja is still going to school at 17 is not an evident one. Previously, education for girls had little relevance. Girls were for marriage, why should they study? Puja's mother was married at 13 and did not receive any education, but she wants to ensure that her daughters can study for as long as they want, even though the family's economic situation is difficult. Puja is determined: "We can do anything we want," she says. 'I want to study. I want to learn music and sing. I will serve my village. I want this village, this society and my nation to do well. "
Balthali is located on the edge of Kathmandu Valley, in the district of Kavre. The inhabitants are mostly farmers, and agriculture is mainly managed by the women, because many men work abroad. Kavre is one of the districts hit hard by the 2015 earthquake, but fortunately there was only (extensive) material damage in Balthali. People still often live in temporary houses of metal plates, their livestock lives in the useless homes. In Balthali we support a cultural-pedagogical project of the ONG Solar Cinema Nepal. The project is mainly aimed at young teenage girls in the village. They receive ICT education and support in their studies. The educational hatch of the project aims to help local schools to raise the quality of education. Furthermore, in many Nepalese villages, Solar Cinema Nepal is teaching people to film their own situation. The subsequent performance in the village leads to discussion and awareness. Solar Cinema Nepal considers culture as a means of emancipation. In the near future, teenage girls will also make short films about their own lives, dreams and ambitions.
Underneath you can watch 'Balthali Dreams - Puja', a 10-minute film in which Puja tells about her life:
Puja, a girl from Balthali
We wish to express our gratitude to Solar Cinema Nepal, BIKAS npo, Zonta Aalst, Sint Vincentius Institute Gijzegem, YouBridge and the Free Subsidized Primary School of Gijzegem, who allowed us to support the project in Balthali and to realize the film about Puja.
If you want to support this project, your contribution is very welcome to the account number BE 32 2200 7878 0002 of BIKAS npo, with the mention "Friends of Paul and Carine".