Life as a woman in Nepal isn’t easy. Girls aren’t guaranteed the same educational opportunities as their brothers and women have fewer employment options than men. For disabled women, life is harder still, as deep cultural prejudices fuel discrimination, making it difficult for them to integrate fully into society and lowering their employment prospects. So it’s no wonder that when such women are offered education, a means to support themselves and even the chance to become leaders in their community, they compare it to being given light – and it’s this metaphor that has given a new documentary its title.
Bringing the Light tells the inspiring story of an social enterprise that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. In November 2006, Melbourne resident Stephanie Woollard was travelling through Nepal and met a group of seven disabled women who were struggling to survive by making and selling handicrafts from a tin shed in Kathmandu. Stephanie decided to stay in Kathmandu for three extra weeks and out of her own pocket, funded training for these women in skills to grow their chances to create an income for themselves. The women started to earn money as Steph worked on creating demand in sales of their products. Since then, the group has blossomed and through fundraising and the sale of the women’s handicrafts has been able to establish two centres in Kathmandu (in buildings, not tin sheds!) and four branches based in villages in remote areas. To date, Seven Women has trained 5000 women, teaching literacy and numeracy and given them new skills to create income streams, enabling the most socially isolated and outcast women to shine.