Pani: Women, Drugs and Kathmandu
Living with addiction in Kathmandu
In Kathmandu, life for female opioid addicts is hard. Shunned by society and with limited access to rehabilitation services, many turn to sex work and petty crime to survive. Living in the shadows, they endure a cycle of abuse at the hands of clients, drug dealers and corrupt officials. This powerful and intimate doc offers unique access into the lives of eight brave women, charting their struggles to live on and recover against the odds.
Parentless and largely uneducated women like Debika are easy targets for drug dealers in Nepal. Recently, a new drug named Pani has spread throughout the country. It is readily available, highly addictive, and cheap. “Drugs gave me wings to fly, but took my sky away… I don't have a mother and don't have a father. And because of drugs I will lose my baby as well.” Like Debika, Nisha resorts to drugs to forget the losses she has suffered. Her and her partner are trapped in a dangerous cycle of drug abuse, taking anything from pills to marijuana, with their baby by their side.
“Don't you know how much the smoke affects the baby?”, cries Annie, a rehabilitated addict who transformed her life to become a social worker. Though she now spends her days trying to inspire women like Nisha and Debika to also turn their lives around, being around drugs and seeing children so neglected is a constant challenge.
Having fallen into the trap of addiction, many female drug users turn to sex work in order to raise the money they need to fund their addictions and keep their children alive. “If I get paid well, I go with two guys in one night. But if the pay is low, I go with three or four guys in one night”, says 22 year-old Dolma. Putting herself into dangerous situations is a daily fact of life, and she is often threatened and abused by her clients: “They sometimes ask for more than was agreed on… But we have already given our body. How can we return the money?”.
Yangzee also became a prostitute when her parents died, and recalls that she "couldn't work sober but after taking drugs I could bear it”. For many women, this vicious cycle becomes a lifestyle from which it is increasingly difficult to break free.
Although there are 120 rehab centres for drugs in Nepal, only 3 are for women. “Female drug users can't open up and they suffer silently from diseases, they die alone without anybody noticing”, says Annie. With rehabilitation being a route that is closed to many women, making the difficult decision to leave drugs behind is a continual problem for these young addicts, many of whom never have the opportunity to fight for a different life.
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For more information on the Making Of the film, see here.
LEIFF - London Eye Recognition Award
SEFF - Best International Documentary
Portobello Film Fest - Nomination for Best Documentary
Heart of Slavonia - Special Award