Pani: Women, Drugs and Kathmandu

Living with addiction in Kathmandu

Pani: Women, Drugs and 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.

“I feel relaxed after taking it. I forget all my problems, the worries I have. I don’t give a damn about anyone.” Debika is one of a growing number of young women from Kathmandu using drugs to escape the harsh reality of poverty, single-parenthood and lack of opportunity. While opiates provides a temporary relief, they create problems of their own, “I’m scared”,Debika admits. “The fear is always there. What if my child saw it? What would he think about his mum?”

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.

Reviews and More

For more information on the Making Of the film, see here.

LaurelLEIFF - London Eye Recognition Award
LaurelSEFF - Best International Documentary
LaurelPortobello Film Fest - Nomination for Best Documentary
LaurelHeart of Slavonia - Special Award

The Producers

Raul Gallego Abellan - Director

One of the most awarded video journalist of his generation, Raul has been pioneer in producing innovative and compelling online news and documentaries, experimenting with new ways of news storytelling. His work with TVE, TV3 Catalonia, The Associated Press TV News and Channel 4 has led him around the world, to war zones, natural disaster sites and social unrest issues, always trying to tell empowering and moving stories. His impactful work has received multiple prestigious awards including The Royal TV Society award, the WAN-IFRA Asian Digital Media Award and the coveted Miguel Gil Award.

Making The Film

Director's Statement

Pani; Women, Drugs and Kathmandu was produced with the purpose of having a real impact in the lives of the women that appear in the film, and also to help and inspire other female users that are suffering addiction on their own. The documentary is supporting a crowdfunding campaign initiated by Grace Foundation in Nepal, one of the few rehab centres for women in the country. The aim of the crowdfunding is to collect enough money to provide free treatment for female drug users that want to leave behind their addiction but cannot afford any rehab treatment.

​The crowdfunding campaign is using the platform Generosity by Indiegogo.

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