Global Service Scholar: Aditi Mayer
Country: Nepal

For me, the Nepal service trip has aligned with my passions for film, photography, and female empowerment. Through its film and photography studio, Her Farm has had several effects. It’s using storytelling as a form of self-expression, a tool to reclaim one’s own narrative, while also finding ways to monetize multimedia skills to take on local projects.

A typical day in the life on Her Farm begins with breakfast and conversation with the group, followed by breakout sessions that are contingent on the plans for the day. Sometimes, it’s planting millet. Other times, it’s rebuilding the road. Other days, when the monsoon brings especially heavy rains, we are left with more leniency for our day’s plans.

The monsoon season has been plentiful this year, and this has allowed for a myriad of opportunities for me to have photoshoot sessions with the women of the farm. We’ve done a series of different photo styles — from dressing the women in traditional Nepali wear and leading an editorial fashion shoot, to going on photo walks in the village and capturing more documentary style stills.

Within the past few days, I’ve focused our learning sessions on creating more holistic narratives, not just images. We’ve sat down and discussed the major storylines that are held within the matriarchal bounds of the farm — stories of abuse, stories of resilience. In doing so, we’ve unpacked conversations about how media can be used as a tool of awareness. We’ve also explored the more nuanced elements of storytelling. How can we bring attention to one’s story without putting them in a place of danger? How do we ensure consent among our subjects? How do we promote environments of safety and inclusivity with our subjects?

The saying “when you change the narrator, you change the narrative” rings extremely true in these circumstances. Many of the women on Her Farm strive to be multimedia journalists who have both the understanding, and proximity, to many contemporary issues that face Nepali women. They have shared how media in Nepal is run by two homogenous groups: men and politicians. Media by and for women is severely underrepresented.

Because much my time and energy was spent with women on the farm who already have an elementary understanding of photography and film, in the past few days I have spent more time with the women who have never set their hands on any photographic gear — many of whom are women who are newer to the farm.

It’s been humbling to see the ways that learning to operate a new piece of gear evokes a sense of confidence and joy.

In Nepal, it’s tough not to overlook the politics of gender and caste. Many women who come from Dalit backgrounds (otherwise known as the “untouchable” caste) find great power in their ability to walk into a room, camera in hand, and show their skill. The day often ends with more conversation over dinner, followed by photo review and editing sessions within the farm’s community center.

Creative mediums like documentary photography have always been a powerful tool in my life to learn more about myself and the communities around me. Seeing the way the women of Her Farm Nepal are using these mediums has been a huge learning experience, and I’m glad I’m able to push myself, and the women around me, as creators.