Changing Social Norms, One Step at a Time


Author: Subeksha Poudel

One step at a time

Human development outcomes in Nepal continue to be slowed by gender, social and geographical exclusion, and inequality. Despite constitutional guarantees preventing gender-based violence and caste-based discrimination in Nepal, it continues to persist in different forms with impunity, perpetuating their socio-economic standing in society. Women and girls with intersectional identities face compounded forms of discrimination and have a much higher risk of facing violence. In addition, young people in Nepal constitute 40.35 per cent of the population however only 18 per cent of them occupy decision-making roles in local organizations. They face discrimination based on age, gender, caste, class, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and more, reinforcing the historical hierarchies existing in Nepal. Youth engagement is key to transforming intergenerational patterns of discriminatory norms and behaviours in the communities through not only traditional forms of advocacy and engagement, but also through new technologies and approaches. Without ending discriminatory social norms, gender equality and social inclusion cannot be achieved. In efforts to identify discriminatory social norms preventing the youth in Nepal to be on an equal footing, UN Women with support from the Government of Finland partnered with Srijanalaya, a national NGO, to carry out the competition: Changing Social Norms, One Step at a Time.

Over 40 youth from across Nepal sent pitches for developing videos focusing on the social norm they wanted to change. Five pitches on the themes of Chhaupadi (a form of menstrual exile where women and girls sleep in small huts or animal sheds during menstruation and immediately after giving birth), caste-based discrimination, issues of queer and disability and gender identity were shortlisted for filmmaking. In developing the films, the participants shared their own stories and shaped the narratives of their communities, pushing viewers to engage in creating a society free of discrimination.

All five participants joined the two-month-long project remotely via zoom from across Nepal. Srijanalaya supported participants with smartphones and data packages to minimize barriers to accessing the course. The participants were coached to convert their pitches into formats for films showing the conflicts and end goals. They also identified the main character in the film to take forward ideas of discriminatory social norms. Participants used various techniques such as interviews, observations, and reenactment.

The participants were also trained on the concept of gaze and how a film differs when a film on the same topic is made by someone from outside the community and from someone who belongs to the same community and is mindful of the unconscious biases they brought in the films. They were guided on how to take informed consent for filmmaking. All participants received a mobile phone to capture various visual styles for documenting videos. They also learned composition techniques to depict concepts such as showing power dynamics in an image. The participants also received an external mic and tripod each to support them on how to pan out images and get better audio quality.

In videos

Is it a curse to menstruate?

के महिनावारी हुनु सराप हो? | Bhawana Bogati’s film focuses on the practice of Chhaupadi and depicts the reality of staying in a shed when menstruating in Achham.

Twenty-six-year-old Bhawana lives in Achham, Sudurpaschim Province. She works as a Community Health Programme Associate in Nyaya Health Nepal, Achham.


Samjhana Nepali has chosen Khurri as the main character for her film. Using observation technique as one of her main tools in her film, Samjhana portrays the detrimental impact of caste-based discrimination on Khurri’s mental health.

Twenty-two-year-old Samjhana lives in Mugu, Karnali Province. Samjhana works as a theater artist and a writer using art to end discriminatory social norms and caste-based discrimination.

Multiple Identity

Safal Lama focuses their film on the layers of identity everyone has. Using themselves as one of the main characters in the film, Safal urges people to think beyond bracketing people in single identity and embrace the diverse identities.

Twenty-three-year-old Safal (they/them) is an indigenous queer disability rights activist and pscchosocial counselor from Humla, Karnali Province.

Voice Against caste-based discrimination

जातीय जालो बिरुद्धको आवाज | Radhika Pariyar’s film focuses on the structural barriers faced by the members of Dalit community. Highlighting the skills or work that was historically imposed on Dalit communities in the Hindu caste-based structure, she brings forth how it prevents Dalit community from being on an equal footing in today’s Nepal.

Twenty-seven-year-old Radhika from Gorkha, Gandaki Province works as Programme and Research The Story Kitchen.


पहिचान | Zion Magar has developed the film based on his personal story. He focuses on his life experience, the struggles he faced because of his gender identity and how he overcame them.

Twenty-one-year-old Zion (he/him) lives in Bagmati Province.