Born in a hill village near Pokhara to a Dalit (‘untouchable’ caste) family, Belmaya has had very little formal education. When she attended school as a child, after cutting grass for the cow and collecting heavy loads of firewood, her teacher dismissed her as having cow dung for a brain. Belmaya dropped out and was consigned to a life of poverty and servitude.
Orphaned at the age of 9, she moved to a home in Pokhara where she was introduced to photography at the age of 14. She’d grab the camera at every opportunity. She participated in exhibitions at the British Council in Nepal and the Royal College of Art in London, and her work was included in a book, My World, My View.
But then the home locked her camera away. At 19, she married and had a baby daughter. In 2014, aged 21, she embarked on a documentary filmmaking training. Her graduation film, Educate Our Daughters, about the importance of education for girls, has been selected for numerous international film festivals.
Belmaya has gone on to make a film on the hardships of boatwomen in Pokhara, Rowing Against the Flow, for Thomson Reuters Foundation.