Home International Woman who mothered 25 kids Nepal’s new ‘heroine’

Woman who mothered 25 kids Nepal’s new ‘heroine’


Kathmandu: Unable to read or write and extremely poor, Santkumari Pariyar seems an unlike heroine.

But the story of the village woman of uncertain age is making ripples in Nepal after a chance encounter led a filmmaker to train his camera on Santkumari and her family.

It is a large family. Besides her husband Jitman, the couple have eight children.

The size of the family would have been larger still had all the children survived. In her 27 years of marriage, a stoical Santkumari bore her husband 25 children, only eight of whom have survived.

Though the Pariyars live in Dhading district in central Nepal, close to capital Kathmandu, very little of the government’s benefits have trickled down to them.

Let alone education, neither husband nor wife knew about planned parenthood and safe motherhood though Nepal’s government has been spending millions of rupees on campaigns to promote family planning as well as mother and child health care.

On Friday, Santkumari blushed and hid her face while watching a film on her own life in Kathmandu.

“Mother of 25”, a documentary by Ramesh Khadka, was screened in the capital as part of the five-day Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival that brings to the capital 59 films from 26 countries.

Santkumari, her husband and their 25th child Ganesh, were brought to Kathmandu to watch the film. After the end of the 40-minute documentary, the trio were surrounded by filmgoers who wanted to know why they hadn’t resorted to family planning.

“We didn’t know,” the shame-faced couple said. “We came to know it was possible to stop the birth of children only after a neighbour mocked us and asked us to go for family planning.”

Khadka, who stumbled on the couple about a year ago, said he was fascinated by their story.

On screen, Santkumari cries several times, saying how difficult it was to bring up so many children when there wasn’t enough food to go around.

“Your body aches, you have to take care of the children, and there isn’t enough food. What do men care about all that! It’s the women who have to bear the brunt,” she cries out.

The documentary shows Jitman as remaining lighthearted despite the poverty and the neighbours’ ridicule.

“After the government found out we had 25 children (the official told me) either I should reward you or send you to jail,” he says.

Khadka has presented the story of the unusual couple as an example of the abysmal poverty and education that still reign in Nepal.

But Santkumari was not happy to be the cynosure of all eyes.

“Now everyone knows about our ignorance,” she told the Kantipur daily.