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Breaking stereotypes: The Kung-Fu Nuns Of Nepal Earning Their Way To Empowerment



Breaking stereotypes: The Kung-Fu Nuns Of Nepal Earning Their Way To Empowerment

  • This Nepalese monastery is getting a surge in popularity after his Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa allows martial arts classes for nuns.
  • Today, these nuns are breaking several stereotypes.
  • They have given basic business skills, run the guest house and a cafe in the monastery.

Perfecting their stance and movements, the kungfu nuns at a 26-year-old Buddhist nunnery in the village of Ramkot, Kathmandu train every day in Kungfu, a traditional martial art. Aged between 9 to 90 and dressed in traditional maroon robes modified as a Karate uniform, these nuns can repeatedly be seen punching through the air on the beat of the booming drums. With several years of practice, most of the kungfu are black belt holders but continue to better themselves as they feel empowered by learning this self-defense art.  

In Buddhism, most powerful positions are controlled by Buddhist monks leaving the nuns to perform other chores. However, this changed with the leader of the one thousand-year-old Drukpa lineage, his Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa. He insisted that the nuns must train in Kung-Fu and opened the doors of a new beginning for them. His encouragement worked as a blessing. 

Today, the nuns are breaking several stereotypes. They train themselves and teach self-defence to the girls in the nearby Himalayan villages. Defying their traditional image, these nuns are independent in everything that they do, from plumbing, electrical fittings, driving to running health clinics for injured animals.   In 2015, these martial art champions became the only ray of hope of survival for many families when the earthquake of Magnitude of 8.1 hit Nepal. This natural tragedy impacted thousands of people’s livelihoods for the worse, the sudden increase in unemployment and the delay in rehabilitation put people on the brink of desperation for money. The lack of work and education and the false promises of a safe future led these poor survivors directly into the trap of trafficking. 

During this time, many women were being sold into international markets to work in brothels, massage parlours and dance bars. To save these young women from becoming prey to trafficking, the nuns organised cycle yatras to create awareness about human trafficking that covered thousands of Kilometers through the rough mountainous terrain. 

For several months after the earthquake, the nuns would go around the nearby villages and help people in rebuilding their homes. Removing rubble and heaps of debris, they cleared roads and made temporary night shelters for the homeless. Back in their nunnery, which was also severely destroyed, the nuns did everything they could to bring back life in their home. They repaired the wall, laid new tiles on the floor and reinstalled the solar panels.

Having travelled the world and learning through partnerships with global non-profits, they are also working towards stopping the dreadful consequences of climate change. To educate locals about living a sustainable life, they participate in awareness campaigns (yatras) and travel miles on foot or bicycles to spread the message of conscious living.

With their self-assumed leadership roles, the Kung-fu-nuns of Nepal are a great example of being truly independent with their multitasking abilities. They have reaffirmed the faith of people in humanity through their selfless work and have become the epitome of woman empowerment for the whole world.

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