These “Kung Fu Nuns” Are Biking The Himalayas For The Best Reason
”We wanted to do something to change this attitude that girls are less than boys”
While you spent your summer soaking up the sun, these Nepalese nuns were bicycling the Himalayas to stop human trafficking of girls in their region.
The so-called “Kung Fu nuns” of the Druk Gawa Khilwa nunnery are completing a 4,000-km (2,485 mile) bicycle trek – or “yatra”, which is a kind of pilgrimage – this week, which took them from Nepal's capital Kathmandu to the northern city of Leh in India.
"We wanted to do something to change this attitude that girls are less than boys and that it's okay to sell them," 22-year-old nun Jigme Konchok Lhamo told the Thompson Reuters Foundation.
After the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, which left many Nepalese destitute, trafficking of girls between Nepal and India spiked, according to the Indian Express.
Sold by their parents or duped by local gangs, the girls and women are often trafficked to become domestic help in other parts of Asia, as well as part of the sex trade. Indeed, South Asia is one of the fastest growing regions for human trafficking.
During their approximately two-month bicycle journey, the nuns stop in remote villages, where they lead prayers and teach locals not only about the perils of human trafficking but also the importance of gender equality and environmentalism.
This isn’t the first time the nuns have set out by bicycle to vouch for a cause.
Last year, driven by the spirit of female empowerment, the nuns bicycled from Kathmandu to New Delhi to push for environmental protections and women’s empowerment.
"When we were doing relief work in Nepal after the earthquakes last year, we heard how girls from poor families were being sold because their parents could not afford to keep them anymore," Lhamo additionally noted to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, on why they decided to undertake the journey.
The women, many from poor backgrounds, are part of a 1,000-year-old Drukpa lineage. Their leader, His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, is one of few men who are part of the order. It was on his recommendation that the women begin practicing Kung Fu, a Chinese martial arts practice made famous by Bruce Lee.
The nuns have become famous in Kathmandu for their energy and activism, as well as their commitment to the local community. During the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, the women refused to be evacuated from the region and instead headed to the countryside where they helped locals dig with rescue and clean-up efforts, reported the BBC.