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  • Buddhist nuns from the Drukpa lineage pictured in Ladakh during their cycle across the Himalayas to raise awareness about human trafficking of girls and women in the impoverished villages in Nepal and India August 30, 2016.

    Buddhist nuns from the Drukpa lineage pictured in Ladakh during their cycle across the Himalayas to raise awareness about human trafficking of girls and women in the impoverished villages in Nepal and India August 30, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 December 2017

There are only 700 nuns worldwide belong to the Drukpa lineage, which is the only female order in the patriarchal Buddhist monastic system where nuns have equal status to monks.

Nearly 200 "Kung fu nuns" kicked off a thirty-day journey from Nepal through India, ditching their maroon robes for lycra legging to raise awareness about human trafficking and gender equality.

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There are only 700 nuns worldwide belonging to the Drukpa lineage, which is the only female order in the patriarchal Buddhist monastic system where nuns have equal status to monks.

Traditionally, nuns are expected to cook and clean and are not permitted to engage in sports. But this changed a decade ago when the leader of the 1,000-year-old sect, His Holiness The Gyalwang Drukpa, encouraged the nuns to learn Kung Fu.

The Buddhist nuns are trained in martial arts and earned their name because of their badass martial art training sessions and performances, like, somersaults, high kicks, splits and punches which they also use to predators at bay.  

“Girls face problems when they go out and especially in the evening they don’t want to go out alone," Jigme Wangchuk Lhamo, 19, told Reuters.  

"Kung Fu can help them ... Kung Fu makes you confident" have organized pilgrimages and rides to promote gender equality for three to four years. 

"We are starting our fifth cycle yatra (pilgrimage) today and our main mission is about increasing awareness about female empowerment, the environment, and human trafficking," nun Yeshe Lhamo told AFP. 

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Nepal has seen a rise in the number of trafficking cases after the devastating earthquake in 2015 which left thousands homeless.   

The nuns trekked to remote villages and helped remove rubble, clear pathways, distribute food and medicines to survivors. The nuns have come across cases of women being trafficked across the border to India, while they were volunteering in relief efforts for earthquake victims.

“It was terrible. People were selling their sisters, daughters and even mothers just to have money to rebuild their homes,” Wangchuk told Reuters. 

“Some men just see girls as a bunch of money ... but we need to change this and help promote equality. His Holiness likes to encourage girls. He says there can be no world peace unless we are all equal.”

"That's how we had this idea of going on this cycle yatra to all the remote places and telling people we are all girls, girls are capable of doing everything. They are not useless, they are not things to sell," 23-year-old nun, Jigme Konchok Lhamo, told AFP.

The nuns plan to cover a 3,000-kilometre route from Nepal's capital Kathmandu, peddling through South India, to Delhi and then to the northeast Indian city of Darjeeling.

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