Nepal | August 07, 2020

‘Kung fu nuns’ on bikes swap maroon robes for lycra leggings

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Buddhist nuns cycle yatra

Buddhist nuns set off on a month-long bicycle journey on the outskirts of Kathmandu on December 23, 2017. Photo: AFP

Kathmandu, December 23

About 200 ‘Kung fu nuns’ kicked off a month-long journey from Nepal through India today, swapping their flowing maroon robes for lycra leggings to raise awareness about human trafficking and gender equality.

The Buddhist nuns are trained in martial arts and frequently organise pilgrimages and cycling trips to promote gender equality. “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 YesheLhamo told AFP.

Each year thousands of women and children across South Asia are lured into cities and across borders with promises of lucrative jobs but are instead sold into modern-day slavery. Nepal has seen an upswing in the number of cases of trafficking since a devastating earthquake in 2015 left thousands homeless.

The country’s human rights commission estimated that there were about 23,200 cases of trafficking or attempted trafficking last year. The nuns said they came across several cases of trafficking while volunteering in relief efforts for earthquake victims.

“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,” said 23-year-old nun Jigme Konchok Lhamo.

The nuns will cover a 3,000-kilometre route from the hills of Kathmandu, peddling through south India to Delhi and then to Darjeeling.

A version of this article appears in print on December 24, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

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