“Kung Fu Nuns” of the Himalayas nominated as finalists for Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2020

‘Nuns fought on the frontlines against COVID-19 in India and Nepal, human trafficking and protecting women against violence’

New Delhi, March 24:(KNS)  The Himalayan“Kung Fu Nuns” of the Drukpa Order of Buddhism have been honoured in Europe for their heroic work – from curbing human trafficking, to fighting for gender equality, to mobilizing for disaster relief. It was one of the three finalists for the prestigious Václav Havel Human Rights Prize.

“This past year, the nuns also fought on the frontlines against COVID-19 in India and Nepal, providing remote villages with food, medical supplies, PPE, and hygiene education, a spokesperson from the Live to Love said adding the nuns focused on empowering the women of those villages to become exemplars and educators of safety during the pandemic.

The more-than five hundred Kung Fu Nuns, many of whom are teenagers, sparked an inspirational movement in the Himalayas when they took up martial arts to empower themselves to become stronger community leaders.

Hailing from India, Nepal, Bhutan and regions across the Himalayan belt, these Drukpa nuns are now known for their fierce acts of kindness: they teach self-defense to young girls, cycle thousands of kilometres to speak out against human trafficking, and risk their lives by bringing humanitarian aid to remote villages following natural disasters – very often in regions that NGOs and government agencies neglect due to dangerous conditions.

“We are so thankful for this acknowledgement.  Sometimes older people will tell us we should just stay in the temple and read, or stay in the kitchen. So being a finalist for this award makes us feel very encouraged,” said nun Jigme Konchok Lhamo. “Helping others is our religion.”

Apart from the Kung Fu Nuns, the other finalists for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2020 are Loujain Alhathloul, a leader known for defying the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, and Julienne Lusenge, a Congolese human rights activist who has been documenting sexual abuse and violence against women in Congo.

The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize rewards outstanding civil society action in defense of human rights in Europe and beyond annually. The prize is awarded each year by PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe), in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation.

In the past, the winners have made a difference to the human rights situation of a given group, been instrumental in uncovering systemic violations on a large scale or have mobilized public opinion or the international community for a given cause.

 The Drukpa Lineage of Indian Buddhism has a thousand-year history stretching back to the Indian Saint Naropa, and continues its legacy today with the spiritual head, the Gyalwang Drukpa. With his encouragement and support, the nuns learned Kung Fu to build strength and confidence – skills that they use to help others through unimaginable acts of bravery.

They also run free health clinics, respond to calls for emergency animal rescue, and have removed thousands of pounds of plastic litter from Himalayan and Indian land.

With over 700 Drukpa nuns in the ranks, there is a long waiting list of women and girls who want to join them.  The Kung Fu Nuns have changed the Himalayan view for nuns as well as women in general.

Their Kung Fu demonstrations draw audiences in the tens of thousands, changing generational mindsets about the capacity and abilities of women through their epic acts of service, and by setting an example of empowerment for the marginalized.(KNS)

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