The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has honored the “Kung Fu Nuns” of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism with the International Women’s Day Award at a ceremony held in Delhi on 8 March. The award was bestowed on the nuns for their extraordinary achievements in the field of female empowerment, disaster relief, environmental conservation, and breaking down societal barriers.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal presided over the ceremony, in the presence of several dignitaries, including DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal, Delhi Legislative Assembly speaker Ram Niwas Goel, and deputy speaker Rakhi Birla.
“We are honored to be recognized for our efforts and this award will help us spread our message of empowerment and further strengthen our mission to help women and girls to be their heroes,” said Jigmet Yangchan Ghamo of the Kung Fu Nuns. (Reach Ladakh Bulletin)
The nuns, led by the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa, Jigmet Pema Wangchen, the head of the Drukpa lineage, come from Nepal and from Ladakh in northern India. They undergo years of martial arts training alongside their Buddhist practice and religious studies at the monastery.
“We start our day at 3am and end at 10pm. We have kung fu training for around three hours every day. Some days the kung fu training can go up to 8–10 hours,” said nun Jigme Lotus Zangmo. “It is not necessary to train in kung fu to become a nun in the Drukpa lineage, but it helps us focus and be physically strong.”
The Kung Fu Nuns are defying a centuries-old societal order that traditionally favors men in positions of leadership by embracing kindness in its purest form, enabling themselves and others to serve the world. They also teach martial arts to the young girls in their communities to promote self-defense and self-confidence.
“We feel that it is important for women and girls to have some self-defense training. We need to be our own heroes,” said Yangchen Lhamo. “We believe that every girl has their own power and they can defend themselves. We have been training girls in martial arts since 2013 and so far we have trained hundreds.” (IT News)
In 2017, the Kung Fu Nuns undertook a 5,200-kilometer “Bicycle Yatra for Peace” from Nepal to Ladakh, which took more than three months and included stops at hundreds of villages along the way for environmental education and to speak out against human trafficking.
Following the devastating Himalayan earthquakes in 2015, the Kung Fu Nuns refused to evacuate and instead worked to provide essential supplies to underserved areas. They also conduct free health clinics, and have helped more than 1,500 Himalayans regain their sight. They respond to pleas for animal rescue in emergencies, and have also cleared thousands of kilograms of plastic litter.
The achievements of the Kung Fu Nuns have been recognized around the world. They were finalists for the Vaclav Havel Humanitarian Prize in 2021, recipients of the Asia Society’s Game Changers Award in 2019, and the Atlantic Council’s Unsung Heroes Award in 2020. In 2021, they received the UNESCO International Centre for Martial Arts’ Education Prize.
The Kung Fu Nuns have since become a household name in many Himalayan regions, and despite the fact that there are more than 800 nuns in the order, there is a long list of women and girls who wish to join them.
The DCW established the International Women’s Day Award in 2016 to recognize inspiring individuals who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the cause of women and girls. Female officials from the Indian Space Research Organisation, the Indian Air Force, the Indian Army, Air India, and other organizations have also received awards from the commission.
This year, the commission expressed hope that the stories and example set by the Kung Fu Nuns would serve as an inspiration to women and girls all over the world.
Meet ‘Kung-Fu Nuns Of Drukpa’, An Ancient Buddhist Order Known Martial Arts And More (IT News)
International Women’s Day: Delhi Commission for Women honours Kung Fu Nuns (Reach Ladakh Bulletin)
Delhi Commission For Women Honors “The Kung Fu Nuns” With The International Women’s Day Award (India Today)
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