500 kung-fu nuns are on a mission
Why are 500 Tibetan Buddhist nuns cycling across the Himalayas?
The New York Times knows why:
"On a mission to raise awareness about human trafficking, and with their radical athletic prowess, these Buddhist nuns are perfect purveyors of their sect’s teachings on gender equality."
"Since the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in April of last year, killing thousands and tipping the country into chaos, the porous border between Nepal and India has become a hotbed for human trafficking. In the span of just three months following the disaster, 725 people were smuggled into India, where they were sold into forced labor and prostitution. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and the strained Nepalese government has, for the most part, been unable to protect them.
"Enter 500 bicycle-riding, kung-fu-fighting nuns.
"The nuns are cycling across the Himalayas to promote gender equality and address the region’s growing human trafficking crisis. During stopovers in remote villages, the nuns lead prayers and impart teachings of peace and respect.
"Foremost on the nuns’ agenda is the promotion of female empowerment.
"Though women and girls in the region became particularly susceptible to violence after the Nepal earthquake — with economically devastated families often handing their daughters over to traffickers who promise a better life abroad — gender inequality has long been a pervasive problem among the countries that envelop the Himalayas. India, Nepal, and Pakistan — all of which are destinations for the bicycling nuns — consistently rank on the bottom tier of indices measuring women’s access to education, political empowerment, and health.
“We are spreading these messages: girls also have power, they are not weak,” said Yeshe Lhamo, a 27-year-old nun who is participating in the yatra. “In these regions, they listen to and respect religious teachings, so for a religious person to say that diversity and equality is important, maybe people can make this their spiritual practice too.”
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