Clad in black sweatpants, purple jackets and white helmets, the tons of of cyclists pedaling the treacherously steep, slender mountain passes to India from Nepal may very well be mistaken for a Himalayan model of the Tour de France.

The similarity, nonetheless, ends there. This journey is longer and harder, the prize has no monetary worth or world recognition and the contributors are usually not skilled cyclists however Buddhist nuns from India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.

5 hundred nuns from the Buddhist sect referred to as the Drukpa Order, on Saturday full a four,000-km (2,485 mile) bicycle trek from Nepal’s Kathmandu to the northern metropolis of Leh in India to boost consciousness about human trafficking within the distant area.

“After we had been doing reduction work in Nepal after the earthquakes final 12 months, we heard how ladies from poor households had been being bought as a result of their dad and mom couldn’t afford to maintain them anymore,” 22-year-old nun Jigme Konchok Lhamo instructed the Thomson Reuters Basis.

“We wished to do one thing to alter this angle that ladies are lower than boys and that it’s okay to promote them,” she stated, including that the bicycle trek exhibits “ladies have energy and power like males.”

South Asia might boast ladies leaders and be residence to cultures that revere motherhood and worship feminine deities, however many women and girls stay with the specter of violence and with out many fundamental rights.

From honor killings in Pakistan to foeticide in India and youngster marriage in Nepal, ladies face a barrage of threats, though rising consciousness, higher legal guidelines and financial empowerment are bringing a sluggish change in attitudes.

 

“KUNG FU” NUNS

The bicycle trek, from Nepal into India, is nothing new for the Drukpa nuns.

That is the fourth such journey they’ve made, assembly native folks, authorities officers and non secular leaders to unfold messages of gender equality, peaceable co-existence and respect for the setting.

Additionally they ship meals to the poor, assist villagers get medical care and are dubbed the “Kung Fu nuns” on account of their coaching in martial arts.

Led by the Gyalwang Drukpa, head of the Drukpa Order, the nuns increase eyebrows, particularly amongst Buddhists for his or her unorthodox actions.

“Historically Buddhist nuns are handled very in another way from monks. They prepare dinner and clear and are usually not allowed to train. However his Holiness thought this was nonsense and determined to buck the development,” stated Carrie Lee, president of Live to Love International, a charity which works with the Drukpa nuns to assist marginalized Himalayan communities.

AFP/Getty Photographs by way of Getty Photographs

Buddhist nuns apply Kung fu on the Amitabha Drukpa Nunnery on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

“Amongst different issues, he gave them management roles and even launched Kung Fu courses for the nuns after they confronted harassment and violence from monks who had been disturbed by the rising shift of energy dynamics,” she stated.

Over the past 12 years, the variety of Drukpa nuns has grown to 500 from 30, stated Lee, largely because of the progressive attitudes of the 53-year-old Gyalwang Drukpa, who was impressed by his mom to turn into an advocate for gender equality.

The Gyalwang Drukpa additionally participates within the bicycle journeys, driving with the nuns as they pedal by means of treacherous terrain and hostile climate and camp out within the open.

 

“PRAYING IS NOT ENOUGH”

The Drukpa nuns say they imagine they’re serving to to alter attitudes.

“Most people, once they see us on our bikes, suppose we’re boys,” stated 18-year-old nun Jigme Wangchuk Lhamo.

“Then they get shocked after we cease and inform them that not solely are we ladies, however we’re additionally Buddhist nuns,” she stated. “I feel this helps change their attitudes about ladies and perhaps worth them as equals.”

South Asia, with India at its middle, can also be one of many quickest rising areas for human trafficking on the planet.

Gangs dupe impoverished villagers into bonded labour or hire them to work as slaves in city houses, eating places, outlets and motels. Many women and girls are bought into brothels.

Specialists say post-disaster trafficking has turn into frequent in South Asia as a rise in excessive occasions brought on by world warming, in addition to earthquakes, go away the poor extra susceptible.

The breakdown of social establishments in devastated areas creates difficulties securing meals and provides, leaving ladies and kids prone to kidnapping, sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Twin earthquakes that struck Nepal in April and Could 2015, which killed nearly 9,000 folks, left tons of of hundreds of households homeless and lots of with none technique of earnings, led to a rise in youngsters and girls being trafficked.

Greater than 40,000 youngsters misplaced their dad and mom, had been injured or had been positioned in precarious conditions following the catastrophe, in accordance with Nepali officers.

The Drukpa nuns stated the earthquakes had been a turning level of their understanding of human trafficking and that they felt a have to do greater than journey to disaster-hit mountain villages with rice on their backs.

“Folks suppose that as a result of we’re nuns, we’re supposed to remain within the temples and pray on a regular basis. However praying just isn’t sufficient,” stated Jigme Konchok Lhamo.

“His Holiness teaches us that now we have exit and act on the phrases that we pray. In spite of everything, actions communicate louder than phrases,” she stated.

 

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla, Modifying by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit score the Thomson Reuters Basis, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian information, ladies’s rights, trafficking, land rights and local weather change. Go to information.belief.org)

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