The First Fighters

"I joined after hearing a Holiness's speech in my hometown, in the north of India. His words were so inspiring and moving... The idea that women can do the same, or even more than men haunted me", says the 28-year-old nun Jigame Yeshe Lamo, the coordinator of the White Gumba monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal. 

The nuns that live in this monastery are from the Drukpa lineage, the only female order in the patriarchal Buddhist monastic system where nuns have equal status to monks. And they are the first order of Kung Fu Nuns of the world. Their name comes from the order’s proficiency in the martial art of kung fu, which they began learning in 2008 after the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa authorized a training program for them, despite centuries-old Buddhist laws banning exercise for nuns. The nuns are best known for their social activism and humanitarian work. They also occupy leadership roles in their nunneries, performing basic trades and management skills that have long been banned for Buddhist women. 

"We wanted to empower ourselves, to speak up, and to show that we can do almost everything we want to", says Jigame. "We've been blessed with our Holiness  Guru, who has been several years encouraging nuns to do the same, or even more, than monks". The 70 nuns that live on it combine their daily service with different practices such as Kung Fu, cycling, or environmental awareness programs in rural areas of Nepal and India.