Atlantic Council to honor India’s Kung Fu Nuns as “Unsung Heroes” at the Distinguished Leadership Awards for their heroic activism

October 14 21:42 2020
The virtual ceremony will feature a tribute to inspirational men and women around the globe demonstrating extraordinary courage, resilience, and ingenuity!

New Delhi – October 14, 2020 – The Kung Fu Nuns of the Drukpa Order of Buddhism will receive the Atlantic Council’s prestigious Unsung Heroes Award in Washington D.C. for their courageous work in gender equality, environmentalism, and humanitarian aid.  Among their many ongoing projects including disaster relief and the protection of young girls against violence, the Kung Fu Nuns have helped mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Nepal and India, providing neglected villages with critical food, supplies, and hygiene education.

The Kung Fu Nuns, mostly aged 12 to 28, represent a new generation of Buddhists now taking heroic actions to affect meaningful change in the world. In addition to the Unsung Heroes tribute, the ceremony will honor Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Luis Alberto Morena, outgoing president of the Inter-American Development Bank, and Lionel Richie, music icon, producer, and philanthropist.

“As a Buddhist nun from India, it’s an honor to receive this award. In the Himalayas, many times help never comes, especially for young girls,” says the twenty-seven-year old Jigme Rupa Lhamo who has been a Kung Fu Nun for over a decade. “We want to show everyone that if we build confidence together, we are capable of anything. We can become our own heroes.”

The nuns hail from the Drukpa Lineage of Indian Buddhism, which 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 began learning Kung Fu to build strength and confidence. They now use those skills to serve others through unimaginable acts of bravery – from their recent 5,200-mile “Bicycle Yatra for Peace” from Kathmandu, Nepal to Ladakh, India to speak out against human trafficking, to their refusal to evacuate after the 2015 Nepal earthquake in order to deliver critical aid to neglected regions. Adept in both weaponry and hand-to-hand combat, they have begun a self-defence training initiative for young girls in the Himalayas, where violence against women is rarely reported. 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 transformed the way Himalayans view not only nuns, but women. Their Kung Fu demonstrations draw audiences in the tens of thousands, inspiring a new generational mindset that women can do anything. Through their acts of service, and by setting an example of empowerment for the marginalized, the young Kung Fu Nuns have become heroes in their own right. They are honored to receive the Unsung Hero Award, and hope to share their story with the rest of the world.

About Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Awards 2020

The Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Awards celebrates the highest achieving individuals who embody the essence of the pillars of the transatlantic relationship. The evening brings together an elite audience of some 800 guests from more than fifty countries – including current and former heads of state, foreign dignitaries, ambassadors, members of Congress and the administration, military commanders, international business leaders and media outlets.

The Council’s tribute to the “Unsung Heroes of 2020” is the culmination of a worldwide campaign to gather and share individual stories of everyday global citizens who contributed impressively to their communities during this year of global pandemic, economic recession and the continuing fight for justice and equality.  This tribute will be narrated by and feature a performance from critically acclaimed singer, actress and humanitarian Vanessa Williams.

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