"We are the only nunnery in all of the Himalayas doing deadly martial arts," Ghamo told
. "This is a lifelong vow that I made to the Drukpa Order, and I am very proud of my practice."
The Drukpa Order is a branch of Himalayan Buddhism, a faith which traditionally considers women second-class citizens. According to Buddhist narratives
, a woman cannot achieve spiritual enlightenment unless she is reborn as a man.
"The idea was that as long as the nuns cook and clean for the monks, they can come back as a monk in their next lifetime and then become enlightened," said Carrie Lee, the former president of Live to Love
, a non-governmental organization that works closely with the nunnery to supply aid to the region.
According to Lee, discrimination toward women is a way of life in Nepal and surrounding nations. Girls are considered a burden and are frequently aborted; if they live, they have limited access to healthcare or education. They are often sold off to traffickers or marry young; wife beating and other types of spousal violence is common.
His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, the spiritual leader of the Drukpa lineage, says as a child he believed the Buddhist beliefs about women to be misguided. In the early 2000s he began to promote the nuns to leadership positions.