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    About ZNA  

The Zangskar Nuns Association (ZNA) is a registered charity of India bringing together member nuns from each of Zangskar's ten nunneries for the first time in history. ZNA aims to improve the education, welfare, health and living conditions of more than 100 nuns.

The member nunneries vary greatly in size - from 6 nuns at the smallest to 35 nuns at the largest - and years of operation - from only a few years to perhaps a few hundred years. They also vary greatly in terms of facilities and education. Many of the buildings at the older nunneries are in need of repair, while the newer nunneries are still under construction. Teachers of both secular and non-secular subjects are only available at a few of the nunneries as a result of logistics and funding.

ZNA's goals include the construction of passive solar buildings, water delivery and storage systems, greenhouses, compost toilets, and orchards in order to improve basic needs like heat, water, food, and lighting. These improvements along with stipends for basic living expenses will support the nuns’ livelihood, health, and ability to continue their ritual and meditation studies.

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Zangskar Nunneries
Zangskar Valley, India

The ten Buddhist nunneries of the Zangskar Nuns Association are located in the villages of Karsha, Pishu, Zangla, Dorje Dzong, Tungri, Sani, Skyagam, Manda, Bya, and Chumig Gyartse. (View a map of the nunnery locations.)

Nine of the 10 nunneries follow the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and one follows the Drugpa tradition. Poverty, climate and isolation make life in Zangskar difficult, especially during the harsh winters when the valley becomes inaccessible.

Each nunnery tells a different story of hardship and determination. Historically, the nuns of Zangskar, like the Tibetan region in general, have received less support from the local community than monks. The construction of the nunneries has required outstanding amounts of will power, defiance of traditional roles for women, and physical labor on the part of the nuns.

As the infrastructure at the nunneries improves with the support of foreign donors, the nuns will be able to improve their education and increase their time spent in ritual activities and meditation. This in turn will improve their status in the community and increase local support for the nuns.

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Map of Zangskar Region (view larger map)

Zangskar is a remote valley of Ladakh in northern India, which is home to the ten Buddhist nunneries of the Zangskar Nuns Association (ZNA). The valley is flanked by the Zangskar and Himalayan ranges and heavy winter snows render the valley inaccessible for several months each year. The region was a Tibetan kingdom until being absorbed by India in 1948 and most residents speak a Tibetan dialect.