“When a man enters into monkhood, people always applaud saying it is good for the religion and will make it better, but when a woman enters into nunhood, people always think it is because of a problem,” Ketumala explains.
“They think it’s a place for women who are poor, old, sick, divorced, or need help for their life,” she adds.
Outspoken and rebellious, Ketumala is arguably the best known nun in Myanmar, having founded the Dhamma School Foundation, which runs more than 4,800 Buddhist education centers for children throughout the country.
But she warns that many nuns are still treated with contempt — the nunneries are run on donations but they do not command the reverence of monasteries and so struggle with funding.
In the worst cases, nuns are abused even for asking for alms that help them survive.
“Sometimes they are harassed along the road,” she explains.