Victoria Rue asks, “Can Thai Theravada nuns and Roman Catholic women priests shatter the clerical

glass ceiling?”

Dressed in saffron robes, Venerable Dhammananda turned to me with scissors in her hands and asked, “And now your turn, Victoria?” Thailand’s first ordained Theravada bhikkhuni (nun) of the 21st century smiled. Her eyes welcomed me through round eyeglasses framed by a perfectly round shaven head. With this urging, I stepped to the side of the seated woman whose hair Dhammananda was cutting. For several days I’d seen Jiep about the monastery, or wat, dressed in the white clothes of a volunteer. She was young, maybe 22, with shoulder-length black hair. She’d been raised in this monastery since the age of 12, when her parents, having little money, brought her there to live and be educated. A few days before this ceremony, she had received her B.A. in journalism from central Thailand’s Nakhon Pathom Rajabhat University.

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