Coinciding with International Women’s Day on March 8, the International Women’s Meditation Center Foundation (IWMCF) announced its annual awards for outstanding women in Buddhism from its headquarters in Rayong, Thailand. This year, 20 women, including lay people and monks from around the world, have been honored with these awards.
The full list of recipients and their countries of origin for the 2022 Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award:
• Merry (Nan) Kham Oo, Burma
• Bhikkhuni Surindra, Thailand
• Bhikkhuni Dr. Jian Hui, Taiwan
• Bhikkhuni Tsung-Tueng, Thailand
• Bhikkhuni Der-Chia, Taiwan
• Mei Yun Tang, Taiwan
• Maechee Orawan Maneeratanachot, Thailand
• Ching Yi Chi, Taiwan
• Maechee Pittsayaputt Vhititthiranun, Thailand
• Mingli C. Shih, Taiwan
• Dr. Pamela Ayo Yetunde, USA
• Saijai Wannual, Thailand
• Bhikkhuni Khenmo Drolma, United States
• Bhikkhuni Choejin Samdrup, Thailand
• Chen Yun Chang, Taiwan
• Gawa Khandro, Canada
• Martine Batchelor, France
• Bhikkhuni Liao Guo, China
• Thanissara, United Kingdom
• Kim Behan, United States
The accomplishments and future plans of each awardee are listed on the IWMCF website, as have past awardees since 2002.
The awards were founded by two Buddhist nuns, Thai Bhikkhuni Rattanavali and American Bhikkhuni Dr. Lee, after attending two events in 2001. These were the Outstanding Women’s Awards in Thailand, organized by the Gender Research Institute and development, and an invited talk offered by Ven. Bhikkhuni Dr. Lee at the United Nations in Bangkok in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2001.
From there, the two began talking to each other and other leading Buddhist women around the world, and soon the first awards in 2002 were expected. For the first two years, the awards went to the Association for the Advancement of the Status of Women, an organization founded in Thailand in 1974 to promote the welfare of women and children.
For several years thereafter, the awards were presented at the United Nations Conference Center in Bangkok before returning to the Association for the Advancement of the Status of Women, then to various venues. The 2020 awards were postponed due to the pandemic and the 2021 awards were hosted via Zoom from the Heartwood Refuge in North Carolina.
Awards are given for excellence in a number of categories, including meditative practice, social work and community development, Dharma propagation – such as Dharma writing, academic work and media appearances – and peace activism. Buddhist women are nominated each year and then selected after examination of their merits by a dozen committee members.
The awards serve several purposes, including raising the voices of outstanding Buddhist women. After this year’s event, organizers plan to expand their work to include a global women’s empowerment network.
Dr Lee said: “Networking, collaboration, visits, study tours, etc. are all part of this phase.” (Tricycle)
The International Women’s Meditation Center, located in a rural area 20 kilometers east of Rayong, about 200 kilometers southeast of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand, is the only temple dedicated to female monastics (bhikkhunis ) in the eastern part of the country.
Theravada Buddhism is Thailand’s predominant religion, with 94.5% of the population identifying as Buddhist, according to the 2015 census. Islam and Christianity are the main minority religions, with 4.29% and 1.17% of the population. Despite a long history of Buddhist practice, there has never been an officially recognized order of female monastics in the country. Work is underway to change this, and today several fully ordained women monastics live in the country. Probably the best-known female monk is Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, Thailand’s first female monk, who was named one of the 100 most inspiring and influential women in the world in 2019.*
* BBC names Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, Thailand’s first female monk, among 100 influential women of 2019 (BDG)
International Women’s Meditation Center Foundation Honors Outstanding Women in Buddhism (Tricycle)
Outstanding Women in Buddhism 2022 (International Women’s Meditation Center Foundation)
Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Dr. Lee – Bhikkhunis Magazine (Youtube)
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