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International Women’s Meditation Center Foundation offers 2022 Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards

Coinciding with International Women’s Day on 8 March, the International Women’s Meditation Center Foundation (IWMCF) announced its yearly awards for outstanding women in Buddhism from its headquarters in Rayong, Thailand. This year, 20 women, including laywomen and monastics from around the world, were honored with the awards.

The complete list of recipients and their countries of origin for the 2022 Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award: 

Merry (Nan) Kham Oo, Myanmar

Bhikkhuni Surindra, Thailand

Bhikkhuni Dr. Jian Hui, Taiwan

Bhikkhuni Tsung-Tueng, Thailand

Bhikkhuni Der-Chia, Taiwan

Mei Yun Tang, Taiwan

Top row, left to right: Merry (Nan) Kham Oo, Bhikkhuni Surindra, and Bhikkhuni Dr. Jian Hui. Bottom row, left to right: Bhikkhuni Tsung-Tueng, Bhikkhuni Der-Chia, and Mei Yun Tang. From iwmcf.net

Maechee Orawan Maneeratanachot, Thailand

Ching Yi Chi, Taiwan

Maechee Pittsayaputt Vhititthiranun, Thailand 

Mingli C. Shih, Taiwan

Dr. Pamela Ayo Yetunde, USA

Saijai Wannual, Thailand 

Top row, left to right: Maechee Orawan Maneeratanachot, Ching Yi Chi, and Maechee Pittsayaputt Vhititthiranun. Bottom row, left to right: Mingli C. Shih, Dr. Pamela Ayo Yetunde, and Saijai Wannual. From iwmcf.net

Bhikkhuni Khenmo Drolma, USA

Bhikkhuni Choejin Samdrup, Thailand

Chen Yun Chang, Taiwan

Gawa Khandro, Canada

Martine Batchelor, France

Bhikkhuni Liao Guo, China

Top row, left to right: Bhikkhuni Khenmo Drolma, Bhikkhuni Choejin Samdrup, and Chen Yun Chang. Bottom row, left to right: Gawa Khandro, Martine Batchelor, and Bhikkhuni Liao Guo. From iwmcf.net

Thanissara, UK

Kim Behan, USA

Thanissara, left, and Kim Behan. From iwmcf.net

The accomplishments and future plans of each award-winner are listed on the IWMCF website, as are past winners back to 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 and Development Research Institute, and an invited speech offered by Ven. Bhikkhuni Dr. Lee at the United Nations in Bangkok in honor of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2001.

From there, the two began speaking with one another and other leading Buddhist women around the world, and soon the first awards in 2002 were planned. For the first two years, the awards were given at the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women, an organization founded in Thailand in 1974 to promote the welfare of women and children.

Recipients at the awards ceremony at the A Handful of Leaves Project in Chiang Mai, 2015. From iwmcf.net

For several years afterward, the awards were given at the United Nations’ Conference Center in Bangkok before returning to the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women and then different 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 writings, academic work, and media appearances—and peace activism. Buddhist women are nominated each year and then selected after their merits are examined by a dozen committee members.

The awards serve a number of purposes, including uplifting the voices of exceptional Buddhist women. After the event this year, organizers plan to broaden 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—some 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 per cent of the population identifying as Buddhists, according to the 2015 census. Islam and Christianity are the largest minority religions, with 4.29 per cent and 1.17 per cent of the population, respectively. 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 female monastics live in the country. The most well-known female monk is likely Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, Thailand’s first female monk, who was named one of the world’s 100 most inspiring and influential women of 2019.*

* BBC Names Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, Thailand’s First Female Monk, among 100 Influential Women of 2019 (BDG)

See more

The 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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Female Buddhist Monastics in Thailand Continue to Fight for Equality

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