Today, on International Women’s Day, the International Women’s Meditation Center Foundation (IWMCF) presents its annual Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award online via Zoom. This year, 20 Buddhist women from eight different countries have been selected to receive the award, including Martine Batchelor and Pamela Ayo Yetunde

Operating out of Rayong, Thailand, the IWMCF aims to promote gender equality in Buddhism, specifically in Thailand and Myanmar, by establishing bhikkhunis as leaders in society. In addition to the award, the foundation provides meditation and dharma teachings for women and girls as well as consulting, education, and IT and media services for bhikkhunis. 

The award was established in 2002 by Bhikkhuni Rattanavali and Bhikkhuni Dr. Lee as part of the international women’s movement and with the objective of celebrating acts of courage and determination by women in the history of Buddhism. In the award’s 20-year history, nearly 200 women from 20 countries have been honored for their work in one of the following categories: meditative practice, social work and community development, dharma propagation, and peace activism. During this year’s ceremony, each awardee will declare their commitments in lieu of a traditional acceptance speech.

Dr. Lee told Tricycle that the selection process for the award consists of someone nominating an outstanding woman, followed by a selection made by a committee of about a dozen members. She added that Buddhist monastics and scholars from around the world “share their ideas on how to empower these candidates.” 

What happens next after the ceremony? Dr. Lee shared that IWMCF will be working on the next phase of creating a women’s empowerment movement, both domestic and abroad. “Networking, collaboration, visits, study tours, etc., are all part of this phase,” she said. In previous years (prior to COVID restrictions), the IWMCF held study tours whereby women who attended the event could travel free of cost to visit the temples of award recipients from current or previous years. During these study tours, women would share ideas and envision new possibilities for women’s participation in Buddhism. 

The recipients for the 2022 Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award are: 

  • Bhikkhuni Ani Choejin Samdrup, Thailand
  • Bhikkhuni Der-Chia, Taiwan
  • Bhikkhuni Dr. Jian Hui, Taiwan
  • Bhikkhuni Liao Guo, China
  • Bhikkhuni Surindra, Thailand
  • Bhikkhuni Tsung-Tueng, Thailand
  • Chen Yun Chang, Taiwan
  • Ching Yi Chi, Taiwan
  • Khenmo Drolma, US
  • Kim Behan, US
  • Maechee Orawan Maneeratanachot, Thailand
  • Maechee Pittsayaputt Vhititthiranun, Thailand 
  • Martine Batchelor, France
  • Mei Yun Tang, Taiwan
  • Merry Kham Oo, Myanmar
  • Mingli C. Shih, Taiwan,
  • Pamela Ayo Yetunde, US
  • Saijai Wannual, Thailand 
  • Thanissara, UK
  • Venerable Gawa Khandro, Canada

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