Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award Recipients

Hall of Fame: Photos and Biographies

OWBA Background

Two Buddhist nuns, Thai Bhikkhuni Rattanavali and American Bhikkhuni Dr. Lee, got the idea to develop an award in honor of Buddhist women’s accomplishments on the United Nations’ International Women’s Day. This idea arose in March 2001 after the nuns attended two events:

  1. The Outstanding Women’s Awards in Thailand organized by the Gender and Development Research Institute, and
  2. An invited speech offered by Venerable Bhikkhuni Dr. Lee at the United Nations in Bangkok in honor of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2001.

The nuns noticed the positive influence to the role and status of women encouraged via the events, and thus began to brainstorm. In fact, Venerable Bhikkhuni Rattanavali proposed the idea to Dr. Lee who agreed and advised her to speak to Dr. Tavivat Puntarigvivat, Director of Research at the World Buddhist University, World Fellowship of Buddhists in Bangkok. All the while, the nuns were in residence and learning from the Most Venerable Bhiksuni Kuang Saeng, Head of Kuan Yin Bodhisattava’s Temple in Bangkok who offered encouragement, guidance and support. Thus, Venerable Rattanavali planted the seed in the hearts of the above-mentioned persons, and the seed received water, sunlight and nourishment, while also overcoming obstacles in the process of growth. Eventually, a lotus blossomed.

From 2005 - 2008, Venerable Bhiksuni Shiou-I nobly held the Presidency of OWBA. In 2012 Venerable Bhiksuni Ming Yu, President of Taiwan’s Chinese Young Buddhist Association became President of the Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards and has held the position honorably ever since along with Venerable Rattanavali and Venerable Dr. Lee as the Co-Founders.

In 2016, The Most Venerable Bhiksuni Pu Huei, President of Taiwan’s Bhiksuni Association became OWBA’s Honorary President and Venerable Bhiksuni Jian Yin of Taiwan became OWBA’s Vice-President. Also, in 2016, Venerable Dr. Lee and Venerable Rattanavali in conversation with the Most Venerable Pu Huei and Venerable Jian Yin proposed the idea of founding an international Bhikkhuni association and requested Taiwan to create it. It gave birth to the World Buddhist Bhikkhuni Association at Wangfang Temple in Pingtung, Taiwan in November 2016. Words in conversations are powerful.

The Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards Ceremony occurred in 2002 and 2003 at the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women in Bangkok. In 2004, thanks to the kindness of Mettanando Bhikkhu, the event subsequently occurred at the United Nations’ Conference Center in Bangkok in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. From 2008 - 2011 the OWBA Ceremony was at the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women. In 2012, the venue was Chulalongkorn University, in 2013 Kuan-Yin Bodhisattava’s Hall, in 2014 Buddha Savika Foundation, and in 2015 at A Handful of Leaves Project in Chiang Mai. In 2016 the event was hosted at the Tzu Chi Buddhist Compassion Relief Foundation in Hualien, Taiwan, with the Most Venerable Bhiksuni Cheng Yen presiding. In 2017 the event was held at the Emerald Hotel in Bangkok and jointly celebrated the founding of the Global Buddhist Bhikkhuni Association 1st Presidents and Vice-Presidents. In 2018, the event was held in the International Women’s Meditation Center, the OWBA Headquarters, in Rayong, Thailand. In 2019, the Nipunin Meditation Center in Pak Tong Chai, Nakorn Ratchasima hosted the event. In 2020, the awards were post-poned due to the corona virus pandemic, and in 2021 the event is being hosted via Zoom at Heartwood Refuge in North Carolina, USA.

The Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards are part of an international women’s movement which takes a stand for transformation and celebrates the acts of courage and determination by women in the history of Buddhism.

The United Nations’ International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day, March 8th, is an occasion marked by women’s groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at each of the 5 United Nations’ branches in the world. There is also an honoring of the day across the world at universities, schools and educational institutions. Often, the day expands into a week or even a month focusing on the accomplishments of women.

When women on all continents, who are often divided by national boundaries, ethnic, racial, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to women’s struggle for equality, justice, peace and development which began in the1840s.

Few causes promoted by the United Nations have generated more intense and widespread support than the campaign to promote and protect the equal rights of women. The Charter of the United Nations, signed in San Francisco in 1945, was the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality, as a fundamental human right.

Nearly 200 women from 20 countries have been awarded to date. Some of the awardees have included:

The Kingdom of Bhutan

  • Her Majesty Queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck
  • Her Royal Highness Princess Ashi Dechan Wangchuck


  • Bhikkhuni Santa Citta

The Kingdom of Cambodia

  • Her Royal Highness Princess Neak Moneang Norodom Men Keo Monirien
  • Dr. Kek Pung


  • Annabelle Zinser
  • Sylvia Wetzel


  • Bhikhuni Santini


  • Shoma Aoyama


  • Bhiksuni Dae Haeng Kun Sunim
  • Bhiksuni Sang Wan Sunim


  • Bhiksuni Chang Heng
  • Dr. Bong Chui Lien


  • Daw Aung San Suu Kyi


  • Stella Tamang


  • Bhiksuni Dr. Zhiru Ng

Sri Lanka

  • Bhikkhuni Sudarshana
  • Mrs. Shiranthi Rajapaksa, The First Lady of Sri Lanka
  • erica dias
  • Dr. Hema Goonatilake
  • Mrs. Ranjani de Silva


  • Bhiksuni Cheng Yen
  • Bhiksuni Jing Ding
  • Bhiksuni Ming Yu
  • Bhiksuni Hui Kun
  • Bhiksuni Shiou-I
  • Bhiksuni Ming Jia
  • Bhiksuni Sik Wei Chun
  • Dr. Li Hua Yang


  • Bhiksuni Dr. Kuang Saeng
  • Bhiksuni Su Linh Nghiem
  • Bhikkhuni Dhamma Visudtha
  • Bhikkhuni Dr. Dhammananda
  • Maechee Khunying Kanitha Wichiencharoen
  • Maechee Dr. Kritsana Raksachoom
  • Maechee Sansanee Sthirasuta
  • Maechee Nalinrat Sutthithamvith
  • Maechee Sukhi Jitjaroen
  • Her Excellency Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra
  • Dr. Suteera Vichitranonda
  • Dr. Kornvipa Boonsue
  • Pavina Hongsakul
  • Prateep Ungsongtham-Hatha
  • Dr. Krisadawan Hongladarom
  • Dr. Parichart Suwanabubbha
  • Assoc. Prof. Dr. Payorm Wongsarnsri
  • Dr. Seebaitong Boonyakamol
  • Phanee Boonyakamol
  • Sujin Borihan Wanakaet


  • Bhiksuni Lama Dr. Kim Le Kalsang Tsomo (Vietnam/USA)
  • Bhikkhuni Dr. Pannavati
  • Reverend Beth Kanji Goldring
  • Joanna Macy
  • Ruth Denison


  • Bhikkhuni Dr. Dhammananda

Objectives of the Award

  1. Mobilize public opinion and international action to promote the role and status of Theravada Bhikkhunis in southeast Asia, thereby directing assistance to disadvantaged groups of women and girls.
  2. Uplift the good deeds of Buddhist women so that others may know.
  3. Provide good role models for society.
  4. Encourage the award recipients.
  5. Promote sorority in the overcoming of obstacles.
  6. Promote information of the award recipient’s role in developing her own life, that of her community, her nation and the world.
  7. Training, research and the collection of sex-segregated data on the role and status of ordained women in Buddhism.
  8. Encourage a movement which uplifts the role and status of Buddhist women within the Buddhist faith.
  9. Promote telling the herstory of women in Buddhism.
  10. Promote a network of accomplished Buddhist women, ordained and lay.


The Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards recognize four categories of accomplishments.
  1. Meditative Practice
  2. Social Work and Community Development
  3. Dharma Propagation: e.g. Dharma Writings, Academic Writings, Radio, TV, Websites
  4. Peace Activism


  1. Identify Outstanding Women in Buddhism.
  2. Nominate them to the Selection Committee.
  3. Press Release the Award Recipients.
  4. Celebrate the Ceremony.
    This process begins in June and concludes in March. The deadline for submitting nominations is October 15.

Organizational Affiliations

  • Kuan-Im Bodhisattava’s Hall, Thailand
  • A Handful of Leaves Project, Thailand
  • Buddha Savika Foundation, Thailand
  • Dan Mahamonkol Meditation Center, Thailand
  • Thousand Stars Foundation, Thailand
  • Love-Line Family Center, Thailand
  • Rattana Paiboon Meditation Center, Thailand
  • Siam Nikaya Bhikkhuni Temples, Thailand
  • The Tann Phunkamon Wongsawat Foundation, Thailand
  • Thai Maechee Institute, Thailand
  • Chinese Young Buddhist Association, Taiwan
  • Chinese Buddhist Bhikkhuni Association, Taiwan
  • Tzu Chi Buddhist Compassion Relief Foundation, Taiwan
  • Embracing Simplicity Hermitage, USA
  • Sisters of Compassionate Wisdom, USA
  • Thai Nuns’ Organizational & Development Group World Buddhist Bhikkhuni Association

Contact Information

  • Venerable Bhiksuni Ming Yu, President
  • Venerable Bhikkhuni Rattanavali, Co-founder
  • Venerable Bhikkhuni Dr. Lee, Co-founder

Study Tour Script

Hi! I’m Felicia and I live in California. I have lived and studied in Thailand, specializing in Thai Studies. I am very pleased to take you on a virtual study tour of women’s temples in Thailand and one in Sri Lanka. Please keep a pen and paper beside you to jot down their contact information.

Let’s go.

  1. The International Women’s Meditation Center is located near the sea in Rayong, Thailand. IWMC is home to YO Video Productions and is the headquarters of the Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards. This pioneering temple is the only Bhikkhuni temple in the eastern part of Thailand. It rests in a picturesque fruit orchid, with the mountains behind and the Gulf of Thailand with tropical islands in front. This temple focuses on women’s social movement, and is a legally-registered foundation, the International Women’s Meditation Center Foundation, www.iwmcf.net.
  2. Rattanamanee Bhikkhuni Temple is located in the northeast of Thailand, adjacent to Laos and the Mekong River. It is a countryside temple, in a rubber-tree forest, with lovely village support and activities. Rattanamanee Temple offers ordination for women and girls.
  3. Kao Nam Phet Bhikkhuni Temple is located in Thailand’s northwest, directly adjacent to Myanmar. It is a pristine, naturally-forested, hermit temple ideal for deep meditation practice. Silence and serenity characterize this temple.
  4. Baan Home Hug is a refuge for kind, gentle and loving children, who have survived abandonment, poverty, neglect, abuse: emotionally, physically and sexually, some are living with HIV/AIDS, and/or have been sex-trafficked. This sanctuary nourishes and loves children offering them necessities, education, community creative arts and expressive arts opportunities. There is also a Bhikkhuni Temple which manages Baan Home Hug. They are a legally-registered foundation, the Suthasinee Noiin Foundation.
  5. Thaiyanpim Sikan Maechee Temple is located in the northwest of Thailand, adjacent to Myanmar. This temple is high in the naturally-forested mountains and serves indigenous, Karian Mountain People who are often stateless. This temple offers food, shelter, clothing and educational opportunities to children and opportunities for community cultural expression. [Title of video: Maechee Pimjai ]
  6. Boonyaniti Bhikkhuni Temple is located in the northeastern part of Thailand. Amidst cassava fields and grazing cattle, this temple specializes in studying the Buddhist Canon. By cherishing the Buddhist scriptures, it preserves Buddhist knowledge. It also preserves Buddhist traditions by having a sacred monument, stupa, and the only sacred cremation grounds, specifically for Bhikkhunis in Thailand. Boonyaniti Bhikkhuni Temple is also a legally-registered foundation.
  7. Vimutthi Nantha Asom is located in southern Thailand adjacent to Malaysia. This countryside temple is nestled in a rubber-tree forest. It offers ceremonies for national and religious holidays and meditation opportunities for the public-at-large. [It is a silent video.]
  8. Maha Bodhi Temple is located in the rice fields of northeastern Thailand. It is a countryside temple, currently under-construction, with the goal of creating a place for practice for the Bhikkhuni Sangha of the present and future.
  9. Rattanapaiboon Maechee Temple is located in the center of Bangkok. This temple offers ordination for girls-in-need. It offers a sense of community and structure for young nuns, and also provides them with opportunities to visit the countryside. [Title of video: Maechee Choojai ]
  10. The Sakyadhita Meditation and Training Center is located in Sri Lanka, and serves local and international needs. It offers chanting and meditation, specializing in outreach to youth and women, and creates a bridge that others may cross to experience Sri Lankan Buddhism. This Center is intent on preserving the Bhikkhuni Sangha.
  11. The Bhikkhuni Patimokh Temple is located in the rice fields of northeastern Thailand. It is designed as a replica of the stupa, sacred monument, in remembrance of the holy place where the Buddha attained Parinibbana and was cremated in Kushinagar, India. It also reveals the elegance of Thai artisans. This temple specializes in chanting, stringent adherence to precepts, and Buddhist Abhidhamma studies. It is their first temple in their international network of Bhikkhuni temples spanning several continents. It is also a legally registered foundation. [It is a silent video.]