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 Auditorium 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. All the while the nuns were in residence and learning from the Most Venerable Master Dr. Shi Kuang Seng, Head of Kuan-Im Bodhisattava’s Hall 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.

The Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards Ceremony occurred in 2002 and 2003 at the auditorium of the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women and then in 2004, thanks to the kindness of Mettanando Bhikkhu, the event subsequently occurred at the auditorium of the United Nations 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-Im Bodhisattava’s Hall, in 2014 Buddha Savika Foundation, and in 2015 at A Handful of Leaves Project in Chiang Mai. The awards subsequently are eagerly hosted at women’s temples and centers throughout Thailand.

The Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards are part of an international women’s movement calling for change and celebrating the acts of courage and determination by women in the history of Buddhism.

The UN 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 the United Nations. At each of the 5 United Nations branches in the world, there is an honoring of the day and across the world at universities, schools and educational institutions, the day often expands into a week or even a month focusing on the accomplishments of women.

When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least three decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.

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, 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