By Tenzin Saldon
DHARAMSHALA: Ama Jetsun Pema was conferred with the highest civilian honour for women, the Nari Shakti Puruskar for her remarkable contribution to education of tens of thousand children, by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India on International Women’s Day, 8 March.
The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, presented the Nari Shakti Puraskar at a function held at Rashtrapati Bhavan on the occasion of International Women’s Day. Amala was unable to personally receive the award.
In its announcement, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, GOI said, “Jestun Pema has dedicated her life for Tibetan refugee children since 1964. With the assistance of the Government of India and other philanthropic organizations, Pema established a total of 10 residential schools, 17 day schools, 3 vocational training institutes, 3 hostels for college students and 1 college, spread across India.
“So far, 52,000 students have graduated from her institutions, of which 50 per cent are Tibetan refugees. Apart from Tibetan Children, her institutions also impart education to children from the Himalayan regions.”
Ama Jetsun Pema, 77, is the revered sister of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, first female Minister of the Central Tibetan Administration, pioneer of the Tibetan Children’s Village Schools and UNESCO medal winner.
This year, the Nari Shakti Puraskar was conferred on 30 eminent women and nine distinguished institutions in recognition of their efforts in rendering distinguished services for the cause of women and children. Established in 1991, the award is conferred annually by President on the occasion of International Women’s Day every year.
Biography of Ama Jetsun Pema
Ama Jetsun Pema was born in Lhasa, on 7 July 1940. She went to India in 1950 and studied first at St. Joseph’s Convent in Kalimpong and later at Loreto Convent in Darjeeling from where she completed her Senior Cambridge in 1960.
In 1961, she went to Switzerland and then to England to do further studies. She returned to India in April 1964. She served as the President of the Tibetan Children’s Villages for more than 42 years, until her retirement in August 2006.
Because of her relentless efforts, today TCV projects includes eight Tibetan Children’s Villages, three Day Schools, ten Day Care Centres, four Vocational Training Centers, three Youth Hostels, four Homes for the Elderly, and an outreach program for over 2,000 children in exile.
In 1970, at the first General Body Meeting of the Tibetan Youth Congress, Ama Jetsun Pema was elected as its Vice President, and at the 1984 first General Body Meeting of the Tibetan Women’s Association, she was elected as an Adviser. In 1980, she was sent by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to visit Tibet as the leader of the third Fact Finding Delegation and for three months traveled extensively all over the country.
In May 1990, His Holiness the Dalai Lama convened a special Congress of the Tibetan People-In-Exile(currently Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile) in Dharamshala to elect the Kalons (Ministers) of Central Tibetan Administration. Ama Jetsun Pema was one of the three Ministers elected and became the first Tibetan Woman Minister.
In 1991, she was again elected by the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile) as one of the Ministers and was allocated the portfolio of Minister-In-Charge of the Department of Tibetan Education. In July 1993, she resigned from the Kashag (Cabinet) and is today the President of the Tibetan Children’s Villages. In 1995, the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies awarded her the title, “Mother of Tibet,” in recognition of her dedication and service to Tibetan children. Jetsun Pema has traveled widely to speak about the Tibetans and her work at the Tibetan Children’s Villages.
She was awarded the UNESCO medal in 1999.