Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck awarded the individual laureate for 2020 UN Population Award
Bhutan’s Queen Mother, Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck has been awarded with the individual laureate award for the 2020 United Nations Population Award by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The UN Population Award is the most prestigious award in the field of reproductive health and population.
The virtual award ceremony was held on 10th December 2020 and was witnessed from the Grand Kuenray Hall of the Trashichhodzong. The special viewing ceremony was attended by members of the Royal Family, representative of the Zhung Dratshang, the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, heads of international partner agencies, senior government officials and special invitees who have contributed to Her Majesty the Gyalyum’s tireless efforts and work over the last 21 years.
A special documentary on Her Majesty the Gyalyum’s journey as the UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador for 21 years was screened in the Grand Kuenray prior to the virtual award ceremony.
The virtual award ceremony was opened by Ambassador Jinga in his capacity as the Chair of the Award Committee. It was followed by a video on the UN Population Award showcasing 34 years of excellence and a video message from the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres.
Her Majesty The Gyalyum expressed her appreciation to the members of the UN Population Award Committee for the conferment of the prestigious award. Her Majesty shared that the award is of great personal significance given that it represents the hopes and aspirations of the most vulnerable women and children, a matter that is close to Her Majesty’s heart.
Her Majesty The Gyalyum highlighted the heavy toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken, particularly on women and girls and shared hope that the vaccine will be made accessible to all in an equitable and affordable manner.
Each year, the Committee for the United Nations Population Award honours an individual and/or an institution for their significant contributions in the field. The Award was established by the UN General Assembly in 1981 in resolution 36/201 and was first presented in 1983. HelpAge India was announced as the 2020 award's institutional laureate.
The award to Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck was in recognition of her outstanding contributions towards social and health issues in Bhutan. Her Majesty the Gyalyum is the longest serving UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador to Bhutan since January 1999. For more than two decades, Her Majesty’s compassion and interest in the welfare of women, youth and children of Bhutan has led her to travel extensively throughout the Kingdom, interacting actively with all segments of the Bhutanese population. She has been actively involved in promoting various social causes.
Photo: Gyalyum Charitable Trust
Her Majesty has a broad understanding of the constraints as well as opportunities in the social sector of the country. She believes in the importance of ensuring physical, mental and social well being at the family, community and the national level. She has travelled to the remotest villages to speak to countless Bhutanese on safe motherhood and sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. Her Majesty is recognised as an advocate for the prevention of HIV/AIDS both locally in Bhutan and internationally.
Last year, coinciding with UN Day Celebrations on 24 October 2019, Dr. Natalia Kanem, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNFPA, also presented an award to Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, in recognition of Her Majesty’s role in helping advance the rights of women and girls in Bhutan as the Goodwill Ambassador of UNFPA for the last 20 years.
Dr. Natalia Kanem said, “Your Majesty, your role as UNFPA goodwill ambassador since 1999 has been the driving force behind our advocacy efforts in Bhutan. You are such a strong role model for women and girls here in Bhutan, and your commitment to the citizens in this country is inspiring. From far-flung villages to anywhere the unreachable reside, you have travelled to so many remote areas in difficult terrains to speak to people on issues ranging from safe motherhood to information about sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.”
She added: “Your Majesty’s deep investment in the progress of Bhutan has made a huge difference to the work UNFPA is trying to achieve in this country – that is zero unmet need for family planning, zero preventable maternal deaths and zero instances of gender-based violence and harmful practices. With you at the helm of our advocacy efforts, we are certain Bhutan will show the way to the rest of the world. Words cannot express our collective gratitude for your strong, compassionate leadership and for all that you have done for women, girls and young people in Bhutan.”
Dr. Natalia Kanem and Her Majesty Sangay Choden Wangchuck at 2019's UN Day Celebrations.
Her Majesty’s commitment towards women empowerment and helping the disadvantaged women and adolescents in the country is exemplary. Her Majesty has established various institutions and charitable organizations such as 'RENEW' - Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women in 2004, to empower vulnerable women, especially victims and survivors of domestic violence. Her Majesty also established the Gyalyum Charitable Trust in 2016 to uplift the lives of the marginalized. The Craft Gallery, a chapter under the Gyalyum Charitable Trust seeks to support local artisans and promote Bhutanese arts and crafts.
The Craft Gallery at Thimphu city. Photo: Druk Asia
Aside from championing social causes, Her Majesty is also an advocator for Bhutanese arts and preservation of cultural heritage. She helped to establish the Textile Museum in 2001 - the museum is mandated to collect, preserve, document and exhibit Bhutanese textiles and serve as an educational outreach centre to both local and international audiences.
The Royal Textile Academy was also inaugurated under Her Majesty’s patronage in 2005 as an educational centre to provide traditional weaving skills. The Academy strives to preserve and conserve the culture of Bhutanese textiles and weaving heritage of Bhutan. Her Majesty’s personal interest in Bhutanese textile has been vital in boosting Bhutan’s textile industry and provided due recognition to the nation’s distinctive textiles culture. The efforts have also created a platform at a national and international level for the weavers of the Kingdom.
Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck is the Royal Patron for Royal Textile Academy.
In recognition of her work, Her Majesty was also conferred by His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck the National Order of Merit (1st Class) on December 17th, 2016 for RENEW and the Royal Textile Academy. The highest honor awarded to a Civil Society Organization for distinguished and meritorious service to the Nation.
Her Majesty is also deeply spiritual and actively supports Dharma activities. Her Majesty established the Tara Lhadron Zhingkham Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to the 21 Taras located in the historically and spiritually significant temple grounds of Parigzampa Astrology School in Dechencholing, Thimphu.
Her Majesty the Gyalyum’s selfless dedication and her efforts to improve the welfare of disadvantaged and marginalised have been recognised at the highest levels.