Understanding the many facets of the role of Thai women broadens and deepens foreign readers’ knowledge about Thai culture. It is meaningful to focus, first and foremost, on the role of Her Majesty, Queen Sirikit of Thailand, the eminent role model of Thai women.
Queen Sirikit of Thailand
Since she became Queen, Her Majesty has assisted His Majesty the King in his development work. On the occasion of the King’s ordination as a monk, in 1966, the Queen served as Regent. The Queen has set the eminent role model for Thai people by promoting their well-being. Her Majesty has worked hard to provide them with a better life. Through her inexhaustible kindness, she has promoted the development of Thai people beyond imagination.
Ever since the coronation of His Majesty the King, in support of his work, the Queen has been looking after the Thai people, especially after those struggling to earn a livelihood and in need of occupational know-how. For more than 50 years, Her Majesty has upheld her vigorous resolve and strong commitment to occupational development geared to supplement family income, out of genuine concern and loving care that only a mother could possibly give. In most grateful appreciation, the National Council on Social Welfare of Thailand moved, in 1976, that her birthday anniversary, August 12th, be celebrated as Mother’s Day, henceforth a national holiday.
Her Majesty has given rise to many development programmes that benefit men, women, youth and children alike. She has initiated projects furthering both formal and non-formal education, promoting cash crop cultivation, preserving as well as revitalizing artisan techniques, and improving family welfare. All this has created employment opportunities, thus enabling families to generate supplementary income, in the long run.
In supporting the King in his numerous rural development projects geared to enhance social welfare and diversify agriculture, the Queen established “The Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupation and Related Techniques – SUPPORT”. Among its objectives
are to preserve time-honoured crafts, techniques and skills. To facilitate the renaissance of ancient artistic treasures, she initiated the preservation, not to say the salvaging of traditional artistry under threat of disappearance. By retrieving indigenous knowledge from virtual oblivion and reviving techniques feared lost yet reconstituted through analyzing rare, preserved specimens of artisanship, she has enticed experts and laypersons alike to tap natural resources and mobilize human resources as well. As a result, thanks to her gracious initiative, dormant indigenous knowledge has been reactivated, new livelihood enabling strategies have evolved, creativity is kindled, and the range of superb artifacts keeps expanding.
The SUPPORT Foundation, for short, trains rural people in numerous occupational specializations. Such crafts are pottery including designing, moulding, plastering, glazing and firing; sculpting of ceramic figurines and statuettes; decorating porcelain and ceramics; toy-making; making nielloware and jewellery; marquetry, incrustation and engraving; trimming, millinery and making hats as well as apparel finery; making of handbags and purses; making of pillowcases; fibre-extracting, processing, and twirling; basket plaiting and wicker-ware-making; mat-weaving; woodworking, cabinet-making, and wood-carving; spinning, dyeing, and weaving; crochet, embroidery, and lace-making; and dress-making.
Craftspeople thus trained find seasonal or full-time employment. As these beneficiaries have developed ever greater skills, SUPPORT Foundation products are becoming more and more sophisticated. Her Majesty has taken the lead in promoting the arts and crafts of Thailand by organizing exhibitions at home and around the world, thus gaining international fame for SUPPORT products and generating income for an increasing number of craftspeople and their dependents.
In the same spirit, Queen Sirikit has encouraged the formation of social welfare organizations, of which she accepted patronage, to offer assistance such as shelter for the homeless and orphaned, supplementary meals for children while at school, and funding medical treatment of badly afflicted individuals in dire need of help. The Queen has endeavoured in every way to elevate the status of women through programmes to educate and train women, so that they may better their prospects in life. In this spirit, the Queen has served as President of the Thai Red Cross Society. Her Majesty’s compassion has been extended not only to the Thai people but also to refugees from neighbouring countries.
Her Majesty the Queen’s exceptional, outstanding leadership in fostering the role of Thai women has received international recognition in forms of awards and honorary degrees from world-renowned institutions and organizations such as, to name some, the Ceres Medal by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN-FAO), in 1979; the Honorary Doctoral Degree in Humane Letters by the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Boston, in 1980; the Borobodur Gold Medal by the United Nations Educational and Social Commission (UNESCO), in 1992; the AIT Gold Medal for Leadership in the Conservation of Natural Resources and Protection of the Environment by the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, in 1992; the acclaim as “Woman of the Year” by Stanford University, California, in 1993; and the Gold Medal with Mention in recognition of outstanding achievements in the Training Programme to Improve Farmers’ Income under the tutelage of The SUPPORT Foundation, awarded at the “Brussels EUREKA 2001 : 50th Anniversary of the World Exhibition of Innovation, Research and New Technology”, in 2001.
Taken from: Thailand: Traits and Treasures. The National Identity Board, Royal Thai Government 2005.
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