1961 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service
BIOGRAPHY of Nilawan Pintong
NILAWAN PINTONG was born on December 6, 1916 in Bangkok, Thailand. A devout Buddhist, her father joined the priesthood after her mother's death and his charitable spirit continues to give his daughter inspiration. Moving into a monastery within a wat, or temple, compound, he first chose the poorest, small house, rebuilt it with his own hands, offered it to a frailer monk and repaired a second building for himself.
Khun NILAWAN holds a certificate of Teaching from Bethaburi School of Teacher Training at Bangkok and, in 1936, received from Chulalongkorn University a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Modern Languages (English and French) with First Honors in English. One year of teaching at Suan Sunandha Secondary School under the Ministry of Education was followed by an appointment to the Government's Public Relations Department where she served for five years as Chief of the Official Publications Section and another five as Chief of the Foreign Press Section, Division of Foreign Affairs.
Working with the press, she developed a keen interest in journalism and, as her own outside activities grew, became conscious of the civic role that was waiting for women in modern Thailand. The two interests proved to be complementary. Seeking an effective means of encouraging among Thai women an awareness of their opportunity, her answer was a magazine.
In 1947, the fortnightly Satri Sarn (Women's Magazine) made its debut, sponsored financially by two friends with a third contributing to the editorial department and Khun NILAWAN responsible for policy guidance and other sections. The magazine's purpose was clearly defined: it would encourage women to participate more actively in community affairs while maintaining a happy balance between home and the outside world. To do this it sought to help satisfy their aesthetic, intellectual and entertainment needs. In its third year, growing circulation required larger capital and the Satri Sarn Publishing Company, Limited, was formed with some 50 shareholders, including a number of men. Khun NILAWANs contribution was to leave the security of civil service and join as full-time editor of the magazine and later concurrently as director of the company.
Under her zealous direction, Satri Sarn has become the most widely read women's magazine in Thailand. Each issue is styled for every woman. For the civic leader there may be an article on research techniques, for the country housewife, new, practical recipes and a crocheting lesson, and for mothers an article on child psychology. In the literary section will be light fiction for relaxation and perhaps a commentary on Thai architecture for the serious-minded. In 1956, the magazine was judged the best-liked in its category in a sample survey conducted by the Library Association of Thailand in connection with a UNESCO field study on public reading appreciation.
At the top of another list in the same poll was Daroon Sarn (Youth's Magazine), a weekly aimed at pleasing while educating its young readers and the second of Khun NILAWANs publishing ventures. Now entering its third year, Daroon Sarn has a wide following of eight to 18-year-olds and, by carrying their poems, drawings, answers to instructive questions and other contributions, has developed a high degree of reader participation.
With the launching of the Youth's Magazine, the Preeya Club for children was also founded. Membership has now grown to 700 and most of the boys and girls participate in one or more of the Club's activities. With Khun NILAWAN heading the group of parent-teacher organizers, a monthly get-together of members is held at the meeting hall of the Priests' Hospital in Bangkok. The youngsters also have a club room at the Satri Sarn Publishing Company building which functions as a progressive kindergarten; any day of the week several children can be found working on handicraft projects or reading one of the many books available to them there. A regular visitor is Khun NILAWAN, who stops in from her office nearby to chat or give advice on some new undertaking.
A third weekly news magazine, Sapdha Sarn, after an earlier failure made its comeback in May. Covering news of significance in depth, its guiding motto is "truth alone will make men free."
As these publications led to new areas of investigation and concern, Khun NILAWAN began to take an increasingly active part in organizing private endeavor to meet community needs. She was instrumental in getting a translation service started, and, to help support her civic work, she runs a weekly radio program and is regularly moderator of three panel discussions. Through the exercise of her imagination, sound sense and leadership qualities she has become a key factor in numerous non-governmental organizations in Thailand. Though an officer of most groups to which she belongs, she is seldom the one in front, preferring to stay behind the scenes and see that the work is done.
During her period at its helm, the fortunes of the Thai Library Association made a marked advance with a broadened program of service by and for the profession of librarianship in her country. A founder and former president of the PEN Center of Thailand, she continues to serve as Secretary. In a time of change, she accepted the Executive Secretaryship of the Thai Foundation for Journalism Education and has kept that organization active. Interuniversity activities among students have been greatly enhanced by institution of the World University Service in Thailand; started largely due to her leadership, she serves as Secretary on the National Committee.
Drawing deeply from the teachings of the Lord Buddha in her own life, she has promoted the study of Buddhism in Thailand, convening and leading a Buddhist study group. As a Board Member of the Buddhist Association and Adviser to the Young Buddhists Association she has encouraged these organizations to participate in community work.
Her interest in women's affairs led to her election as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Council of Women of Thailand. In this capacity she originated and has been the principal promoter of a pilot effort in development of self-help activities in depressed areas known as the Trok Chan project. In the Bangkok YWCA she serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Public Affairs. Her influence in education brought her appointment as a member of the National Council of Education, where she has been fearless in voicing her views in support of a modern educational system directed toward the main needs of the country.
When the National Council of Social Welfare Agencies was formed in 1960, Khun NILAWAN PINTONG was a natural choice for the Board of Directors.
She is a member of the Committee on Mass Education under the UNESCO Committee for Thailand and also serves on committees in the Association of Fine Arts of Thailand, Home Economics Association, and the Bencharmarachalai Girls Alumnae. A former president of the Society of Printing, she is presently vice-president of the Pan-Pacific and Southeast Asia Women's Association and member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Education of the Blind. Also a member of the Thai Merchants Association, she runs a little producer cooperative to help organize small producers. Other organizations to which she gives time and thought as she is able are the Mental Health Association, the Siamese Association of University Women, and the United Nations Association of Thailand.
A boon to "homeless" private organizations has been the Ounakorn Center she created and directs, where meetings may be held in a friendly and pleasant atmosphere and office services are available free of charge. Providing a headquarters for such groups as the PEN Center, World University Service, the Thai Foundation for Journalism Education and the National Council of Women of Thailand, the Center also offers hospitality to foreign visitors in related fields. For this facility now dependent on outside help, it is the founder's hope that the Satri Sarn Publishing Company may one day become a nonprofit foundation, allowing surplus earnings to be used for support of the Ounakorn Center and worthwhile private organizations which now cannot function effectively for lack of funds.
An unusual vitality, to match the dedication to her country's welfare, enables Khun NILAWAN to cope with this number and variety of activities and be an eminently effective citizen. Also gifted with an innate sense of organization, she has dispensed with what to her are nonessentials in both her personal and public life. Seeing her country with remarkable objectivity, she recognizes its problems and, rather than being defeated by them, devotes herself unstintingly to efforts she feels may lead the way to their solution. With persistence and energetic devotion she has set a high standard of volunteer performance for Thailand's women.
Bangkok World. April 27, 1958.
Files of Satri Sarn, Daroon Sarn, and Sapdha Sarn.
Interviews in 1958-1961 with persons acquainted with Khun Nilawan Pintong in the publishing field and civic organizations.
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