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EXCLUSIVE: With Princess Tessy in Thailand: Part Two

At the beginning of July, our Deputy Editor, Brittani Barger, travelled to Thailand alongside Princess Tessy of Luxembourg and Tessy’s NGO, Professors Without Borders (PROWIBO). You can read part one here.

Just like day one, day two had a packed schedule. Princess Tessy, Honourable Lorna Johnson, Dr Sipim Pansiri Phansuwan and I ate breakfast together before heading to the conference where all of us would speak and be on a panel.

The conference Women, Development and Higher Education, the first PROWIBO conference in Asia, took place at the Pullman Hotel in Bangkok.

A short meeting with the Swedish Ambassador to Thailand and Pannika Wanich (MP and the Future Forward Party Spokesperson) before the conference. Photo: Brittani Barger/Royal Central

After signing in and Tessy being presented with a traditional Thai flower garland “Phuang malai” we went into a meeting room to wait for the conference to begin. There, our group met with the Swedish Ambassador to Thailand, Staffan Herrström; the wife of Luxembourg’s Ambassador to Thailand, Louise Senninger; Member of the Thai Parliament and Deputy Secretary-General of Democrat Party, Chitpas Kridakorn; and MP and Spokesperson for the Future Forward Party, Pannika Wanich.

As the conference began, each of the panellists were presented with a gift to thank them for their participation – a Thai silk scarf. Princess Tessy was presented with the scarf, cakes, and other items by the Vice President of Academic Affairs, Pansiri Phansuwan before she gave the opening remarks to begin the conference.

Mr Staffan Herrström then delivered some short remarks before Mrs Senninger briefly spoke, as well.

Afterwards, the first panel “How to Achieve Gender Parity in Higher Education” began with the participation of Princess Tessy, Dr Sipim Pansiri Phansuwan (Head Department of Political Science SWU), and MP Chitpas Tant Kridakon. Moderated by Varintra Sirisuthikul (Faculty of Business Administration, SWU), the ladies spoke about equality for women in higher education and how to achieve that goal, which is in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 

The second panel, moderated by Rungchai Yensabai (Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Sciences, SWU), consisted of Lorna Johnson (Democratic National Committee Assistant Treasurer and Honorary Consul for Jamaica in Los Angeles and the Founder and CFO of the Advanced Family Care Medical Group Inc), Assistant Prof. Dr Pijitra Tsukamoto (Facebook Steering Committee for Digital Citizenship, Asia Pacific), and MP Pannika Wanich. These well-informed ladies spoke regarding Tools, Technologies and Techniques: How to Enhance Education Experiences for Women.”

Lunch was hosted after the second panel before the third and final panel Beyond Teaching: Mentoring, Networking and Recruiting Women” began with Dr Asamaporn Sitthi (Department of Geography Faculty of Social Sciences, SWU) moderating. Besides myself, the other panellists were Rachel Warnick (an educator and facilitator who taught the short course in Bangkok) and Dr Li-ying Wu (Head of English Department, Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages Khaosiung, Taiwan). 

Ms Warnick spoke to Royal Central about how she thought the conference went and what she hopes comes from it saying, “The conference focus of ‘Women, Development and Higher Education’ is a critically important topic worldwide.

“As Chairman Mao famously said, ‘Women hold up half the sky’ and so our participation in every aspect of public life is crucial, yet our inclusion in the planning and implementation of national and international development has often been neglected or even hindered.

“Naturally, as an educator, I firmly believe that education is one of the most important keys to changing this and improving the world around us, not only for the direct benefits it brings but also because it unlocks so many other doors for us.

“It was incredibly uplifting to participate in this event with highly-esteemed panellists sharing their expertise and insights, and equally valuable to engage in a fascinating dialogue with the conference attendees who posed probing questions and provided important alternative perspectives. My hope is that all of us will proceed from here with new ideas and knowledge that we can use to empower ourselves and others and that we have laid the foundations of new alliances which we will leverage to further our progress towards gender equality.

“I would like to thank Professors Without Borders and its partners for staging this important event and for the pleasure and privilege of participating as a panellist on the topic ‘Beyond Education: Mentoring, Networking and Recruiting Women.”

You can read more about the conference here.

Once the conference was over, we returned to our hotel for the evening. The following day, Princess Tessy, the other panellists, and Mrs Senninger paid a friendly visit to the UNAIDS Asia Pacific and UN Development Asia-Pacific in Bangkok for an informal brainstorming session before having tea at the Luxembourgish Embassy. Tessy, who is a Global Advocate for Young Women and Adolescent Girls for UNAIDS, called the visit insightful and expressed how proud she is of the UNAIDS team in Thailand.

At the UN in Bangkok. Photo: Dr Sipim Pansiri Phansuwan

On Thursday morning, I had breakfast with Tessy, the Luxembourgish Ambassador and his wife, and Lorna Johnson before saying goodbye to Tessy as she returned to Europe. Lorna and I then spent the afternoon exploring the Royal Palace in Bangkok before both of us return to the United States on Friday.

As for Princess Tessy’s biggest takeaway from the trip? “The willingness and good faith of the educational institutions on the ground in order to empower young people. It was very inspiring for me to witness such commendable leadership.”

She also stressed that she is “incredibly grateful for all of the engagement and for the work we have done together as pioneers of education between Professors Without Borders and the different educational institutions on the ground.”

Tessy specifically wanted to thank Dr Sipim Pansiri Phansuwan who helped facilitate all the events and most of the introductions in Thailand, adding again how grateful she was for her help and support. She also expressed her thanks to SWU, its President, Somchai Santiwattanakul and Vice President, Pansiri Phansuwan “for their willingness to advance educational partnerships around the globe.”

Tessy pictured with the students who attended the conference. Photo: Professors Without Borders

Princess Tessy is looking forward to many more partnerships and adventures in Asia, saying that the area is a “prosperous and fertile environment for education to flourish,” adding that the students are “incredibly smart and engaged and thirsty for more. It really gives me so much pride to see that…I’m very inspired by it.”

This was a wonderful trip that I was blessed to be a part of; the work Professors Without Borders is doing across the globe for education is fantastic – especially promoting equality of women’s education throughout the world.

If you want to learn more about Professors Without Borders, you can visit their website here.

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Today was an incredible evening which I will never forget. I was awarded with three recognitions for my work in education around the world. It was unexpected, took me totally by surprise, and very humbling. I had tears in my eyes🦋The mayor of Beverly Hills, Mr John A. Mirish himself and his 4 other council members awarded me the ’Legacy Resident Recognition’ for my work in Higher education. The Mayor of Los Angeles, Mister Eric Garcetti and the Honorable Consul of Jamaica in LA, Hon Lorna Johnson awarded me with two awards as the ’Pioneer of Growth & Economic Development Award’. Thank you all for believing in my work! Maybe one day, the city of Luxembourg recognises my work too. That would be heavenly🦋Thank you @lornamaejohnson for inviting me❤️ @professorswithoutborders @cityofbevhills @lornamaejohnson @cityoflosangeles #highereducation✨So nice to meet @anthonyanderson 🦋What a cool dude 😎 stay tuned for our project together!

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Since returning from Thailand, Tessy was honoured in Los Angeles with the Legacy Resident Recognition Award – given by Beverly Hills to honour her for her tireless work for education. She was also given Pioneers of Growth & Economic Development distinction from the city of Los Angeles; this is given to those who have promoted economic development in their communities.

About author

Brittani is from Tennessee, USA. She is a political scientist and historian after graduating with a degree in the topics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in December 2014. She also holds a master's degree from Northeastern University. She enjoys reading and researching all things regarding the royals of the world. Her love of royals began in middle school, and she's been researching, reading, and writing on royalty for over a decade. She became Europe Editor in October 2016, and then Deputy Editor in January 2019, and has been featured on several podcasts, radio shows, news broadcasts and websites.