A Filipino civil rights champion in Hawaii was awarded the East-West Center’s 2023 Women of Impact Award last week for her dedication to giving voices to marginalized groups in the state for decades.
Dr. Amefil “Amy” Agbayani received the award
at a ceremony held at the Imin Conference Center in the East-West Center Campus, headquartered in the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in Honolulu, on Friday.
The East-West Center’s Women of Impact Award
is given to women leaders as a celebration and recognition of their achievements for being trailblazers in different facets of society, including government, diplomacy and politics, as well as promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.
What they are saying: Dozens of supporters and friends were reportedly present at the awarding ceremony. A video with heartfelt messages was also reportedly played at the event, including one from Agbayani’s longtime friend, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
“Amy inspires by example. And she’s right there, helping students and inspiring them,” Hirono said.
In a statement announcing the news
of Agbayani receiving the award on Oct. 4, Center President Suzanne Vares-Lum noted that they are thrilled to give the East-West Center’s 2023 Women of Impact Award to the 80-year-old activist, noting that “For decades, Amy has given so much to our East-West Center community as an invaluable mentor and alumni leader.”
Arriving in the U.S.:
Born in the Philippines
, Agbayani, known by many as “Manang Amy,” arrived in Hawaii
in 1964 on an East-West Center fellowship. She first received her degree
in political science from the University of the Philippines before earning her doctorate in the field at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.
About her early work: Soon after receiving her Ph.D., Agbayani started establishing programs that promote multiculturalism and civil rights as well as improving the status of Filipinos and other underrepresented groups at the university.
She has also secured millions of dollars in funding for scholarships and community outreach to disadvantaged children over her years of activism. Agbayani also raised money to help displaced people affected by the recent Maui wildfire
Working with the White House:
Agbayani was also named as one of the 23 members of President Biden’s Advisory Commission
on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) in December 2021.
As part of the commission, Agbayani provided counsel on ways to advance equity and opportunity for the target communities and ways to combat anti-Asian hate
amid the COVID-19
“I came to Hawaii nearly six decades ago as a graduate student scholar with the East West Center. So I’ve had a lot of good experiences, education and opportunities over the years to support the issues [equity and inclusion] I care about,” Agbayani said.
Featuring her life:
Agbayani’s life, from her move to the United States to her activism work dealing with equity and inclusion, is highlighted in a documentary
that premiered at the Hawaii International Film Festival on Oct. 15.