Tel Aviv: India's pioneering feminist scholar and activist Gita Sen, has won the prestigious Dan David Prize for her expansive work in the fields of population policies, reproductive and sexual health, women's rights, poverty, labour markets and global governance.
Sen, who is the Director of the Ramalingaswami Centre on Equity and social Determinants of Health at the Public Health Foundation of India, has combined her 35 years of academic career with policy advocacy and activism, helping to shape the global paradigm shift on population and development.
"Her innovative research on disadvantaged populations in low-income rural settings, together with her mentorship of young scholars and advocates, has made a significant impact on the field," a press release from the Dan David Foundation headquartered at Tel Aviv University said.
The internationally renowned Dan David Prize annually awards three prizes of USD 1 million each to globally inspiring individuals and organisations, honouring outstanding contributions that expand knowledge of the past, enrich society in the present, and promise to improve the future of our world.
The total purse of USD 3 million makes it one of the highest-value prizes internationally.
The fields chosen for honouring contributions in the three categories this year are cultural preservation and revival (past category), gender equality (present category), and artificial intelligence (future category).
Sen will be splitting the USD 1 million prize in the present category for this year with Debora Diniz who is the deputy director of the rights and justice unit for the International Planned Parenthood Federation-Western Hemisphere Region.
Diniz oversees strategies to promote and protect gender equality, sex, and reproductive rights and health, and to eliminate violence against women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean region.
A citizen of India, Sen holds a doctoral degree in economics from the Stanford University.
She is an adjunct professor of global health and population at Harvard University and has been a professor of public policy at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore.
She also serves as the General Coordinator of DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era) of which she is a founding member.
She has also worked with the United Nations in several capacities and serves on the Scientific and Technical Advisory group for the WHO's Department of Reproductive Health and Research.
Sen is a member of the Mission Steering Group for the National Rural Health Mission and Governing Board of the National Health Systems Resource Centre.
Her combination of advocacy, practical experience, activism and analysis has won Sen a number of awards and honours, including the Volvo Environment Prize for her work on Women, population and development, and honorary doctorates from the University of East Anglia, the Karolinska Institute (Stockholm), the Open University (UK), the University of Sussex, and the University of Edinburgh.
The prize in the past category is being shared between Lonnie G Bunch III, who was the founding director of the Smithsonian's inspiring National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, and Barabara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, a distinguished scholar of performance studies and Jewish studies at New York University.
Demis Hassabis, a pioneer of artificial intelligence and a widely-cited neuroscientist, and Amnon Shashua, a machine learning and computer vision researcher at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem have been chosen for the prize in the future category.
"We are very proud of the unique model the Dan David Prize takes in turning the spotlight on endeavours that often do not fall under traditional prize categories, yet result in outstanding contributions to humanity that define who we are and shape our future," Ariel David, Director of the Dan David Foundation, said.
The prize was established by late Dan David, an international businessman and philanthropist whose aim was to reward those who have made a lasting impact on society and to help young students and entrepreneurs become the scholars and leaders of the future.
Sen, with this honour, joins the elite group of other prominent Indian laureates of the Dan David Prize including author Amitav Ghosh, music conductor Zubin Mehta, renowned chemist C N R Rao, Professor of Astronomy Shrinivas Kulkarni and historian Sanjay Subramanyam.
Other well known Dan David Prize laureates include, cellist Yo-Yo Ma (2006), former US Vice President Al Gore (2008), novelist Margaret
Atwood (2010), filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen (2011), distinguished economist and recent Nobel Laureate, Esther Duflo (2013), and discoverer of the breast cancer gene, Professor Mary-Claire King (2018).
The laureates donate 10 per cent of their award money to scholarships for graduate or post-graduate researchers in their respective fields.
The six laureates will be honoured at the 2020 Dan David Prize Award Ceremony to be held in Tel Aviv in May 2020.