Year 2017-18

Annual Report
Activities Conducted by Manuski

Introduction

Since Manuski activities started about 15 years ago it has worked in the areas of capacity building, human and civil rights, creating networks, and advocacy at the state, national and international levels. All this has been done with members of the socially disadvantaged and discriminated communities, with the development of women and their leadership an essential element of all activities.

Until recently Manuski’s activities were concentrated in Maharashtra. During the last year Manuski made two major decisions:

  1. It decided to extend the scope of its work to an All-India level.
  2. Using its experience, to develop an all-India network of social activists. It is doing this especially, but not exclusively, with the alumni of the Nagarjuna Institute, Nagpur, of which there are now 1,200 spread over 25 different States, and from many different discriminated backgrounds.

The staff was increased by the year by four very welcome additions:

  • Manjula Pradip, a leading woman activist, previously the executive director of Navsargan, brought her immense experience to help develop projects.
  • Bodhidharma, who was involved in developing many of the projects in TBMSG and Bahujan Hitay, joined for a year to help establish the administration on a firm footing.
  • Utpala Chakma, an ex-student of Nagarjuna Institute with an MSW from TISS, joined us to help develop projects with the Nagarjuna Institute alumni.
  • Divya Ethiraj, another ex-student, with an MA in Education from Azim Premji University, joined to help similarly.

Activities 2017-2018

  1. 15thApril 2017. Establishing Communication Channels with Grass Root Leaders. Sangamner Taluka, Maharashtra. 
    The Manuski team visited a Tribal Community at Sangamner Taluka to understand their socio-economic condition and to explore the possibility of networking with their community leaders. In the process an association with the Bhilla and Thakar Tribal Community leaders of Kauthe–Malkapur was formed. The Manuski team visited again later to understand further the socio–economic conditions of this Tribal Community. Inputs on socio-political and economical conditions of Tribal Women empowerment has been communicated thorough these meetings.  Since that the Tribal Community leaders assured to become a part of Manuski Network activities in future. For tackling local Tribal Community issues, interventions will be met through Manuski’s designated person for network Mr. Suresh Bagul.
  2. 27th April 2017. Meditation and Addiction Workshop, Bhokar, Maharastra. 
    A one day retreat was arranged for 11 women and 12 men. The Mindfulness of Breathing meditation technique was introduced to the participants as tool for maintaining mental health. A talk on “Alcoholism and its Adverse Effects on Health” was delivered and important threads of it were discussed. Treatment and preventive measures and the issue of “Alcoholism in family and Society” were also discussed. Participants were taught the techniques of reducing stress effect on their health through meditation.
  3. 5th -7th May 2017. Organizational Development Workshop, Kondhanpur, Maharastra.: 
    This workshop was led by Manjula Pradeep, to review the working of the Manuski Trust.  All 12 staff members attended.  The aim was team building of the staff and developing focused responsibilities for them. A responsibility chart was prepared for each of the employees. This chart includes the strengths and weaknesses of the staffs an accordingly a map was charted out to improve their skills for effective and enhanced performance. There was sharing session, meditation and chanting in the evening.
  4. 20th– 22nd June 2017, Empowering Women; Nagarjuna Institute: 
    This programme for 14 women Alumni in Nagpur was organized jointly with the Nagarjuna Institute for their alumni. The aim was to strengthen women’s understanding, capacity and skills so that they can effectively network with other women in Buddhist community who are active in the social field. Different forms of violence against women, the qualities of leaders, Dalit women’s struggles, the various and multiple discrimination Dalit and Tribals in India suffer from, and the importance of education were all covered. The programme also focused building leadership and developing the soft skills and personalities of women currently engaged in social work in the field. The resource person was Manjula Pradeep.
  5. 2nd – 7th July 2017 , Meeting of  Nagarjuna Inst Alumni General Council.
    The Manuski team attended this meeting as it has undertaken the social training and project development work for Nagarjuna Inst. In the meeting the Manuski team explored the social possibilities of the all-India network.
  6.  29th July 2017. Workshop to establish Communication Channels for Nagarjuna Institute Alumni with Community Leaders, Raipur
    The Manuski team visited the Women Alumni in Raipur for a workshop and formed an association to work on the grassroots level. 17 women leaders and 4 men participated.The Manuski team emphasized:
    – the importance of Buddhist practice in leading positive and effective lives,,
    – keeping close connection with the wider Buddhist communities taking their support for communicating the Dhamma to Tribal and Dalit communities.
    This was followed by an exposure visit for Manuski staff and other Alumni to different Tribal communities in the Sakti Block of Janjgir Champa Tehsil of Raipur in Chhattisgarh. They were able to
    understand the socio-economic situation of the local Tribal and Dalit communities.
  7. 17th-19th August 2017, Women Empowerment Workshop, Manuski Centre, Pune.
    The objective of the workshop was to encourage deeper communication amongst the women alumni of Nagarjuna Institute, with each other. Manuski provides the umbrella for their activities and helps develop their capacity and strengths, especially in the areas of women’s empowerment, social work, leadership and initiative.
  8. 27th August 2017, Inauguration of All India network of Social Activists, Manuski Centre, Pune.
    As stated in the introduction Manuski has extended its field of activity from mainly Maharashtra focused to an all India level. s aim is to develop an all-India network of social activists over the next five years, working especially, but not exclusively with, the alumni of the Nagarjuna Institute, Nagpur, all of whom are inspired by Dr. Ambedkar’s vision of Prabuddha Bharat, Enlightened India.
    The programme was inaugurated by Mr Vilash Wagh, the most respected Buddhist social activist in Pune. Lokamitra gave a presentation looking at the evolution of the Manuski Trust since it started in 2003, as well as outlining the strategy for the future. Others, including alumni now working at the Manuski Trust, also spoke.
    The Manuski Trust activities until now have included:
    – Capacity building of members of discriminated and marginalised communities.
    – Creating awareness of human and civil rights, and the relevant social legislations.
    – Creating networks to enable mutual sharing of experiences and promote solidarity.
    – Advocating issues of discriminated and marginalised communities at the state, national and international level.
    – Making development of women and their leadership an essential element of the liberation of discriminated and marginalised communities.
    – Encouraging attitudes of freedom of thought, confidence, equality, and respect for all.
    It will be training the members of the all –India network in these and other areas.
  9. 6th -9th September 2017; Meeting of the Core committee of the Nagarjujna Inst. Alumni Association. Manuski Centre, Pune
    Manuski partially facilitated this meeting, because of its experience of networking.
  10. 2nd- 4th October 2017, Women Leadership Programme , Nagarjuna Institute.
    This was conducted for women alumni of the Nagarjuna Insttitute, to strengthen the capacity of Buddhist women leaders from discriminated backgrounds. 18 women alumni participated from the States of Jaharkhand, Chhattisgrah, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharastra. Manjula Pradeep and Sharada Sonawne from Maharastra (a social activist and alumnus of Nagarjuna Institute) shared their experiences of the challenges they had faced, and facilitated the workshop.
  11.  4th- 6th October 2017, Workshop on Documentation of Work. Nagarjuna Institute.
    This workshop was organized to help women Nagarjuna Inst alumni who want to engage in social work, document their work. Fifteen women participated from the states Jaharkhand, Chhattisgrah, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharastra. The workshop enabled the aspiring social workers to assess and document local needs, learning various techniques of report writing and documenting their work.
  12. 5th October 2017, One day Workshop on Buddhist Way of Living, Manuski, Pune
    A one day retreat was conducted in Pune for 25 women working in different social organizations, as well as individual activists and Nagarjuna Inst alumni from Pune. Maitriratna led the session with assistance from Vajrajaya. The Retreat was supported by the Manjula Pradeep and Vishkaha. Both were also invited for the program to give their guidance. The theme of the retreat was developing awareness and exploring the basic ethics of Buddhism.
  13. 6th – 10th November 2017, 9th Nagarjuna Inst Alumni Convention 2017, Nagarjuna Institute.
    175 alumni participated in the 9th Alumni Convention, evenly distributed amongst men and women.
    There was a strong element of social activism organized by Manuski, with leading social activists from all over India.
    i. Martin Makwana; one of the most well known social workers in India, heading the activist heads Navsarjan Trust , Gujarat.
    ii. Manjula Pradeep; a leading social activist, now working with Manuski.
    iii. Rahul Sonpimple, student leader and Ph. D. scholar, JNU.
    iv. Bansidhar Deep:a Nagarjuna Inst alumnus, and Ph. D student at JNU, working for Dalit and Buddhist rights.
    v. Pawan Dahat: a senior Journalist, currently working with “The Hindu’.
    vi. Priyadarshi Telang : a leading social activist running a network called Dalit Adivashi Adhikar Andolan.
    vii. Dhananjay Vanjari: an officer in Indian Revenue Services.
    viii. Prof Maiske: He is economist and currently professor/principle at Nagarjuna Institute.
    ix. Prof Bodhi Sainkupar Ranee: a professor at TISS Mumbai, from the Tribal community of North East India.
    The formal inauguration of the Alumni Association took place, which was given the name of Nagaloka Association. This will not only develop the Nagarjuna Inst network, but also plan social and Dhamma training.
  14. 7th Nov 2017, Field Visit in Kerala’s Kollam District, Mynagappally, Kerela
    The Manuski team visited Mynagappally village, in Kollam district of Kerala. A meeting was held with Nagarjuna Inst women alumni, their parents and local social workers. This was followed by a community visit . This was done to understand the lives of Nagarjuna Inst women and what challenges they are facing in their daily lives. A group was established for the women alumni from this region for future networking.
  15. 23rd-26th December 2017, South Indian Regional Conference, Bangalore.
    This event brought 28 leading alumni from 5 states of South India, Kerela, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhara Pradesh, Telangana. The workshop was lead by Lokamitra, supported by Vivekratna, Bodhidharma, Manjula Pradeep and Upayraja. During this conference, the alumni reviewed their activities, looked at their challenges, and how as Buddhists, they are able to overcome them. They also looked at the local alumni network and how to strengthen it. Lokamitra spoke on:
    I. Difference between Prabuddha Bharat and Buddhist Countries
    II. Difference between Prabuddha Bharat and Secular States
    III. Different kinds of moralities.
  16. 28th- 31st December 2018, “Education, Youth and Social Transformation”, Bolangir, Orissa
    This was organised by the Kalingamitra Trust, which was set up by Orissa based Nagarjuna Inst alumni to develop and coordinate activities in the State. More than 200 young men and women attended. The event focused on:
    – the role of the women’s movement in raising issues of women from marginalized communities;
    – reviewing the wider movement of social change in the area;
    – the significance of Buddhism in transforming the lives of young people.
    Manjula Pradeep attended the programme as a speaker from Manuski.
  17. 8th January 2018, Manuski Celebrates Savitribai Phule’s 187th Birth Anniversary, Manuski, Pune
    Savitir Bai Phule was a Social Revolutionary and the pioneer of women’s education in India. This programme was organized in collaboration with women from near by Dr. Ambedkar Society as well as other women’s groups. 120 women participated. There were talks by women on Savitribai Phule’s life and her struggle for education for women, emphasizing that this is still a basic need today. Lokamitra was also honored by the women groups for his tremendous support and effort to uplift the women.
  18. 12th- 14th January 2018, Visit to Kerala State:
    Manjula Pradeep, of Manuski, visited the Kerala Nagarjuna Inst alumni and introduced them to four local Dalit women leaders, Maya Pramod, Mrudula Devi, Vineetha and Thakasthasila Swamini, all of whom are activists and journalists. They talked about the key challenges that they experience as Dalit women – all very painful stories. Kerala is considered an advanced State but through this meeting the various kinds of discrimination which these women and women from marginalized communities go through their daily lives became very clear. At the end of the meeting the participants formed the Ambedkarite Women’s Collective, Kerala.
    Manjula Pradeep was taken by Nagarjuna Inst alumnus Binoj Babu to visit a children’s hostel run by Dalit Service Society, (D.S.S.) Kanhangad block of Kasaragod district, a largely tribal area. DSS was helped by Abhayaloka Trust (set up by Alumni in Kerala to develop Buddhist and social activities) to set up a hostel in June 2017 for rural Tribal children.. The hostel is run in what was a poultry farm. The children go to the nearby village school. The hostel has almost no facilities.
  19. 14th and 15th January 2018,Jan Fry meeting with Manuski Team
    This workshop was conducted by Jan Fry, a very experienced communications strategist who has worked with charities in UK for many years. Sharing some of her experiences from working with many social and government agencies, she looked at the following areas:
    – the importance of effective communication methods;
    – tools to highlight the work we do;
    – the vital role of documentation;
    – research to support the cause;
    – resource mobilization;
    – preparing effective proposals;
    – use of media;
    – network building.
  20. 21st -23rd January 2018, ‘Workshop on Raising Resources , Nagarjuna Institute
    This workshop was to help Nagarjuna Inst alumni understand how to raise funds, especially grants, for the various social activities they are running in their home States. It was conducted by Jan Fry, who shared her work experiences in the social sector, and guided the participants through the framework of funding proposals, and the basic channels of communications used by NGOs working with communities. As an exercise the participants wrote mock project proposals, working in groups. This workshop also enabled the Nagaloka Association, to come up with a communication framework for publicity and resource management. The three day workshop was a great success, and all were very grateful to Jan Fry for her generosity.
  21. 8th – 13th February 2018, Conflict Resolution and Peace Building, Nagarjuna Institute.
    Manuski helped organize this along with the Nagarjuna Inst. The purpose of this workshop was to train Nagarjuna Inst alumni to set up organizations that worked on the basis of liberty, equality and fraternity as Buddhist values and practices, thus helping them to manifest in the way they work Dr. Ambedkar’s vision of Prabuddha Bharat. The workshop was led by Alan Senauke, from USA and Jill Jameson from Australia, both long term Zen practitioners and social activists, especially experienced in training socially-engaged Buddhists in Asia .26 alumni attended.
    Alan and Jill talked on the conflicts between individuals and groups as well as society, helping the alumni to learn how to foresee and prevent conflicts between people. Alan Senauke gave a talk on Dr Ambedkar and Dr Martin Luther King, and explained their vision of peace building, inspiring the participants with the similarities between these famous role models.
  22. 11th- 12th February 2018, Visit to Tamil Nadu.
    Manjula Pradeep visited Ariyalur District with six Dalit lawyers along with a few Nagarjuna Inst alumni., to explore issues relating to atrocities and violence on Dalits, and especially on Dalit women. It was planned to set up a Lawyers’ Association to provide legal aid and moral support to the victims and survivors of caste and gender based atrocities covering Thanjavur, Trichy, Perambalur, Ariyalur and Kaddalur districts in Tamil Nadu. Manjula Pradeep also conducted field visits with two alumni in two villages. The first was where a young and very bright Dalit woman, Anitha, committed suicide as she could not pass NEET entrance exam with high enough marks to get into medical school,. Her suicide created a momentum in the region as several protests were undertaken in Tamil Nadu to ban the unnecessary NEET exams.The other village visited by Manjula Pradeep was of Nandini a young Dalit girl, whose naked dead body was found in a canal near her village. Nandini’s case was highlighted in the media, but the accused have not been arrested and even IPC sections relating to rape have not been invoked in the First Information Report (FIR).
  23. 13th February 2018, Workshop with Alumni, Kolar District, Karnataka.
    Kolar District still has a high degree of untouchability practices and atrocities against Dalits. The local alumni decided to set up a collective and work on the issues affecting Dalit rights in Kolar district.
  24. 14th – 19th Feb 2018, Working Together Towards Liberty, Equality And Fraternity, Nagarjuna Institute.
    This was the second workshop led by Alan Senauke and Jill Jamson and jointly organized with Manuski. This was for Nagarjuna Inst alumni on the campus and nearby (whereas the first was for alumni from outside Nagpur). 38 alumni participated. Its purpose was to train them to become strong social activists, and to strengthen the alumni networks in their propagation of teachings and practices. Liberty, equality and fraternity were emphasized as Buddhist ethical practices. Alan and Jill emphasized the importance of developing a spirit of Sangha in order to:
    – Work together towards liberty, equality and fraternity;
    – Identify social problems;
    – Work with personal conflicts as well as those in the family, community and society;
    – Learn from social reformers like Dr Ambedkar and Dr Martin Luther King to build a better society;
    – Revere life
  25. 23rd- 25th February 2018, Overcoming Negative Self Attitudes for Women, Nagarjuna Institute
    This was facilitated by Manjula Pradeep of Manuski for Nagarjuna Inst alumni to help women develop positive attitudes to their bodies, and not to be influenced by surrounding negative social attitudes. 22 women alumni participated as well as one woman guest from Taiwan. Manjula Pradeep talked about women’s body language and how it was affected negatively by the social attitudes. All the women shared their own experiences from their day to day life. The workshop gave the participants a great deal of confidence.
  26. 26th February 2018, Strategic Planning Workshop of Chhattisgarh Alumni Network, Raipur.
    37 women leaders from the 12 districts of Chhattisgarh State attended. Manjula Pradeep conducted this workshop to chart out an action plan for their social work for next two years, as well as developing a structure for the network.
  27. 27th-28th February 2018, Meditation Retreat for Chhattisgarh Women Alumni , Raipur.
    The above workshop was followed by a meditation retreat, led by Vajrajaya, also from Manuski. This link emphasized the importance of Dhamma practice as a basis for effective social work.
  28. 9th March 2018, Visit to Uttar Pradesh for International Women’s Day
    A significant celebration was organized by alumni at Badepur village in Chhibramau district of Uttar Pradesh, where Manjula Pradeep addressed around 200 women and men. She talked about the importance of this day and the current challenges and issues affecting women’s rights in India. It was the first ever conference on this theme in this area. This was followed by a visit with some NTI alumni to Katra Kasganj village of Badaun district. Four years ago two minor girls from the Shakya- OBC community were found hanging on a Mango tree in the village. The alumni met the family members to know current status of the case. It was shocking to know that the CBI (the top most criminal investigation body in India) had filed a closure report in this case. This had been challenged by the father of one of the deceased. The trial is going on in the Sessions Court of Badaun. A memorial has been planned at the place of incident.
    Manjula Pradeep also met with some of the alumni in Chhibramau district, who have planned to set up an NGO in Uttar Pradesh focusing on raising issues of injustice and building leadership amongst marginalized youth.

    NTI Alumni Swapna from Uttar Pradesh with her husband now working for women empowerment in her village.

  29. 27th March, 2018, One Day NGO Meet, Manuski, Pune.
    This was led by Manjula Pradeep to understand the work of these grassroots level organizations, their needs and how a network be built among them organizations with the support of Manuski. Members of grass roots organizations participated. As an outcome, Manuski agreed to organize training for the organizations on the themes of Youth Leadership, Women Empowerment, NGO Support and Building a Network.
  30. 28th to 30th March 2018, Understanding Caste, Class and Gender, Kerala.
    This programme is part of project on “The Social Transformation of Dalit and Tribal People” taking place in 5 states of India, led by Nagarjuna Inst alumni. The purpose was to improve the skills and capacity building of women working in communities at the grassroots level. It was organized in Paravoor and Cherthala villages in Ernakullam and Alphuza Districts of Kerala. A one day meditation retreat for 12 women was conducted in Paravoor village, the women coming from Dalit and Tribal communities.
    The workshop and retreat were conducted by Vajrajaya, assisted by Madhavi Kamble, a post graduate student of Tata Institute of Social Sciences.