Friday, December 26, 2008

Ria and Din Bid 518 Adieu

Full of new experience and gratitude, after 10 months of internship, Ria and Din, bid farewell to The May 18 Memorial Foundation to join their NGO in their country Indonesia and Cambodia respectively. The two interns joined the Culture and Solidarity Team from March-December 2008 for a 10-month International Internship Programme on Human Rights.

The International Internship Programme strives to contribute to the development of democracy and human rights throughout Asia by recruiting four interns from all over the world, who have been working for human rights and peace organizations in their own countries, and by giving them a chance to learn about and experience the history and process of the development of human rights and democracy in South Korea. Specifically the purpose and aim of the program are the following: to improve International Solidarity and to promote Gwangju as Asia's Hub for Human Rights and Democracy Movement.

Gregoria Barbarica Kristina Ritasari or Ria is grateful for the opportunity the foundation provided her. She is program coordinator of Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa Foundation (SNB or Homeland Solidarity) a Non-government organization with a vision of realizing a democratic Indonesian society, respecting the value of brotherhood and equality in pluralism. Ria works closely with victims family of racial discrimination.

She enjoyed her time and work with the Team and other staff whom she is indebted for learning a lot of things. Ria thanks The May 18 Memorial Foundation for having contributed a lot in changing my views and perspective in life.

Din appreciates everything the foundation had provided him as an intern, especially what the good learning and work environment. He hopes that one day he could return back all the kind favors he received to all Koreans particularly to Gwangju citizens.

"I think our working is very good, positive and effective to target group, and I do believe every thing we have done and have been doing are the best activities in Gwangju City on international solidarity and domestic projects" Din believed.

In 2007 Thet Din was a chosen by Khmer Youth Association as a Youth Partners in Development Program (YPD 2007). He joined an exchange program between Cambodia and Sweden that was supported by Swedish Centre for International Youth Exchange, and YPD for a six-month program. In Sweden he was assigned at International Jönköping University as counselor for an International Development Projects Resource Service for International Project.

Activities of the International Internship Programme 2008

The International Internship Program introduced the interns to Korean history in general and in particular to the movements and struggle for democracy, including the 1980 Gwangju Democratic Uprising. Both theoretical learning and practical experiences such as lectures, seminars, discussions, interviews and fieldtrips to the sites of democratization movements in Korea were made.

The interns were assigned to the Culture and Solidarity Team. They were considered as regular staff attending to day-to-day office business. The interns helped in the preparatory work and implementation of different events; made presentations to schools; and performed other tasks the Team will assign them to undertake.

Each intern made a research on a topic of their choice, conducted the relevant research, and delivered a presentation at the end of their internship program. The interns were also supported by the foundation to learn Korean. Both interns enrolled at the Gwangju International Center finishing both basic and intermediate Korean Language Classes.

Highlights of Main Activities

March 2008
Arrival and Orientation

Preparation for the May 18 Events

Conduct of the May 18 Events

Post May 18 Events

Preparation for the 2008 Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School

Conduct of the 2008 Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School
Participation to the 2008 ARENA-Sungkonghoe-MAINS Summer School

Post Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School

Completion of Assigned Project

Conduct of Research & NGO Visits

Submission of Final Internship Report, Research Work and assigned projects

The above activities were the main events that interns were involved. But throughout the 10-month they were also assigned book reports and performed other tasks for the Culture and Solidarity Team which includes translating brochure of the International Solidarity Programme in their language, blogging issues and campaigns of partners , networking and promotion of the program and activities of the team and attending youth conferences held in Korea.

The interns recommends that The May 18 Memorial Foundation continue the conduct of its International Internship Program. It has been very helpful to have staffs that are capable of speaking other languages aside from Korean and English in improving networking and communications of the foundation. The internship continues to play an important role in the international solidarity work of the foundation so it should be maintained.

The foundation also encouraged the interns participation to international conferences and other workshops held in Gwangju such as the 2nd UNESCO Asian Youth Forum and the 2008 Asian Youth Culture Camp. The interns for this year were given this privilege which is a good opportunity for them to link and network with other youth organizations and learn from those conferences.

As part of interns integration to a new culture and environment they were provided an opportunity to learn Korean language at the Gwangju International Center (GIC). The GIC and other support centers or groups such as church or host family were also introduced to them. Volunteering to groups is deemed useful as well so they can fully maximize their weekends and other free time. Prof. young-im Kim who runs the KONA Book Center is a very-wiling-host family for Din while Ria made close friends at the Catholic church. Interns were able to learn more about Gwangju and Korean culture in this way.

Related link::

Friday, December 19, 2008

Universal Human Rights Day In Gwangju

December 10 is celebrated as Human Rights Day and this year marks the 60th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. In most country, this event is celebrated that stipulates human’s fundamental freedoms. But it continues to be disregarded and neglected by governments who lack the political will to implement them. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK)–Gwangju Branch Office organized the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The program was held last December 10, 2008 at the Small Hall of the Gwangju Culture and Art Center.

There were two programmes:

1. 4 PM – 7 PM
The programmes include Christmas exhibition of human rights where pictures and other creative materials adorned Christmas trees. Different organizations distributed books, showed human rights films, etc. There were 22 organizations invited, among them The May 18 Memorial Foundation, Gwangju International Center (GIC), etc. The Foundation put materials (books, CD, pencils, etc) as present for those who would write about human rights and democracy. Other organizations also have souvenirs for their guests.

2. 7 PM – 9 PM
Commemorative event and Cultural performances.

Each delegate from each organization put a Christmas ball to the four Christmas trees on the stage. It is a symbol their involvement in the struggle on human rights, democracy, and peace. The opening performance was presented by Korean theatre group ‘Sin Myeong’. They performed a theatre and dance number where theme was about pluralism on human rights.

Part of the commemorative event presented was the recitation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Cultural performances presented were of various kind of entertainments, there were Drama ‘A Special Bravery’, Congratulatory Poem, Accordion Performance, Creative Masked Dance Performance ‘So Mae’, Various Drum Performances, Accappella performances by children and their mentors , and Youth Musical ‘The Things We want’.

There were also supplement performances which are Fusion Percussion ‘Speeding’ and congratulatory performance.

Among the cultural performances, there was a National costume show from different Asian countries like Korea, China, Singapore, Japan, etc. It depicted the pluralism in the world even in Gwangju. As a hub Asian culture, Gwangju includes people from other countries (Philippines, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, United States of America, etc).

There was a drama presented by school students, the theme was economic problem especially in South Korea. Students have to study hard and find part time job to get money. It describes the situation of life at the present.

In the middle of the program, they showed video messages of Dr. Lenin (India) and Mr.Muneer A. Malik (Pakistan) on human rights day. Dr Lenin is a former winner of the 2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights and Mr.Muneer A.Malik is the 2008 winner. There were also messages from different citizens of Gwangju.

On a message on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the Laureates of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Award, they call for dignity and justice for all. They ask for stronger solidarity among civil society groups and leaders both local and international to protect the freedom and rights of all people especially the marginalized sectors in the society.

The program was finished at around 10 PM. Everyone went back home with their new spirit of democracy. Let’s us put high respect on pluralism and democracy, and abolished all kinds of discriminations!

Happy a human rights day.

By. Gregoria Barbarica K.R.
December 16, 2008


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The land of dying kids

Farzand Ahmed
Lucknow, November 10, 2008

Dhannipur at the outskirts of Shivnagari in Varanasi is a name that has become synonymous with painful death of children due to malnutrition.

It's also a name that presents a pathetic picture of a stone-hearted administration. This became more than clear when frail and dangerously underweight Ishrat breathed his last on Saturday.

Ishrat was the twelfth child to die of acute malnutrition in recent months.

The two-year-old Ishrat suffering from grade-4 protein-energy malnutrition had weighed hardly 3.2 kg when he died.

'By administration's own admission there were 106 children suffering from severe malnutrition in Dhannipur alone. This is happening because auxiliary health staff assigned to look after the children do not visit the area. 30 quintals of grains meant for distribution among the poor weavers of the village was lying undistributed till Ishrat breathed his last', said Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi of People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR).

Just before that two-year-old Shaheena Parveen weighing just three kg had gasped to death. A few days before Shaheena collapsed, her neighbour, two-year-old Sahabuddin, weighing hardly two kg died.

And there were others in the same age and weight-group, who were waiting for painful death. Yet the administration was 'doing it best' to save the children from the cruel jaws of death.

Local people say that there was reason for such neglect: they are children of weavers whose looms once used to churn out sparkling silk saris.

Today their parents are hardly able to arrange food or medicine because they were unable to be engaged in other manual works.

While visiting the village PVCHR, Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi felt 'shocked and ashamed'. He and his team was told that the local administration instead of helping the villagers handed them cards meant for 'above poverty line' people that denies them ration from public distribution system (PDS)

Recently the most damning comment came from Bijo Francis of Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission. He had said Sahabuddin died as he was suffering from grade lll malnutrition (categorized as 'Severe'), a condition that the world hears of in places like Somalia.

Yet, he said, Uttar Pradesh is not Somalia (where there is non-functioning govt). 'It has a democratically elected government. It has ministers and secretaries who travel around the state in the name of governance in expensive air-conditioned vehicles.

It has a woman chief minister at its helm, who has vowed to eradicate discrimination and poverty in the state.

Barely six months before Ishrat died, the Uttar Pradesh government had brought out a first-ever report entitled "State of Children in Uttar Pradesh" and it made a sensational reading.

The report a joint effort of state's Planning Department and UNICEF disclosed while Uttar Pradesh is home of 52 per cent of the severely malnourished children the all-India figure was 43.

It also revealed that while the percentage of malnutrition among children was just 35 per cent in the least developing world, the figure for Sub-Saharan Africa was meagre 28 per cent. South Asia as whole has 42 per cent compared to 26 per cent in the developing countries.

According to the report the government realised that malnutrition significantly impacts living condition of children. Ironically, malnutrition is associated with half of all child deaths and Uttar Pradesh accounts for over 10 million of India's 72 million malnourished children.

Majority of the districts, across central, eastern, western and Bundelkhand regions report high prevalence of malnutrition. Besides, the state also has high infant and maternal mortality rate -73 per 1000.

Of the 2.5 million children who die in the country every year, close to 4 lakhs die in Uttar Pradesh and every third infant born in the state is under weight - below 1200 grams.

But what the 'The State of Children in UP' talks about was shocking to the world as it revealed that majority of state's children lived in the wild world.

According to this report Uttar Pradesh accounted for 23 per cent of kidnapping of children at the national level. Incidents of other heinous crimes like murder, rape and infanticide were also found to be equally high in the state, particularly in Western Uttar Pradesh.

Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of murders of children accounting for 39.2 per cent of the total cases reported in the country. A total of 3,542 cases of child rape were reported in the country during 2004 and the state has ranked third amongst other states in this crime.

A recent report published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed that between 2003-2004 there was an alarming 24 per cent rise in the crime against children in the country. While the number of such cases was 11,633 in 2003, it rose to 14,423 in 2004.

Among the states Madhya Pradesh ranked first with 3,653 cases while UP ranked third with 1,921 cases.

However it showed a decline by 10.2 per cent as compared to 2,248 cases during 2004. Uttar Pradesh, according to this report, stood first with 735 reported cases of kidnapping.

But the most heinous was the rape of children and Uttar Pradesh reported 394 cases in 2003 accounting 11.12 per cent of the total child rape reported in the country.

Uttar Pradesh ranked third among states for child rape cases in 2004-just behind Madhya Pradesh (710 cases) and Maharashtra (634 cases).

Like other crimes, incidence of rape was also high in Western Uttar Pradesh. Of the 11 districts that showed high incidence 7 were located in Western Uttar Pradesh.


URL for this article :
@ Copyright 2008 India Today Group.

Dr. Lenin (Ashoka Fellow and 2007 Gwanju Human Rights Awardee)
Please visit:

Friday, November 07, 2008

Personal Reflection on 2008 Asian Youth Culture Camp

by Mr. Thet Din
International Intern-Culture and Solidarity Team
The May 18 Memorial Foundation
Date: 2008.11.041- Asian Youth Culture Camp


The Office for Hub City of Asian Culture, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Republic of Korea held the AYCC for the mutual understanding of Asian youth since 2006 together with the Asia Culture Forum as a part of the promotion project of the Hub City of Asia Culture. In the 2006 AYCC, about 80 Asian youth participated in the Camp and discussed such diverse themes as arts and culture, creative industries, immigrants, Asians’ value, etc. In the following 2007 AYCC, under the theme ‘Devices for the Network Framing for the Quest and Exchange of Asian Culture,’ with the participant of over a hundred Asian students including Islamic students, the participants shared various ideas and opinions about the mutual understanding of Asian and Islamic cultures. The two camps proved that Asian youth were open to acknowledging and understanding other cultures and moreover that they wanted a place where such encounters could occur. Therefore, in responding to their needs, the 2008 AYCC is to function as a bridge among Asian youth.

Introduction on 2008 Asian Youth Culture Camp (2008 AYCC)

AYCC this year started from 30 October to 02 November, 2008. Prepared by The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; sponsored by United Nations Environment Program National Committee for the Republic of Korea (UNEP); organized by Gwangju International Center (GIC); and hosted in Chonnam National University, Gwangju City, South Korea.

The 2008 AYCC, under the theme “Asia, Culture and Environment,” Provided a period of time for the Asia participants to share and exchange ideas. During the Camp period, the participants were divided into 7 smaller groups to discuss two subordinate themes. “World heritage in Asia Damaged by Climate Change” and “The Culture and Environment of Gwangju, Hub City for Asian Culture.” The participants were to have time for sharing their experiences and knowledge, and for discussing concrete alternatives for better Asian culture and environment. Furthermore, the participants visited the Asian Culture Forum and Hub City of Asian Culture Information Center to have first-hand experience and participate in the Asian Youth Culture Night events. Unlike the previous two camps which focused on lectures and discussions, the 2008 AYCC provided Asian youth participants with a chance for mutual understanding and for the recognition of the importance of culture and environment through such diversified approaches as workshops, cultural events, tour, etc.


The program was joined by 62 participants from Cambodia, China, Denmark, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. They are students and graduate students interested on international cooperation.
2- 2008 AYCC Programs Activities

Day 01- 30 October, 2008

2008 Asia Youth Culture Camp opening ceremony started at 13:10, introduction by Ms. Kim Seol Hyun to all participants and guests about program. Also, four guest speakers gave address coming from Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism, Gwangju international Center, United Nationals Environment Programme National Committee for the Republic of Korea and Chonnam National University. After participants were given 30 minutes to prepare group presentation to all audience, each group got 5 minutes for presentation performance.Group Discussion I

This discussion was an intra-group activity. Each group consists of 6 to 11 participants and two AYCC observers as group moderators. Each group allocated a class room with essential multimedia presentation equipments.

Participants have presented about their proposed write-ups to other members with in the groups. Each participant got about 5mins for presentation and 3 minute for Q&A from their team and moderators.

In the case of Group 6, we introduced our self to each other after that we presented on our proposal. Group 6 have six members so 6 proposals were presented. Here are information and questions on each proposals on theme “The Culture and Environment of Gwangju, Hub City of Asian Culture”;

First proposal by Mr. Hong Min Ho on “Culture Blossoms in Gwangju”, he indicated that Gwangju City is a place of rich culture and have a lot of core-competitions to get the project from government. In his presentation he answered the question “Why Gwangju City should be The Hub City of Asian Culture”. Even though he didn’t make a case study or specific point for groups’ discussion but he proposed a lot of tourist attraction places and gave many more suggestions to improve the project.
Second proposal by Ms. Seulgi Kim on “Taste in Gwangju”, focus on food, Gwangju City is the best in Korea, according to general survey. Moreover she explained Gwangju must be the center of the taste in Asia due to many foreigner restaurants and abundant grain, fish, fresh seafood and wild edible greens, especially, a lot of famous chefs.

Third proposal by Ms. Kang Hyung Gon on the same topic, so most of her presentation in general was Gwangju as Hub City in Asia such as purpose of building the ACC, vision and Strategies for the ACC, functional roles of the ACC.
Fourth proposal by Mr. Park Hyeong Kuk on “Gwangju Festival”, he like to show that Gwangju have so many festivals which is one of best thing Gwangju having nowadays to get attention from other areas. But all of those festivals are still not improved as international standard like those festivals in EU.

Fifth proposal by me on “Negative Impact of Asian Culture Complex”, I showed in my proposal the huge benefit of Gwangju Citizens will get after ACC is completed. But it is making a lot of unacceptable reasons from people who were touched by their heart especially if ACC will replace former Provincial Hall which was the main spirit, historic symbol of the May 18 Democratic Uprising.

Sixth proposal by Ms. Park Eun Ji on “A method for Route Improvement Plan of Cultural Tourism Through Eco-friendly Train of Narrow Gauge Railway”. She criticized many bad points of transportation in Gwangju City. Also she wants to improve eco-friendly through her transportation project.

Group Discussion II

This session was also an intra-group activity. However in this session topic(s) have given by AYCC moderators. This session was a free style discussion session. The participants were expected to actively discuss in-depth, about the topic by stating facts, opinion and suggest. Participants are free to use any means to communicate their thoughts to other team members.
For my group we discussed on our suggested proposals. Mostly we talked more deeply on project explanation due to the first session’s moderators who asked lot of questions so group members didn’t have much time to exchange ideas on each issue.

Group Discussion III

This session is for consolidation and summarizing the ideas that were proposed during the previous discussion session. Each group made PowerPoint for presentation and group discussion report to AYCC.
My group for that day was not able to submit report on time since we needed more time to make sure all our members understand what our team is going to present.
Day 02- 31 October, 2008

Before dinner, all participants had chance to join 2008 Asian Culture Forum which was organized by Korea’s Global TV Arirang and hosted by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism at Hotel Ramada Plaza Gwangju, Grand Ballroom(4F). The forum theme is looking to the future of the Asian Culture Complex through the European Cultural Cities and Cultural Contents of Asia. Here are the topics in the forum;
• Expectation of activities and plans of the Asian Culture Complex
• APA approach to promoting cultural diversity in Asia.
• Strategies and network establishment plans between culture contents and artists: Focus on the cases of Biennale and Urban regeneration.
• Programme-led ways to build artistic infrastructure: Liverpool Biennial, a case study in urban regeneration.
• Culture as a means of identity and development
• A collaborative project proposal to facilitate cultural exchanges among Asian countries: science films crossing national boundaries to unite humanity.
• Towards enhancing cooperation in the culture sector in Asia.
• Policy Proposal for the Asian Culture Complex and Asian Culture Network Establishment Plans.

Group Presentation

AYCC divided all participants into seven groups. Group 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 presented on World Heritage Demand by Climate Change. Group 5, 6 and 7 on Gwangju as Hub City of Asian Culture Complex. It was a free-style presentation, each group got 8 minutes for presentation and 5 minutes for question and answer on their result group discussion in session I, II and III.
Day 03- 01 November

Mission Impossible

It was outdoor tour day at Gwangju City on theme “Mission Impossible” after breakfast. All participants were formed into new groups to discuss building friendship among AYCC participants. Each group has 4 Missions to fulfill including the same first mission at Gwangju Biennale then all groups separated due to different mission and have to prove evidence for accomplishing their mission.

Major Mission Tour Areas

- Mudeung Mountain Uije Museum of Art, Jeungsimsa Temple
- Yanglimdong Modern Christian Cultural Site
- Gwangju River Bike Tour, Riverside Sightseeing and Ecology
- Downtown Area Daein Traditional Market, Art Street
- Mangwol Cemetery Understanding of 5.18 Democratic Movement and 5.18 National Cemetery
- Hwangnyong River Josun Period Confucianist Go Bong Ki Dae-seung’s Course and Wolbong Seowon
- Sangmu area 5.18 Liberty Park, experience life in jail, Kim Dae-jung Convention Center
- Korean Poetry Park Soswewon Garden

Closing Ceremony and Asian Youth Culture Night

Each group has 3 minute to make presentation on their Mission Impossible to all participants. After that it was a big time for awarding the winners of 2008 AYCC and music performances.

I am equally happy since my group won The Best Team Award in 2008 AYCC.

3-My Observation on 2008 AYCC


It was such a great chance for me to join this camp. The camp is not only informative of Korean issues but also other countries in Asia.

I feel all participants in this forum are so smart and intelligent.

All of the youth were very active because they are students and graduate students from different universities, so the processing of discussions and the running the program was smooth.

Moreover Asian Culture Forum invited many fantastic speakers from good organizations like Director of Liverpool Biennale (United Kingdom) and Director of National Art Center, Tokyo (Japan).


Just only three nights and four days but have a lot of unforgotten experiences. In the forum I am really satisfied with the group discussion session but some negative points in this camp still have occurred, I feel AYCC focused on selected and the best youth among participants due to observers asked a lot of questions to each member in the group. in my opinion I found out members in our team feel uncomfortable and scared to answer the questions. More over they didn’t feel free to express their ideas on group discussion because the observers look likes they were judges.

Suggestion and Recommendation

I think next year, AYCC should improve facilitation skill to Observers to know how to process the class environment more fun and feel free to talk. Especially give more chance for participants to exchange their ideas on issues.


This Camp is really stupendous. It is not too long or short for me. Also they have a Gwangju tour for participants that enjoy the environment on the theme “Culture and Environment”. We have a lot of time to work with each together and improve our relationship. Addressing as Asians on what we could do to change our environment in the future, also exchange on how we could learn and face culture shock. So I hope next year AYCC will continue this project.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Home-Based Weavers in Varanasi Form a Union in The Struggle To Preserve Their Culture and Livelihood

Author: Prashant Bhagat

Varanasi is an ancient, famous and culturally rich district of Uttar Pradesh State of India. Varanasi is also a holy city which rests on the banks of the Ganges, and home to banarasi saris (Indian dress that women wear) that are woven predominantly on hand looms. They are woven by highly skilled weavers, and are considered some of the finest saris in India, made of finely woven silk and decorated with elaborate embroidery and engravings. Because of these engravings, these saris are relatively heavy. The tradition of weaving these saris is almost 800 years old, and they have been in demand for centuries from almost all parts of India. During the Mughal rule, this art reached its zenith due to the amalgamation of the Indian and Persian design and creativity. Even today the workers weaving these saris are predominantly Muslims. The weaving of saris is a household industry, with members of the family including women and children playing vital supporting roles. However during the past two decades, this art and industry have declined rapidly, leading to severe impoverishment of workers and their families to such an extent that children of these families are facing severe hunger and malnutrition. Yet in the face of this, attempts have been made on the part of the weaving community to get organized in some sort of force to demand justice and their rightful place and respect in the Varanasi society.

Structure and Character of Banarasi Sari Weaving Industry

The full production process from raw material (including silk and other threads for embroidery) to a finished sari, includes an intricate web of many actors such as weavers, master weavers, raw material suppliers, designers (card makers), etc. It is widely believed that the whole structure is fairly feudal in character, where a majority of workers toil to weave the saris and a minority few have total control of markets, raw materials and other resources. These privileged few also behave as 'masters' and exploit the weavers to the fullest.

The total number of workers and families working in this trade is not known exactly, as there has not been any effort to carry out a thorough survey. However unofficial estimates by various voluntary organizations put the total number of workers at about 500,000, a majority of whom have received very little or no education.

Banarasi saris are predominantly woven on a handloom with silk threads. The technology is quite ancient, and there has not been much technological innovation in this sector, although in the past few decades some of the weaving has also been done on power looms. The trade is predominantly controlled by 'Gaddidars' or the traders who have the access to raw materials and the market, and who also sometimes own the looms. The weavers usually fall into one of two categories. Some are self-employed, where they own their own loom and purchase their own raw material, but have no access to the market and have to sell their produce through the trader. Even the access to raw materials is controlled by the traders as weavers do not have enough money to buy the raw materials in bulk, and thus even the independent weavers end up working for the trader. Alternatively, some weavers work as wage labourers at the looms owned by the traders. In either case the weavers are at the mercy of the trader for their livelihood. Weavers earn only 300 to 400 rupees (about US$9 to US$10) on a sari that may take even 15 days to complete, and the traders pay the money only when the sari is sold in the market. Traders often point out defects in the saris either in weaving or in the embroidery just in order to push down the price. Faced with a desperate situation, the weavers often end up taking out loans or advances from the traders and being in a kind of bonded relationship.

Some weavers are also members of a cooperative organization. However, the majority of cooperatives are controlled by the traders themselves. These cooperatives were set up by government to end the isolation of weavers from the market—on one hand providing them with easily accessible raw material, and on the other hand providing them with easy access to the market. However, even this institution has been corrupted and is under the control of the traders themselves who now enjoy even access to more raw materials.

Women and Children
Women and children are exploited in this industry, yet remain invisible, and often unpaid. Women play an important role in all stages of sari preparation yet their contribution is hardly recognized. Women often spin thread, cut thread and do important jobs that are often considered as secondary or menial. The job is highly repetitive and they have to work sitting in uncomfortable positions for long hours sometimes even six to seven hours at once. Women are generally not paid directly, as they help the men in the household. If they are employed by the traders, they are only paid 10 to 15 rupees a day (about USD0.25). They are not allowed to sit on the looms as the general perception is that women cannot weave saris. The intense exploitation of women is subsidizing the whole production of banarasi saris. Their labour is adding value to the product yet it remains unpaid or poorly paid, and thus the cost of production remains low.
Children also help their family members make saris, and they also have to work for long hours in very tiring conditions. Children are also sometimes employed for 'pattern making' and other small jobs which help to speed up the whole process. Children are also sometimes forced to work to pay back loans that their parents or family members may have taken out.

Increasing poverty among weavers in Varanasi
A variety of reasons is given for the decline of the weaving industry since the 1990s. Some blame mechanization. Some criticize the quality of the saris. Some cite other reasons like the WTO and competition from Chinese silk saris. But no proper initiative was taken either by state or central governments to counter this decline. Traders, on the contrary, have continued to make profits, without paying much to the weavers who have ended up in a situation of utmost poverty and destitution. Local media has also neglected the declining process. Over the course of a decade, the hand weavers' situation has become very pitiful, and weavers have started committing suicide because of hunger and poverty. From 2002 until today, about 100 weavers have committed suicide or died of hunger in Varanasi, and a lot are suffering from lung diseases because of silk and cotton fibres. Many are dying from these lung diseases, which are commonly diagnosed as tuberculosis. The children of weavers are suffering from malnutrition and they are forced to work for their meals. Many weavers are supplementing their meager weaving income with other work, such as driving cycle rickshaws.

This informal sector – characterized largely by household production units – has no culture of unions, or in other words they are working in a scattered way and have previously not come together under a common banner. The Muslim section of the community does have community councils, which are involved in settling their social problems. But these councils cannot address the problem of the whole weaving industry because they are religion-based, and they are not political forums.

In India theoretically all citizens – including informal sector workers – are covered by the public health system. But in practice, the public health system is like elephant's teeth: only for show, not for eating. In Varanasi nobody gets proper benefits, unless they have political contacts or are willing to give bribes to get access to medical facilities in government hospitals. Weavers and their families suffer greatly from lack of access to medical treatment for common problems such as lung diseases like tuberculosis. Eighty per cent of weavers' children are underweight and suffer from many diseases.

The formation of a weavers' union

When the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), a membership-based organization, became aware of the suicide of a weaver in 2002 they were shocked because weavers had a reputation for relative prosperity. A fact-finding team visited Varanasi to find the reasons behind the suicide. During this fact-finding mission they interacted with the problems of weavers and the weaving industry. The entire mohalla Baghwanala (one of the weavers' colonies) seemed like a 'ruined forest', meaning no-one could be heard laughing, and not a single face bore a smile. About 50 percent of handlooms were not in working condition because of lack of raw materials and no new orders for new saris.

PVCHR realized that without uniting weavers under a common banner they could not do any fruitful things for them. PVCHR called a core team together for discussing the weavers and their problems, and it was decided to intervene in their problems. Nearly 500 weavers came in contact with PVCHR and they decided that they were in need of a union of weavers, which would struggle to revive the handloom industry and lobby the government for better social security for weavers. Finally Bunkar Dastkaar Adhikaar Manch (BDAM, or Forum of Rights of Weavers and Artisans) was established in 2003 and they elected Mr. Siddique Hasan, a weaver, as Convener of this union.
BDAM is a membership-based union and it is facilitated by PVCHR. The work of BDAM has included both organizing and advocacy. BDAM uses a 'folkway' strategy, which means giving people a chance to speak about their experience in their own way. The role of PVCHR is organizing and documenting what people are talking about and how they are seeing their problems.
BDAM has three primary focus issues: right to health, right to food and revival of the handloom industry.

Health problems

Almost all sari workers suffer from some kind of ailment owing to the very poor working conditions. The looms are often in cluttered places with poor ventilation, and workplaces are very dusty. Weavers and their families often suffer from respiratory ailments from breathing in the dust and fine yarn from the fabric, as well as range of health ailments owing to the lack of nutritious food and excessive workload. Children are suffering from malnutrition.

In light of the failure of the public health system, BDAM and PVCHR have been lobbying the government for improvements. In the last three years, BDAM and PVCHR organized people's tribunals on three occasions, where weavers' stories and opinions could be heard. PVCHR also approached the Planning Commission of India many times and as a result of this lobbying, the government approved a health insurance plan for weavers. Under this scheme, the health expenses of weavers and their families, including husband, wife and up to two children, are covered both in public as well as some designated private hospitals (capped at 15,000 rupees, or approximately US$350, annually). This insurance scheme is implemented by the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI Bank). Every weaver contributes 200 rupees annually, and for every weaver an additional 902 rupees is contributed by the Indian Government. This is an achievement of PVCHR and BDAM. But unfortunately, like other government schemes, this also went into the jaw of corruption. Instead of getting benefits from it, weavers have had to struggle through BDAM for fair and honest implementation of the scheme. The most common misuse is that insurance cards of weavers were issued to some other persons who take benefits from the medical insurance. Meanwhile poor weavers did not get the insurance cards nor the health care they were promised. The formation of the BDAM union has helped to expose the cases of corruption and maladministration, and many of the weavers managed to get their insurance card after struggle.

Right to food

Due to the decline of the hand weaving industry, weavers are facing serious poverty and food crises. India has a Public Distribution System (PDS) – characteristic of its socialistic policies of the past (ironically the official name of India is the Socialist Republic of India). In the past, the majority of the public would have access to subsidized food distributed via the PDS. However, since the 1990s with the neoliberal reforms, much of the PDS crumbled to the 'market forces' and the 'Ration Card' that was issued to all families to access the PDS has now become more like an identification card and is used only for administrative purposes. However, in the case of many impoverished communities, the government issues special Ration Cards by which they can have access to subsidized food. This allows poor communities to access basic food stuff at very low price. Weavers are also identified in this category, and on paper can have access to this subsidized food. However, in reality it is different, because corruption in the PDS system ensures that the eligible weavers are not provided with the 'Ration Card' and they and their families continue to suffer from hunger. Instead, fake Ration Cards are provided to people who do not deserve one.

BDAM is trying its best to ensure the food rights of weavers, through monitoring and taking steps against corruption by writing petitions and filing complaints. When members became aware of this corruption, they staged a demonstration at the district headquarters of Varanasi, with bread in their hands. After the demonstration, they started collecting data and stories of individuals who were suffering from hunger. They sent these stories to all relevant authorities, media persons and members of Parliament and legislative councils. It created a discourse in the world of intellectuals and government, which mobilized the government to start doing surveys and providing rations cards.

Struggle to preserve weavers' culture and livelihood
If state government and central government do not come together to support the revival of the hand loom industry, then in the coming decade there may not be a single man or woman in Varanasi remaining engaged in weaving. Weaving is a culture and it has also been a means of livelihood for weavers for centuries. Weavers are artists who are making unique designs that are unmatchable, and there are is still no modern technology which will make saris similar to them. However weavers and their children are dying of hunger and those artists whose hands are accustomed to making antique saris are committing suicide. What kind of irony is this?
These weavers develop their own unique design according to their local ways, and likewise they developed their way of struggling, rather than following the way of any other trade union or political party. Why do they look very different while protesting, demonstrating, or giving memorandums to governments? After spending two years with them I realized that it is because of their identity as weavers. They are not Muslims, and on the other hand they are not Hindu either. They are weavers, and weaving is a culture. It is not a religion, like some other fronts of social struggle. The central issue here is their culture, as well as an occupation and means of livelihood. When the culture of weaving is dying, how will the workers doing the weaving survive? How a community can survive without its culture? That must be like life in a vacuum. It means a land of uncultured people, who have to pass the tunnel of civilization again, in order to be part and parcel of this mainstream, so-called civilized society.

Dr. Lenin (Ashoka Fellow and 2007 Gwanju Human Rights Awardee)
Please visit:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Call for Application - International Internship Program 2009



The May 18 Memorial Foundation was founded by Gwangju citizens, sympathetic overseas Koreans, and from individuals who sacrificed and got indemnification from the government. It was created on August 30, 1994 by people who believe it's important to keep the ideas and memories of the 1980 May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising alive and remembered.

The International Internship Program is a program of the Foundation created in 2005 to contribute in the development of democracy and human rights throughout Asia. It is also an opportunity for interns to learn and experience the history and process of the development of human rights and democracy in South Korea. Specifically the purpose and aim of the program are the following: 1) To improve international solidarity and networking and 2) To promote Gwangju as Asia's Hub for Human Rights Movement.

The Foundation is looking for two interns who will serve for 10 months from March-December 2009. Applicants female or male should not be more than 30 years of age, with a minimum of 3 years NGO or social development work experience on the issues of human rights, democracy and peace. Must be proficient in English and working knowledge of Korean is an advantage. Must be computer literate (email/internet, blog/web page, lay-out/design, etc).

Living allowance will be provided to successful interns. Housing will be provided but utilities (telephone/internet, electricity, and gas) will be paid for by interns. The Foundation will pay for the round trip airfare of interns.

Deadline of application is on 28 November 2008. Short listed applicants will be emailed for an online/webcam interview through Skype or Yahoo messenger.

Please download the application form with the link provided if you are interested to apply and send application to the email address below:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A voice against Social Exclusion, Religious Marginalization and Communal Fascism

NAFRE Jan Andolan (National Alliance for Fundamental Right to Education - People's Movement), had organized an All India consultation on 'Social exclusion, Religious marginalization and communal fascism' at Bangalore from 13th October, till 15th October, 08.

The purpose of this consultation is to examine in detail the historical origin, machination of the politics of Social Exclusion and Religious Marginalization. As an outcome, NAFRE – Jan Andolan has come out with a declaration on this topic.

The socio-economic, cultural relation in the Indian sub-continent has undergone a sea-change in the post-independence era in favour of the rich and the powerful. While the Indian economy said to be doing very well – the people are not – particularly the marginalized! The simple reason is that the basic structure and discriminatory character of the Indian society remains unchanged. As a result, vast majority of the marginalized communities are excluded from access to power and resources and are denied their full rights as human beings.

The phenomena of social exclusion, religious marginalization and communal fascism have emerged as serious challenge to all those who are struggling to create an egalitarian society. Debate and discussion on inequalities itself is diminishing in the society today. In fact, more effort goes into rationalizing inequalities than in discussing how equality might be achieved.

In order to facilitate a serious public debate and to bring the issue of Social Exclusion to the centre stage, NAFRE Jan Andholan had organized a 3 day All India Consultation at Bangalore from 13th-15th October 2008. The intent was to bring communities and activists together to re-affirm the faith in building an egalitarian society and collectively evolve an agenda to work toward social and economic equality.

The three day consultation witnessed participation from NAFRE representatives as well as resource persons well versed in the field - Eknath Awad, Prof. Kancha Ilaiah Braj Ranjan Mani, Aloysius, Mohammad Siraz, Cynthia Stephen, to name a few.

Inaugurating the consultation, Eknath Awad, Convener, BHA (Baal Haq Abhiyaan) made a fervent appeal to the participants not to look at the manifestations in the society, but the root causes of inequalities. The country is confronted with lack of alternate political model and emphasized that the victims of caste, religious, gender discriminations should come together to challenge the existing social order.

In his key note speech, Prof. Kancha Ilaiah, author of several books and columnists in several dailies, analyzed the atrocities and violences – particularly against the minorities in Orissa, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh observed that the Indian society is in the midst of a civil war-like situation and every one need to be prepared for the same and said that without a civil war, true freedom, independence and equality is not possible. There is no social democracy (all men/women are equal) in Hindu religion. Annihilation of Hinduism, rejection of Sanskrit-based vernacular languages is pre-conditions for the war. He suggested that state funded, quality education would lead to rational thinking and eventually will lead to establishing a just society.

Braj Ranjan Mani
, author analyzed how Brahminism established oppressive and discriminatory knowledge system in Indian society, which he termed it as 'knowledge based violence'. The dominant class later consolidated themselves in power and had the power to 'produce and reproduce knowledge'. He also pointed out that the historical construct is antithetical to the marginalized community perspective. The need of the hour is to work towards bringing 'Emancipatory Education', or Egalitarian Education' to challenge the dominant construct.

Aloysius, a well-known author
spoke on Nation, Nationalism, Caste and Hinduism highlighted that the Indian polity is fundamentally 'Brahminical'. He pointed out the Brahminical mind-set that was existing at the time of the Independence movement. The leadership looked at the Independence movement from a culture/nationalist view, rather than from viewing it from the perspective of political representation and equal rights for citizens. The Hindu mindset further reinforced the belief 'men are born differently and therefore should be treated differently' and this was consciously constructed as the modern ideology. Without equal citizenship, one can not call India as a nation.

Mohammad Siraz, Writer
and an Activist analyzed Indian history and pointed out how history has been brahminized and distorted in favour of the Hindu majority and at the same time portraying the indigenous converts (minorities) as 'invaders, outsiders'. He also said that India is not a nation; it is a multi-nation and is in the process of evolving as a nation. Brahminical mindset of – identifying sources or power and appropriating power' need to be challenged.

Senior Advocate and Social Activist Mohan Kumar analyzed the current situation in the pretext of Brahmanism and Imperialism in the realm of Communalism in Orissa and Karnataka

Anton Gomes
, Coastal activist spoke of how the fishing community in the Indian coastal is completely excluded due to Indian politics and the impact of CMZ on the livelihood of the fishing community.

, Tribal activist discussed about the denial of rights to adivasis and the issue of displacement and its impact on the community.

Arun Kumar
spoke about the impact of Brahmanism and Imperialism on education and how it has permeated into the education system. He discussed how the impact must be seen In terms of class room interactions, teacher training, syllabi, curricula etc.

The consultation was concluded with a declaration that lays emphasis on the belief that it is necessary to establish a democratic society based on the culture of Justice, Equality, Liberty and Fraternity, as envisioned by Buddha, Mahatma Jyothi Rao Phule E.V.R.Peryaar, and Baba saheb Ambedkar. The declaration analyses how hegemonic ideology is born out of the segregation of society into various unequal social groups with graded inequalities and functions through structured institutions like Caste, Patriarchy, Religion and Nation State. It also recognizes the value of indigenous cultural streams and how they have promoted the Dignity of Individuals and Community and belief in non-exploitative and non-hegemonic cultural fabric for thousands of years. It further analyses the institutions of family, caste, religion, culture, politics where women from various social strata are subjugated to different levels of discrimination. It identifies that the sectarian politics and its culture of intolerance have already played havoc, more so in the post-independence period by unleashing communal tensions, wars where loss of life and blood shedding has seriously broken the canvass of cultural harmony resulting in communal fascism. It also recognises the fact that today development policies like SEZ, CMZ, all round privatization have further marginalized and excluded the historically disadvantaged communities, and imposed acute conditions of human existence (malnutrition, suicide and hunger deaths), livelihood crisis, deprived human development, forced migration, large scale displacement, etc. All of this also has an impact on children and the future of a truly egalitarian society lies in the holistic growth of our children by creating a just and secure environment for them.

The declaration finally recalls the struggles that innumerable leaders like Jyothiba Phule, Narayanguru, Ayothidas Pandithar, Periyar EVR, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Paditha.Ramabai, Rettamalai Srinivasan, have waged for the emancipation of the indigenous people of this country. With this declaration the concludes with members resolving to re-dedicate themselves to take forward the struggle of the indigenous communities and to bring an end all forms of domination, oppression, exploitation and to achieve human liberation.

Dr. Lenin
is executive committee member of Voice of People(VOP),which is allinace member of NAFRE for UP state
Dr. Lenin (Ashoka Fellow and 2007 Gwanju Human Rights Awardee)
Please visit:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tibetans Jailed For Blasts

At least three Tibetans have been handed jail terms ranging from four to nine years in connection with several explosions in Markham county, Chamdo, during Tibetan protests earlier this year.

KATHMANDU—Chinese authorities in Tibet's Markham county have sentenced four monks to jail terms of four to nine years for "terrorist actions" in connection with a series of small blasts during massive anti-China protests in the region earlier this year, according to several knowledgeable sources.

"The Tibetans were given lighter sentences for some genuine reasons," a security official in Markham county who declined to be named said, confirming the Sept. 23 sentencing by the Chamdo [in Chinese, Changdu] Intermediate People's Court.

"Those who were involved in the explosions were instigated from the outside. There were no casualties in the explosion, and damage to government property was minimal."

"They carried out terrorist actions." Security official

The mostly teenage monks were among dozens detained in Markham county on or around May 14 and were charged with "obstructing the Olympics" and "damaging national stability."

Three of the monks sentenced were named by sources in Markham county as: Tenzin Tsangpa, 19, who was jailed for four years; Lobsang Gyatso, 19, who received a five-year sentence; and Tenphel, 19, who was handed an eight-year sentence. The identity of the fourth sentenced monk wasn't immediately known.

All the monks are believed to have been from Markham county's Oser monastery or one of its branches.

'Terrorist actions'

The security official said: "They carried out terrorist actions...If they don't appeal, they will be taken to Kongpo for imprisonment 10 days after sentencing. None had lodged an appeal by Sept. 30."

A total of 22 Tibetans were detained in Markham county over 12 days from May 13. Only six are known to have since been released. A further five monks from Phunlag Gonsar and Khenpa Lung monasteries are also believed to have been jailed in connection with the blasts.

“Another five monks were sentenced to imprisonment. Those are monks from Gonsar monastery, and Khenpa Lung monastery. But I don't know details about the length of the sentences."

Tibetan sources in the region reported eight separate explosions in the Markham area during the Tibetan protests earlier this year.

No one was hurt in the blasts, three of which occurred at a Chinese military base camp, one at the Markham county office, three at an electric power transmission station, and one at the residence of a Tibetan who worships Shugden, a controversial deity espoused by Beijing but regarded with suspicion by those loyal to the Dalai Lama.

Overseas rights groups have expressed concern over the "disappearance" of monks from Markham county following the blasts.

Detained in May

Knowledgeable Tibetan sources have identified some of the monks detained May 24 from Gonsar monastery in Markham as: Gonpo, 20; Choedrub, 25; Palden, 30; Ngawang Phuntsok, 17; and Kunga, 20.

The three Oser monks sentenced Sept. 23 along with Riyang, 21, and Choegyal, 23, were also detained around that time.

The Khenpa Lung monks were identified as Lobdra, 15; Namgyal, 18; Butrug, 13; Jamyang Lodroe, 15; Tsepag Namgyal, 15; Kalsang Tashi, 17; Jamdrub, 21; Wangchug, 22; Penpa Gyaltsen, 26; Pasang Tashi, 30; and Lhamo Tsang.

Two detained laypeople were identified as Dargye Garwatsang, 19, and Konchog Tenzin, 21.

Chinese authorities have made numerous arrests and launched a “patriotic education” campaign aimed at Tibetans after protests and riots that began in Lhasa in mid-March and spread to other Tibetan areas.

Beijing says 22 people were killed in the rioting. Tibetan sources say scores of people were killed when Chinese paramilitary and police opened fire on crowds of demonstrators.

Chinese authorities have blamed exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, for instigating the protests and fomenting what they regard as a “splittist” Tibetan independence movement. The Dalai Lama rejects the accusation, saying he wants only autonomy and human rights for Tibetans.

Original reporting in Kham by Lobsang Choephel. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Written and produced in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Any tears for the Aam Aadmi?

In Belwa, a hamlet in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi district, it's almost noon by the time the women get around to cooking but the meal is ready in a jiffy. A few rotis and a bowl of salt water. Dip, dip, dip...and the hungry children gulp down their first - and last - meal of the day.

''By evening, they will be crying again but a slap or two will quieten them down,'' says Laxmina, wife of a brick kiln worker and mother of three. Her face is deadpan but her voice betrays her desperation. These months are the worst in Belwa. With the brick kilns closed from July to October, the hamlet's Musahars, the bottom rung in India's caste system, struggle to survive. And it is children who are the most vulnerable. A health check in Belwa by People's Vigilance Council for Human Rights, a n organisation that works in the area, found that more than 80% of its children were malnourished.

''In the past year, food prices have gone up sharply but incomes haven't. It is impossible for children to be healthy on a diet of rotis with no milk or vegetables,'' says Lenin Raghuvanshi, a PVCHR activist. But bloated stomachs and wasted limbs are a reality not just in this corner of eastern UP. Consider these statistics:

Four in every 10 Indian children are malnourished, says a UN report.

India ranks a lowly 66 out of 88 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2008. The report says India has more hungry people - more than 200 million - than any other country in the world.

One-third of the world's poor live in India, according to the latest poverty estimates from the World Bank. Based on its new threshold of poverty - $1.25 a day - the number of India's poor people has actually gone up from 421 million in 1981 to 456 million in 2005

India ranks 128 out of 177 countries in the UN's Human Development Index. The index goes beyond GDP and calculates human development by taking into account life expectancy, literacy and standard of living.

So did these alarming numbers cease to matter when placed alongside more upbeat GDP numbers? Was the gloom forgotten - perhaps consciously - in the rah-rah story of India's economic boom? Enter Aravind Adiga's story of a rickshawallah's move from the "darkness" of rural india to the "light" of urban Gurgaon to remind us of the harsh facts behind the fiction. Amid the call centres, the 360,000,004 gods, the shopping malls and the crippling traffic jams, Adiga's protagonist encounters modern India. ''The cars of the rich go like dark eggs down the roads of Delhi. Every now and then an egg will crack open and a woman's hand, dazzling with gold bangles, stretches out of an open window, flings an empty mineral water bottle onto the road and then the window goes up, and the egg is resealed.''

So tightly that the bleaker realities stay out. Inequality and injustice have always been around us, points out human rights activist Harsh Mander. ''But what makes these times that we live in, distinct, is that it does not seem even to cause outrage any longer,'' he says. ''It does not worry us that half our children are still malnourished, or that 200 million people sleep hungry each night; that access to quality schooling still depends on the wealth and social standing of the family into which one is born; that thousands of children sleep in bitter winter cold on dirty pavements under the open sky; that an illness in the household can mean permanent pauperisation of the entire family; that women work the hardest but are paid the least; and that Dalits and minorities fear for not just the consequences of deprivation but also of organised hate. We seem to have collectively resolved to exile impoverished people even from our conscience and consciousness,'' he says.

In contrast, the lavish lifestyles of the rich are celebrated. ''Little wonder that social discontent has been rising. In fact, the only thing to be surprised about is that there is very little violence around us,'' says Satish Deshpande, professor of sociology at the Delhi School of Economics.

Will it always stay like that? ''It's been 60 years since Independence and the impatience is rising,'' points out Deshpande. After all, reading about India's chronic development deficiencies is one thing, living with them entirely another.

Dr. Lenin (Ashoka Fellow and 2007 Gwanju Human Rights Awardee)
Please visit:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The May Citizen Documentary Photographer Report 2008

Culture and Solidarity Team of the May 18 Memorial Foundation is holding an exhibition at the 518 gallery from October 7 – 31, 2008. The exhibition is different like the usual, because the photographers are the citizens who were educated by the Foundation.

Every year the Foundation opens an opportunity for Gwangju citizens who have interest in photography and the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising. The program is ‘The May Citizen Documentary Photographer Academy’.

The program started last year in 2007. Last March, 2008 there were around 50 citizens who applied for the program. The Foundation chose 30 mostly senior citizens and married. Twice a week they have education session at the video room of the Foundation that run for 6 months.

On August, 2008 the education finished. Each of them were given a task to take photos and its corresponding information. There are 26 pictures being exhibited at the 518 gallery. The theme is everything in society, like human rights, democracy, peace, daily life, etc. The pictures are many kinds: candle light demonstration, farming activities, situation at the market, women activities, etc.

The aim of this program is to keep the spirit, struggle, and bravery of the professional photographers who took pictures during the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising. In that time, it was a difficult for them to take pictures, but they could made memories with their pictures that people can see and learn until now. They made the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising refer to as post history of Gwangju in other cities and countries.

Even if the theme is general but every person must have a goal for their pictures. How they could convey the message and it can change opinion or life of other people who see them. How the pictures could change the society being good societies. It was not an easy work for them as general people (citizens).

On the opening ceremony, October 7 at 5 PM, the Chairman of the May 18 Memorial Foundation, Mr. Yun Kwang Jang, gave a graduation certificate to Mr. Choi Jeong Hwan as a representative of the class/students. He was the leader of the class/students. During the education, the students choose him as their leader. Other students also got the graduation certificate as a reward of their work to keep the spirit and struggle of the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising.

On his speech, as a representative of the class/students, Mr. Choi Jeong Hwan said thank you for the May 18 Memorial Foundation, their teacher include Mr. Park Cheung as a coordinator of this program.

On its program and activities, the Foundation is covers different classes of the society like the students (elementary, middle, and high school), university student, and the public in general.

The education of the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising is not only from the class, but they can also learn it with developing a hobby like photography.

Congratulations to all the students…


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

USA Intern Volunteers Presentation

On August 2008, 7 intern volunteers from USA came back to Gwangju, South Korea.

The USA intern volunteers made their presentation on last September 26, 2008. The program started at 4.30 PM. The chairman, Mr. Yun Kwang Gwan gave his opening remarks.

Below was the order of presentation:
1. Ryu Jei Jun / Korean American Resource and Cultural Center
2. Park Hun Mo / Korean American Resource and Cultural Center
3. Yang In Hwa / Rainbow Center, Inc
4. Kim Seng / Rainbow Center, Inc
5. Kim Ha Na / Rainbow Center, Inc
6. Yim Kwang Jun / Korean Resource Center
7. Chui Ha Na / Korean Resource Center

Some family members, parents, siblings of intern volunteers came and gave support to their children’s presentation. The parents were very proud with their children and the support from the parent is important.

Yang In Hwa, the youngest intern volunteers in USA. She was just 21 years old when she became an intern at Rainbow Center, USA. For her, the internship program was a step for her growing up. First time she arrived at Rainbow Center, she felt inept. Time goes by and after 2 weeks, she felt like real member and enjoyed her time. In her internship program, she saw and was touched with the struggle and sacrifices of some people who shared with the others who are in need of help.

The Sisters would cook for us rather than themselves, the participants in the alteration and tailoring class took turns preparing snacks for the class and sharing them together, and other good examples. She was surprised when seeing Korean Americans who were, themselves struggling to make a living in a foreign land, support, and make donations to share with other Korean Americans who are less fortunate. She considers it as a precious time being an intern at the Rainbow Center. She learned to be a person who can share her time and energy like other volunteers does.

Kyung Choi was an intern also at Rainbow Center. On September 4, 2007 it was a historical day for her. At that day, Rainbow Center held a documentary film screening. She watched the movies “And Thereafter” and “Me and Owl”. First movie was a story about a Korean military bride, and the second story was about an American military camp town sex-workers in Korea. Before she watched the 2 movies her premise was help interracially married Korean women in crisis at Rainbow Center, but it changed. Two weeks as an intern, she did not know what to do and learn. Little by little, she felt and learn precious things.

The internship program changed the opinion and thinking patterns of most of the volunteers in Asia and USA. It is a good program for the students and youth to see and feel life in other country which is different culture from theirs. As interns, they work at the NGO who serve for other people who need their love and care.

This year, there were 5 volunteers sent to USA. We hope that their internship will also create an impact in their lives to become better person.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Application at SungKongHoe University (SKHU) MAINS Program

Our cooperation in Master of Arts in Inter-Asia NGO Studies (MAINS)

In partnership with the Sungkonghoe University, The May 18 Memorial Foundation provides scholarship to five (5) NGO activists in Asia. They were chosen based on their performance and participation in the Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School. This program called Masters of Arts in Inter-Asia NGO Studies (MAINS) has a multidisciplinary curriculum, integrating academic and practitioners' training with dynamic changes occurring in Asia and the globe. It is unique in the field of studies on social changes, non-governmental organizations and civil society. The curriculum covers a wide range of current issues of international relations from both regional and global perspectives as a major field of studies.


Master of Arts in Inter-Asia NGO Studies (MAINS)

MAINS is jointly offered by the Inter-Asia Graduate School of NGO Studies at SungKongHoe University and the Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives.

Its multidisciplinary curriculum, integrating academic and practitioners' training with dynamic changes occurring in Asia and the globe, is unique in the field of studies on social changes, non-governmental organizations and civil society. The curriculum covers a wide range of current issues of international relations from both regional and global perspectives as a major field of studies, placing a special focus on the development of solidarity among civil society constituents.

MAINS is intended for the people who have been contributing or have the potential to contribute to a better understanding of or leading social changes in Asia. Benefiting from both academic and practical resources offered by two distinct host institutions, MAINS offers both intense and flexible preparation for either those seeking leadership and skills for more just and equitable social changes in Asia, or those seeking further studies in the field.

Inter-Asia Graduate School of NGO Studies (IGSONS)

Previously named Department of NGO Studies, this master's degree course was first established in 1998 to offer graduate training in the NGO field. The department is a unique academic institution in many ways. Not only is it the first university institution of its kind in Korea, but it has been at the forefront of bridging the world of practitioners with that of scholars. Since its inception, the department has generated keen interest from both academia and the public alike.

Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives (ARENA)

ARENA is a regional network of concerned Asian scholars which aims to contribute to a process of awakening towards meaningful and people-oriented social change. ARENA draws its members from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong SAR, China, Australia and the US.

ARENA's official website:


Dean of IGSONS
Prof. Oh Jae-shik

MAINS Programme Faculty
Honorary Chair: Dr. Kinhide Mushakoji
Co-Directors: Professor Mohiuddin Ahmad and Dr. Hur Song-woo

Teaching Advisory Board
Chang, Dae-Up (Research Professor, Hong Kong University)
Chen, Kuan-Hsing (Tsing-Hua University, Editor of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Movement)
Cho, Jin-Tae (General Secretary, The 18 May Memorial Foundation)
Dr. Gosh, Jayati (India. Focus on the Global South)
Guerreoro, Dorothy (Focus on the Global South)
Lee, Chang-Hee (Senior Specialist on Industrial Relations and Social Dialogue, ILO Beijing Office)
Lee, SungHoon (General Secretary, Forum Asia)

Board of Teaching and Resource Persons
Hur, Song-woo (Gender Studies, SKHU)
Kaoru, Aoyama (Gender Studies, People’s Plan Study Group, Japan)
Lau, Kin Chi (Cultural Studies, Lingnan Univ. Hong Kong)
Lee, Francis Daehoon (Peace Studies, executive director, ARENA)
Lee, Jung-ok (Sociology, Daegu Catholic University)
Loh, Francis (Political Studies, University Sains Malaysia)
Mohuiddin, Ahmad (Economics, Community Development Library, Bangladesh)
Nimalka, Fernando (Lawyer, Democratic People’s Movement, Sri Lanka)
Park, Kyung-tae (Sociology, SKHU)
Saravanmuttu, Johan (Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore)
Tadem, Eduardo C. (Asian Studies, Asian Center, University of the Philippines)
Vinod, Raina (People’s Science Movement, India)

SungKongHoe University Faculty
Cho, Hee-yeon (Sociology)
Cho, Hyoje (Sociology)
Kim, Min-woong (International Relations)
Lee, Chong-Koo (Sociology)
Lee, Gi-ho (Political Studies)
Lee, Sang-Chul (Sociology)
Park, Eun-Hong (Sociology)
Kim, Yu-Soon (Social Welfare)
Ko, Byung-Hun (Humanities)
Shin, Hyun-Joon (Society and Culture)
Kim, Eun-Kyu (Theology)
Kwon, Jin-Kwan (Theology)
Jin, Young-Jong (English)
Jang, Hwa-Kyung (Japanese Studies)
Yang, Ki-Ho (Japanese Studies)
Jang, Young-Soek (Chinese Studies)
Paik, Won-Dam (Chinese Studies)

For more information and download application from please visit in this link:

SungKongHoe University (SKHU)
Master of Arts in Inter-Asia NGO Studies
# Application Deadline : by the end of November 16th

# Notification of Admission (by phone and E-mail): In November