The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), in cooperation with the Buddhist humanitarian relief organization Join Together Society Korea (JTS Korea), has announced the launch of the Female Sangha Initiative For Social Transformation in Southeast Asia, with a call for grant applications from sanghas, groups, and organizations across Buddhist traditions in Southeast Asia.
Coordinated by INEB and funded by JTS Korea, the Female Sangha Initiative For Social Transformation in Southeast Asia aims to offer an avenue for addressing social inequities facing female practitioners in Buddhist communities across the region, and to empower women as leaders and agents of social change and transformation. Under the scheme, funding will be provided to projects and organizations that aim to remedy education shortfalls, structural oppression, materialism, and gender discrimination within lay and monastic communities.
“INEB is deeply grateful to JTS Korea and JTS chairman Ven. Pomnyun Sunim for generously providing US$50,000 in funding for this project, which is an expression of both INEB’s and Ven. Pomnyun Sunim’s aspiration to empower Buddhist women throughout Southeast Asia,” INEB’s program coordinator Rita Litwiller told Buddhistdoor Global. “We aim to reach out to projects that will strengthen the role of Buddhist women in communities and sanghas, and to offer the means create the much-needed space for women to participate and contribute to a more just and equitable society in which equality for women is recognized and valued.”
Korean Seon (Zen) master Ven. Pomnyun Sunim (법륜스님), an internationally recognized Dharma teacher, author, and social activist, has founded numerous socially engaged organizations and projects across the world. Among them, JTS Korea is active as an international aid organization, working to eradicate poverty and hunger through humanitarian relief and sustainable development.
In October, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim was awarded the 37th Niwano Peace Prize in recognition of his far-reaching influence as an engaged Buddhist, including humanitarian work, environmental and social activism, and interfaith work toward trust, good will, and world peace. The prize from the Niwano Peace Foundation in Japan included a cash award of ¥20 million, which Ven. Pomnyun Sunim has dedicated to humanitarian relief.*
INEB, which works to overcome suffering by applying the values taught by the Buddhadharma through socially engaged Buddhism, explained that the goal of the new initiative is to empower Buddhist women in Southeast Asia to engage more fully in social issues at local, regional, and global levels, to raise living standards, improve educational opportunities, and to provide support for women in manifesting pluralistic, harmonious societies.
“These guidelines have been developed by the INEB Secretariat in consultation with the members from INEB’s Advisory Council and Executive Committee, and JTS Korea,” INEB explained. “The project is designed to build close collaborations and networks among Buddhist women, both lay and ordained, within their communities and countries, and within the region, so that they can support each other to be actively involved in contributing to a just and peaceful society.” (INEB)
The funding will be made available to qualified applicants in Southeast Asia among untouchables and other marginalized communities. Applicants, which may be projects, groups, or non-profit organizations, can request up to US$5,000 in startup funding. Proposals for funding should be submitted by the end of January, and will be reviewed by the screening and selection committee in February.
INEB was established in Thailand in 1989 by the prominent Thai academic, activist, and social critic Sulak Sivaraksa and a group of Buddhist and non-Buddhist thinkers and social activists. It was formed with the aim of connecting socially engaged Buddhists around the world to promote understanding, cooperation, and networking among inter-Buddhist and inter-religious groups, and to address global issues, such as human rights, conflict resolution, and environmental concerns. INEB’s members include monks, nuns, social workers, and academics from more than 25 countries in Asia, Australasia, Europe, and North America, working together under the umbrella of kalyana-mitrata.**
While founded in and motivated by the Buddhadharma, INEB welcomes members from other spiritual traditions and recognizes the importance of interfaith activities, stating: “INEB’s philosophy and practice is based on compassion, social justice, non-violence, and co-existence as put forth by Gautama the Buddha. The network’s core mission is to confront and end suffering using analysis and action guided by the Four Noble Truths.” (INEB)
** Kalyaṇa-mittata (Pali) kalyaṇa-mitrata (Skt.), the Buddhist concept of spiritual friendship.
International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)
Small Grant Guidelines for Female Sangha Initiative For Social Transformation in Southeast Asia (INEB)
Mindful Action: COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund (INEB)