Buddhist Peacebuilding

IWP has organized four Engaged Buddhist Peacebuilding and Social Development Course for Women Activists in South and Southeast Asia.  The course is designed for women activists who are active in community organizations and NGOs and would like to integrate engaged Buddhist teachings into their community work and deepen their own personal mindfulness practice.  The course is three weeks long and participants are expected to implement action plans based on their learning upon return to their home communities.

Course Objectives:

* Help grassroots women activists from Buddhist communities to link the philosophies and practices of active non-violence, peace building and justice in their community organizing work

* Understand and analyze structural violence particularly on the issues of gender, violence against women, political and racial oppression.

* Help participants unlearn harmful notions on karma at the personal and structural levels and relearn more empowering interpretations with the teaching tools to work with their community on this issue.

* Develop achievable and realistic plans of actions that participants will undertake upon return to their communities; and provide necessary follow-up support for effective implementation.

* Establish a network of Asian grassroots women activists in the region who are committed to cultivating spiritual practice as a foundation for their feminist activism.

Course content

  • Learning the main Buddhist teachings, primarily the Four Noble Truths and the eightfold noble paths to analyze different social problems such as women’s oppression, poverty, gender- based violence conflict at different levels (personal, community and global) and use them a guide for solutions.
  • Deconstructing and challenging Buddhist misinterpretations such as the notion of karma that are promoting and sustaining oppression and violence particularly on women and issue of gender and diversity.
  • Using the Four Abiding Abodes (Loving Kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity) as guidance for action on building peaceful and healthy relationships and community.
  • The intersections of Buddhist and Feminist analysis and practice
  • Feminist counseling. Learning the principles and skills combining feminism and Buddhism for counseling to trauma survivors.
  • Exploration of the philosophy and teachings of non violent action, peace, and conflict resolution.
  • Environmental sustainability and social development
  • Challenging ourselves as activists — how to create balance to avoid burnout, and how to be driven by compassion and joy instead of anger and despair.
  • Daily Mindfulness practice and meditation.
  • Community work.

Core Skills for Participants

We have identified core skills that we expect participants can develop or foster through the curriculum which integrates personal mindfulness practice, concepts for social change and community building.  These skills will support participants’ process of personal transformation leading to take action for social change.  These core skills include:

* Building peace within: working with fear, stress, despair, and anger

*  Cultivating mindfulness, awareness, and inner peace

* Mindful/deep listening and  feminist counseling skills

*  Collective, power sharing leadership for social change

*  Non-violent action for social change, conflict transformation and peace building

*  Giving and receiving constructive feedback

*  analytical skills for addressing social issues

*  Diversity and anti-oppression work (understanding privilege and power)/working across differences

*  Stress reduction, dealing with anger and despair.

*  Inner transformation work

Plans of Action

The last part of the course is focused on Plans of Action – ways that participants plan to take their learning and experience back to their communities. The plans of action reflect the most relevant learning of the participants and the ways they can apply that learning in their home context.  Participants from each country/area are encouraged to develop action plans together to support the process of developing local networks and alliances.  IWP staff work with participants individually (or country groups) to develop realistic plans, and then discuss together about what kind of follow up support participants will need to put the plans into action.  In the past, IWP staff has offered support through co-facilitating trainings with participants in their home communities, offering advice and suggestions about curriculum development and training design, providing other appropriate resource people for trainings/workshops in their home communities, and providing financial support for translation/publication of useful materials.  Follow-up is tailored very specifically to each context to ensure that the participants have sufficient support to apply the core skills acquired during the training in their home communities.

Participants:

The three week training workshop is designed for 16-18 grassroots women activists from the South and Southeast Asia region.  IWP has been working with local partners in: Burma (inside Burma and in exile), Sri Lanka, Thailand, India (Ladakh and Dalit communities).  Alumni and local partner organizations help us in disseminating the information about the course and in the selection of participants, as effective networking and organizing after the course is an essential component of the program.

Current program:

In October and November 2010, IWP staff will co-facilitate with alumae short Buddhist peacebuilding workshops in Sri Lanka and India with members of their communities.  In this way, more women from each area can participate,  the workshops can be tailored more specifically to the cultural context, and it widens the possibilities for building networks of engaged Buddhist activist women.