Manushi  More than a Magazine-A Cause
Manushi  More than a Magazine-A Cause
Manushi Sangathan  Working Towards Solutions

 
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Brief History
 
The Name and its Meaning
More than a Journal – A Cause
The Impetus for Starting Manushi Magazine
How We Put It Together
Mobilizing Support and Finances
How We Worked
Who Reads Manushi?
Support and Distribution Network
Open Door Policy for Volunteers
Make Common Cause with Manushi
 


Mobilizing Support and Finances


By March 1978 we had drafted a proposal for creating the Journal outlining our ideas and asking for suggestions and support. We sent the proposal all over the country to anyone and everyone who we thought might be interested. Numerous people wrote, saying that such a magazine would be filling an important vacuum and that were ready to help in any way they could. This was the beginning of a countrywide network of support, distribution, feedback and information collection.

At this stage, we printed receipt books for collecting subscriptions and donations, and sent them to all who had volunteered to help. They began a fund raising drive, collecting advance subscriptions. We had priced the magazine at Rs.1 a copy, without calculating the likely production costs, which turned out to be substantially higher. The decision to keep the price low was taken without taking cost considerations in view because we wanted to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

We hoped to make up the deficit by donations from individuals and seeking only those ads, which did not portray women in demeaning or negative stereotypes. In all, about Rs. 12,000 was collected by the time the first issue went to press, and was all spent in bringing out the first English and the first Hindi issue of Manushi.

At the inception, we took certain strict decisions regarding the Journal’s finances:

Manushi would raise its own funds through small donations from individuals and not depend on rich donors.
We would not accept grants from any institution, Indian or foreign.
We would not accept any advertisements which depicted women in oppressive or stereotyped roles. This decision ruled out most available advertisements, and meant that we had to depend mostly on advertisements from government agencies, publishing houses, and complimentary ads from well-wishers.

However, we discontinued soliciting advertisements after four issues because collecting ads involved not just a lot of hard work and time-investment but also brought with it a lot of sexual harassment. With a small print run in a non-glamorous magazine, Manushi was not seen as advertisement suitable for big business houses. Since we could not afford to have a hired professional to solicit advertisements for Manushi, we had to rely on personal contacts. Apart from unpleasant experiences at a personal level, we also found that by saying “No” to sexist advertisements, we were left with very few choices. Since the advertisers required that we make the magazine more glossy and ‘attractive’, we decided to stop wasting our energies chasing advertisements and instead endeavoured to make Manushi a self-supporting, ad-free journal. The decision meant working on a shoestring budget and relying mainly on voluntary unpaid labour because we simply could not afford to hire paid staff.

The decision against accepting grants was based on the belief that creation of the economic base for any political and social activity is an integral part of its politics. By refusing to rely on external grants we ensured from the beginning, that we were impelled to create an independent base for Manushi. We saw collecting subscriptions and persuading people to give donations as an important political task because in the process we were simultaneously linking many of them to Manushi’s future and to the wider human rights movement of which it is a part.

This seemed a good way of not only of ensuring readers’ sense of active participation in Manushi’s development, but also of ensuring its autonomy and its commitment to the movement rather than to any set of donors or institution. Such readers’ involvement is an everyday confirmation that Manushi exists in response to a felt need.

One thing that has helped Manushi survive so far is that we never panicked when money ran out. The Rs.12000 we collected initially was supposed to cover the cost of six English and six Hindi issues, but as the subscription rates were so low, the money was all spent in bringing out the first issue. This first issue yielded many more subscriptions, and this money was spent in bringing out the second issue. Then, before sending the third issue to press, we waited about three months for more subscriptions, sales and ads money to come in. We survived without budgets and calculations – just living from issue to issue. The only “calculation” we kept in mind was that no cheque we issue should bounce and that we avoid getting work done on credit. This kept our credibility high with printers and paper suppliers. We preferred to delay issues rather than have creditors come angrily knocking on our doors.

In the early stages, we did not pay rent for an office nor was anyone paid for working at Manushi. Then began a yearlong search for alternative accommodations. This was extremely difficult; one major hurdle was that very few landlords were willing to rent their space to a magazine, for that would bring too many visitors as well as get the property taxed higher for “commercial” use, even though Manushi is not really a commercial magazine. Getting a personal lease was also not easy because landlords are highly suspicious of single women looking for an independent place.

For the next year or so, we literally carried Manushi editorial material in our shoulder bags. We met at friends’ houses, or in cafes, parks and other public places, doing most of the regular work wherever we found ourselves, in our own homes or even in the noisy and filthy atmosphere of the printing press in a narrow gali of Paharganj.

When Madhu finally found a two-room flat in Lajpat Nagar it began to be used for Manushi work as well as a residence for both Ruth and Madhu. Friends of Manushi responded to our appeals, and donated old tables, chairs, shelves, and a portable typewriter, and we organised a fund raising campaign to buy a filing cabinet. Most of our office equipment was similarly acquired.

The deficit resulting from copies sold at subsidised rates in India is covered partly by donations, and partly by foreign subscriptions, which have been deliberately priced above the cost price.

The situation has improved slowly; within 3-4 years Manushi was able to pay for basic costs plus token salaries of some administrative staff.

Some of our readers come from far away to meet us, work with us, help with Manushi work during their vacations, invite us to their homes; they have become close friends. The affection and care we have received in this way has been important source of emotional sustenance and inspiration.

Now that we are in the process of reviewing and revising our policy regarding fund raising so that Manushi can become a more effective forum for catalysing the required social and political reforms, we hope Manushi friends will send us their ideas and suggestions and join in the endeavour to provide Manushi a more solid financial base.

  Books, Films and
 
Music Cassettes
• Zealous Reformers, Deadly Laws
This book, by one of pioneers of the contemporary women's rights movement in India, delves deeply into legislation and law enforcement to (Read more...)
 
• Deepening Democracy
Challenges of Governance and
Globalization in India
(Oxford University Press)
MADHU PURNIMA KISHWAR
Deepening Democracy brings together essays on enduring issues such as human rights, governance, and the impact of globalization on the Indian citizen. The covers a range of issues
(Read More…)
 
• Women Bhakta Poets:
Contains accounts of the life and poetry of some of the most outstanding women in Indian history from the 6th to the 17th
century — Mirabai, Andal, Avvaiyar, Muktabai, Janabai, Bahinabai, Lal
Ded, Toral, Loyal. Many of these poems had never neen translated into english before  (Read More…)
 
Off the Beaten Track: Rethinking Gender Justice for Indian Women (OUP)
Religion at the Service of Nationalism and Other Essays (OUP)
In Search of Answers: Indian Women’s Voices from Manushi
Gandhi and Women
Voices from the Save Himalaya Campaign: Interview with Sunderlal and Vimla Bahuguna (Hindi)
Roshni: A Street Play & Manushi Geet (Hindi)
Six documentary films by Madhu Kishwar
Cards and T-Shirts
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