Manushya Foundation


What we do

Manushya Foundation is a Feminist, women-led and innovative non-profit organization with the goal to reinforce the power of local communities, in particular women human rights defenders, so they can advance their human rights and fight for equality and social justice.Manushya means “Human Being” in Sanskrit; it was founded in 2017 to engage, mobilise and empower local communities across Asia to be at the centre of decisions and policies that affect them by: connecting humans through inclusive coalition building and; by developing strategies focused at placing local communities’ voices at the centre of human rights advocacy and domestic implementation of international human rights obligations and standards. Manushya Foundation strengthens the solidarity and capacity of communities and grassroots to become Agents of Change fighting for their rights and providing solutions to improve their lives, their livelihoods and the human rights situation on the ground.

What we document

At Manushya Foundation we document the most challenging human rights issues faced by marginalized communities, by centering voices and solutions provided by local communities to ensure they can speak truth to power, seek justice and hold governments and companies accountable for their human rights abuses, using credible human rights documentation. Our research and advocacy focus on five core thematic areas: UN Human Rights mechanisms, Business and Human Rights, Digital Rights, Women’s Empowerment and Human Rights Defenders. Our wide-ranging research touches upon both collective and individual rights from the realm of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, and most pressing present-day issues such as environmental rights or adverse impacts of development projects. Our findings are incorporated into advocacy papers, submissions to the UN Human Rights mechanisms (special procedures, treaty bodies, UPR), research papers or summary reports of local dialogues. All of these are publicly accessible on our website, and are utilised by stakeholders, members of civil society and the academia.

The primary methodologies used for our community-based research include surveys, semi-structured interviews, Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), and fact-finding missions as deemed appropriate for the human rights challenges in question. Once main issues are identified, an analysis of existing and necessary evidence is undertaken for each of those cases. Accordingly, an investigation plan is prepared for community-led documentation and data analysis.

How we ensure community leadership as part of the process

Communities hold the truth and are experts of their very own issues. Our role is to reinforce their power to guarantee they are visible and heard, by providing them with the tools to effectively conduct their own community-led research, utilising strong methodologies for documentation to ensure the credibility of their voices and solutions. To do so, we support the development of credible evidence at the grassroots level, and produce research outputs that have the needs and experiences of local communities at their core, applying gender lens to all our work. We do this through cooperation with and input from our community partners representing marginalised groups such as indigenous women, sex workers, LGBTIQ+ community, rural population, religious and ethnic minorities, migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers, and the youth.

Manushya Foundation conducts trainings and workshops with community members from across Thailand on various tools for human rights documentation, planning data gathering and analysis of data collected with the aim of building evidence for advocacy on their rights and campaigning to seek justice. We also provide technical assistance and mentoring for our grassroots partners, and compile obtained data into publications.

Through community-based research, we strive to evolve marginalised groups from survivors of human rights violations to their own agents of change by placing them at the centre of necessary human rights responses to their issues. Their own solutions are then addressed to the government authorities, other decision-makers and non-State actors so as to prevent harms to their well-being and ultimately promote respect for their human rights. We further support them in their advocacy efforts and legal proceedings at national level and through international litigation.

Successes and achievements

Over the first four years since Manushya was founded, thousands of people participated in more than 60 trainings and events in Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Nepal aiming at raising awareness of international human rights standards and providing guidance on human rights documentation.

In Thailand, we have mobilised diverse communities and grassroots groups for collective advocacy in our work with the Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR and the Thai Business and Human Rights Network (Thai BHR-Network). These intersectional alliances have effectively influenced sustainable human rights policy within the country and addressed key issues faced by marginalised groups.

We have made more than 20 sub-grants for financial and technical assistance to community and grassroots groups in four countries with aims to devise and implement their own community-led solutions to their human rights and development challenges. For example, our sub-grants have enabled the Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR monitor the implementation of the UPR recommendations to ensure national and local ownership of a review undertaken in Geneva in our “Global to Local” approach.

As part of our Business and Human Rights strategy for Thailand, we produced an independent CSO National Baseline Assessment on Business and Human Rights. The Assessment followed extensive dialogues with the communities nationwide, consultation with and inputs from experts and community-led documentation of human rights impacts of businesses, which has significantly informed Thailand’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.

Through community-led and participatory research, together we supported the development of the Raising our Voices to Save our Future report, documenting the situation of indigenous peoples, particularly indigenous women in Thailand, and providing recommendations based on these findings for a practical and sustainable future.

Through community-led research we have also submitted complaints to the UN to denounce Thailand’s false climate solution unfairly criminalizing poor villagers and indigenous peoples, accused of destroying the forest while they are protectors of our mother earth. We successfully launched a global campaign to #SaveNittaya and #SaveSabWaiVillagers and, via international litigation, were able to pressure Thai authorities to let them walk free from jail. We are also seeking justice to defend WHRDs and in particular to #FreeMuay from jail in Laos, where she is being arbitrary detained for denouncing corruption by the Lao government. In support of her case, we have documented the human rights violations she is facing and sent complaints to UN Special Procedures for the UN to pressure the Lao government to release Muay.