MASUM was co-founded by Dr. Manisha Gupte and Dr. Ramesh Awasthi in 1987 during their five year stay in the drought-prone Purandar block of Pune district. It evolved out of a commitment to womenís rights within and outside the home, working with a feminist perspective and a human rights approach. MASUMís primary belief is that people can resolve their own problems collectively with some amount of external support; thus, rather than create dependence on itself, MASUM focused on strengthening peopleís perspectives on democracy, equality, secularism and social justice. In order to emphasise peopleís participation in decision-making at every level, the staff is mostly local, especially women from marginalised sections of rural society. Leadership building from subordinated groups since its inception helped to build a strong second line leadership; thereby MASUM meticulously avoided the pitfall of founders handing over the organisation to their children or family members.
MASUMís community level involvement is primarily with rural women in perennially drought- prone areas of Pune and Ahmednagar districts of Maharashtra state. Acknowledging that women are not a homogenous category and that multiple systems of domination - such as caste, class, religion and patriarchy operate in an intersectional manner, MASUM predominantly works with subordinated and minority-groups.
Some of MASUMís on-going activities include women's right to health and savings and credit programme (SHGs), addressing gender based violence, building a progressive perspective among young people, and enhancing their rights in all areas of life. Political participation of women, both as elected representatives and as empowered citizens, strengthening of child rights through village-based childrenís councils (Bal Panchayats), and enhancing womenís right to property ownership are ongoing interventions too. Men are encouraged to participate in MASUMís work, with women taking on leadership roles. Every programme of MASUM is interconnected with another, so that peopleís human rights are realised in multiple ways.
At the state and national levels, we are committed to training and capacity building of NGOs, CBOs and a variety of stake-holders in increasing peopleís access to economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights. MASUM is recognised as a credible training institute on gender, health rights, ESC rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), violence against women (VAW), and dalit and minority rights. We are also involved with campaigns and networks that strengthen womenís rights from the local to the international levels.