Shadhika Shadhika


"Our scholars are passionate about creating a culture that values girls and women."

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Growing up as girls in India, our scholars face many challenges. Society teaches them that they are born a burden. Many believe girls shouldn’t leave the home, be educated or speak up. On a daily basis, they interact with these predominant attitudes, and negotiate for their futures. Rather than being married at an early age, they want to pursue their dreams and ambitions. Our young women scholars, in partnership with local NGO’s, are passionate about creating a culture that values girls and women. The Community Leadership Projects are one way we support them to address and challenge these ideas, and affirm for the community what can happen when you educate a girl. Community Leadership Projects enhance the scholar’s leadership skills, public speaking, and confidence. The projects provide a structured avenue for scholars to have greater impact in their communities and further develop their leadership skills.

Every Shadhika Scholar is required to complete a Community Leadership Project during their second year of the program. Each scholar chooses a topic that resonates with them based on a personal challenge they face in their community. 27 scholars are completing projects across India on topics including: health & sanitation, right to education, child marriage, freedom of mobility, voter & democratic rights and girls’ rights. Project implementation strategies range from large group presentations to case studies. This year, scholars received training from our local partner organization, Vacha Charitable Trust, at our Leaders for Change Summit. They were taught how to plan, implement and evaluate their leadership projects.  Each scholar begins by surveying their community to ask specific questions about their chosen topic. From the survey results, scholars create and implement workshops, street plays, campaigns, rallies, and other creative methods to raise awareness and address the issue and help the community develop solutions. 

During our November site visits, Sabah and I visited with all of the Shadhika Scholars and observed their progressing projects.  As a staff, we were blown away by the excitement, the stories, the high impact and the personal growth that these young women have experienced throughout this process.

Beauti, one such scholar, lives in the Birbhum community in West Bengal. She chose “access to toilets” as her project focus. Initially, she had great difficulty surveying her neighbors. Her efforts were met with many negative responses. She shared with us that many people asked: “Why are you doing this?  You’re just a young girl.” But this didn’t stop her. She persevered, successfully surveying 20 women in her community – all of whom she knew did not have access to a toilet in their home.  Because there are no public toilets in her village, and few people have a toilet in their home, girls and women routinely walk to the forest or riverbed in the early morning and late-night hours to “use the washroom.” This becomes a safety issue for women as they travel into dark, remote areas, and is also not conducive to a healthy lifestyle.

She wanted to understand the reasons why toilet access is so limited in her community and why these women choose not to build a toilet in their home.  Through her survey and subsequent conversations, Beauti found that these women do not know how to talk to the village officials or how to apply to get a toilet built near their home. Beauti has decided her next steps are to meet with the village officials to understand the community toilet application process, and then hold a workshop with these women to teach them how to apply. What began as annoyance from her neighbors to see a young woman freely asking the difficult questions, has turned into an opportunity to advocate for her community to have life changing solutions to ease their difficult lives.

Beauti is just one Shadhika Scholar out of the 27 who are intentionally creating a groundswell of change throughout India.

From Scholars to Leaders

December 16, 2019

Growing up as girls in India, our scholars face many challenges. Society teaches them that they are born a burden. Many believe girls shouldn’t leave the home, be educated or speak up. On a daily basis, they interact with these predominant attitudes, and negotiate for their futures. Rather than being married at an early age,   

The pause explains the deep-rooted inequality

December 10, 2019

As a woman in India, I often hear how lucky I am to enjoy the utmost liberty and independence – especially when I am challenging my society’s accepted gender norms. This seemingly benign remark hides a powerful system of gender inequality. Women in India and around the world can attest to the patriarchy’s power to   


October 24, 2019

Remember the days where you once walked across a stage and graduated from college, feeling both accomplished and terrified?  Spending time imagining the possibilities and opportunities that await your arrival, in the midst of long nights writing resumes and cover letters that are unique to each position. Those thoughts, feelings and time building applications are   

Ready to Fly

October 8, 2019

Tell us about yourself?My name is Rupi*. I’m a member of Baale Mane. I have been here for the past 7 years. What do you feel about Baale Mane?I feel very happy and safe. I’m getting education so I’m thankful to them. Tell us about your family.I lost my parents when I was a kid.   


September 25, 2019

Our Experience Creating Rangoli Vaishu shares, “At Baale Mane, we create this Rangoli every day without miss and this is our way to welcome the guest to our home. We use colors, dry flour, and flower petals from the garden to design the Rangoli. We play with colors, and we have fun too. At the   

Meet the Brand

September 10, 2019

It all started with a simple request for a video to explain Shadhika’s work and impact.  That request led us to reflect on and clarify what matters to us as an organization, why we do this work, and what impact we are looking to have on this world. Drawing from our foundation and history, the   

Shadhika’s Support Effect

August 5, 2019

It has been a long journey of 10 years with Vacha. This resource center, Vacha, has given me so many learning experiences that have enriched myself and my life both personal and social. As a student I have learned many things like English, Photography, the computer and Journalism. My confidence improved while learning these study   


August 4, 2019

This is my first time walking down a lane, which is a small, three-foot-wide alley in which 5000 people reside. We were walking to the toilets, which was passionately talked about during a meeting with girls who are trying to make change in their basti (slum). Walking towards the toilets I notice piles of trash   

Building a Community

June 26, 2019

The excitement soared as forty young women filled the conference room at the YMCA of Mumbai, ready to embark on the four-day Shadhika Leaders for Change Summit. The schedule was packed, the facilitators were prepared, and the heat was rising in the city of Mumbai. As the young women nervously sat and waited to begin,   


June 17, 2019

“Team Panj!!” we all shout, giving each other a high five. We’ve just divided into our groups for Shadhika’s “Mobile & Mighty Challenge”, a treasure hunt to reach nine landmarks in Mumbai over the course of four days. The first team to take a group “selfie” in front of each landmark and upload it to   

Welcome Shadhika Scholars Class of 2019-2020

“I want to stand on my own two feet and become something in my life.” This motivational phrase was common among the 2019-2020 Shadhika college scholarship applications. As 30 inspiring young women are awarded college scholarships for 2019-2020, communities throughout India are feeling the impact that being educated has on a young woman. These scholars   


June 11, 2019

“I’m looking for someone, someone like me,” Parvati* chants as she slowly turns around. She stands in the middle of the circle. Her question is part of an “energizer” – short games that are played in India to engage conference participants and keep the energy up in the room. This particular energizer is a form   

Wonder Women

June 4, 2019

“There’s a low hum in the room. At first, I look around, slightly annoyed, thinking someone is having a side conversation during the speaker’s presentation. Then I realize the sound is coming from a facilitator who is simultaneously translating the current lecture from Hindi to Bengali for two of the participants. When you are hosting   

Being a Part of the Girl Fund

May 29, 2019

I still struggle with the concept of feeling like an equal in this world. I reflect on my own childhood and the inherent expectations of what a girl should or shouldn’t do. I was a rebel, constantly trying to do everything the boys did, just to prove the point of “anything you can do, I   

Coffee Cup Reading

May 23, 2019

Reconference in Kathmandu was an event not be missed this year. #recon2019 was organized by CREA, a feminist human rights organization based in New Delhi, and included 500 participants from 50 countries. #recon2019 aimed to rethink, reimagine, and reshape conversations around feminism, sexuality, disability, abortion, and other related topics. The conference was not only stimulating   

How Shadhika Selects its Grantee-Partners

May 9, 2019

I’m often asked how Shadhika selects our grantee-partners so I wanted to share the steps we take. We go through an extensive due diligence process that generally takes six months to complete. Because Shadhika seeks to develop long-term partnerships with those we support, we believe that taking adequate time upfront is absolutely critical and what   


April 9, 2019

We’re all starting to think this was a bad idea. Our guide has set up a bicycle tour of old Bangalore and there are fourteen of us all on bikes waiting to cross the street. With no stop lights or stop signs, the traffic is full chaos and crossing the street is a skill in   


“Wait two minutes, the picture will come. Magic,” our guide tells the mother. I hand over the Polaroid picture, the image barely beginning to show. I started carrying a Polaroid camera with me on site visits about a year ago. As I was asking to take their photos for Shadhika, I realized that few of   


The bus stops and we get out. We walk down the narrow, winding dirt lanes carefully as the path is uneven and the ground wet from people washing their dishes and clothes. This community of over 3,000 sits right next to a garbage heap and most of the residents who live here work as ‘rag   


January 24, 2019

Parvati’s* mother comes to the door of the tiny apartment to welcome us. Though the space isn’t much bigger than my bathroom at home, Parvati, a Shadhika Scholarship student, lives here with her mother and her three brothers. In this small space, everything has its place, everything has its purpose. We carefully find ours, as   

My Visit to STOP

January 18, 2019

The pungent smell of spice fills the air as a young woman named Resha* sets lunch on a large table. Since I am a visitor, Resha takes time to explain the Indian dishes she has prepared; there are spicy mixed vegetables, fried eggplant, lentils and rice. Several STOP staff members join us and we enjoy