Shadhika Shadhika

Our Team

A passionate team dedicated to expanding gender equality in India and around the world

My Lo Cook, Executive Director

My Lo Cook (pronounced: Mē) brings over fifteen years of experience working around the world with diverse stakeholders across disciplines and sectors, with institutions like The Center for Victims of Torture, Human Rights Watch, and Polaris to address the world's most pressing and complex issues, ranging from torture rehabilitation to refugee protection and human trafficking. She emphasizes grassroots leadership development and systems thinking to design capacity building programs and human systems that lifts up indigenous innovation, leverages existing government infrastructure, and engages the private sector. She has extensive experience building coalitions to catalyze social movement and to create systemic change, including cultivating like-minded funders to support long-term strategies and objectives. She currently lives in CO and enjoys the outdoors with her young family.

Gillian Ford, Marketing Manager

With a degree in Social Entrepreneurship and Fine Art, Gillian began her career as a freelance graphic designer. She brings a combined 9 years of marketing, branding, and design experience to Shadhika's team. Gillian has worked with both small businesses and nonprofits. She is a passionate communicator and storyteller, focusing on elevating socially conscious brands with causes such as housing access, mental health access, LGBTQ rights, and women's rights.

Kendra Nicolai, Program Officer

With a MA in International Development, Kendra is a youth advocate and experienced youth programmer. She has eight years’ experience working in the nonprofit sector with a focus on youth development programs, including developing girl empowerment programs at an all-girls school in Kenya.

Upasana Saha, Program Officer

Upasana holds an MA in Human Rights and a BA in Political Science from Presidency College, Calcutta University. She is an enthusiastic social development practitioner and a striving feminist with 5+ years of professional experience in planning, scaling, leading, and strengthening programs on gender equality and women rights with adolescent groups and women. Prior to Shadhika, Upasana worked with non profit organizations such as Raleigh International (Karnataka), Child in Need Institute ( Jharkhand), CREA (Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh), and Equal Community Foundation (Maharashtra).

Sabah Siddiqui, Donor & Program Associate

Sabah has been a student of Vacha, Shadhika's grantee partner in Mumbai, for over 11 years. With a Bachelor's of Accounting & Finance from Mumbai University and an extensive experience in social work through her participation at Vacha, Sabah brings both practical and experiential expertise to her work at Shadhika. In her academic career she was a Joint Secretary of the Raotaract Club and the Head of the Women Development Cell's Department in her college. She loves to write poems, articles & "Gazal" in Hindi, Urdu and English. She wants to make changes in her community related to discrimination and girl's education. Her favorite lines from one of her poems is: "She is a Dreamer... She has uncounted dreams".

Vaishu Manjunath, Marketing Associate

Vaishu has been a part of Baale Mane, Shadhika’s grantee partner in Bangalore, for 15 years. With a degree in Journalism, Vaishu brings experiential expertise to her role with Shadhika. Her life goal is to work towards women’s empowerment and to help others to get educated and advocate for equal rights.

Elisabeth Barrett, Digital Media Fellow

Elisabeth is a Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame graduate with a B.A. in Philosophy and Organizational Management & Behavior, and a concentration in Sociology. She has expertise in development, event leadership, marketing communications, and social media and a commitment to volunteering in diverse settings, including childhood education centers, community gardens, farmers’ markets, and soup kitchens. Some of her passions include ethics, women’s rights and empowerment, and the climate.

Staff

Aruna Bellary, Board Member

A resident of Palo Alto in California, Aruna brings solid experience in all aspects of financial management having worked in this capacity at Oracle Corp., Sun Microsystems, and Intel Corp. She now volunteers as a Mediator for the City of Palo Alto. Aruna lived in Odisha, Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore before moving to California in 1986. A native of India, she is delighted to bring her personal and professional experience to Shadhika.

Diane Sigel, Board Chair

For 30+ years, Diane served as CEO for the family business, Duffle Bag, Inc., and knows the challenges of a woman working in a man’s world and has succeeded in establishing herself as a leader in a male-dominated field. Diane is dedicated to sharing her skills and her knowledge as a mentor, advisor, and sounding board for local, regional and national nonprofits from Hadassah to arts organizations and academic councils.

Janet Gray, Board Member

Janet is a partner with Jeppesen Gray Sakai P.S., a law firm that specializes in the areas of estate planning, probate, tax and planned charitable gifting. Janet became involved in Shadhika when her family volunteered in Kolkata with one of Shadhika’s grantees, New Light. Through Shadhika, Janet can support the education of girls and young women, so that each can break the cycle of poverty and seek options other than forced child marriages, prostitution and child labor.

Lakshmi Krishnan, Board Member

Lakshmi is an action-oriented philanthropist with deep experience in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and nonprofit program management for mission-oriented organizations. In her current role at Benevity, she works with many fortune 500 companies to help manage their grantmaking programs through the use of technology. She has a passion for women empowerment, using education as the ticket to a better life. Shadhika's partner-driven grassroots approach helps her connect to her roots in India.

Lisa Acree, Board Member

Lisa has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 25 years, primarily in the areas of community and economic development, and corporate responsibility, most recently as the chief operating officer at Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), where she focused on leadership and organizational development.  A world traveler, she served in the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa, for three years, and has lived and worked in Japan and Mexico.

Melody Jones, Board Member

Melody is a global financial and strategy professional with 18-years of experience advising executives and Boards on acquisitions, sales, capital raises and strategic initiatives. Clients include venture backed start-ups and private and public companies. She holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania and a BS from UC San Diego. Melody came on the 2018 Shadhika donor trip which gave her an understanding of how big a difference relatively small amounts of money invested in the right programs and the right leaders can make on the lives of women across India.

Nandita Geerdink, Board Member

Nandita co-founded Resolution Communications, a marketing and communications firm specializing in clean tech, green building and other sustainable services and socially responsible industries. Nandita graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison with degrees in Biology and Philosophy. Nandita lives in Madison where she enjoys four seasons with her husband and two kids.

Signe Kurian, Board Member

Signe has a blend of experience in marketing, public policy and technology. Her last corporate role was a product manager for Akamai Technologies. Since then, she has done strategy and marketing consulting for technology, non-profit and impact investing. She holds and MBA from Georgetown University. She has a passion for education, woman empowerment, and India. Shadhika brings together these passions and connects her family with India.

Susan Herzig, Board Member, Immediate Past Chair

Susan is a professional art dealer and the co-owner of Paul M. Hertzmann Inc., dealers in fine photographs.  In her previous profession as an occupational therapist, she developed a passion for education.  Her work with Shadhika combines her commitment to education and her interest in India, where she has often traveled.

Uma Iyer, Board Member

Uma Mehta Iyer is a social impact strategist and data-driven storyteller with almost two decades of experience working in brand management, marketing, strategic communications, and revenue generation. Currently Vice President for Marketing & Communications at the National Women's Law Center, Ms. Iyer oversees media relations and digital and field organizing strategies, manages crisis communications, and leads efforts to build the organization's national brand visibility. Prior to joining NWLC, Ms. Iyer spent her career working to advance gender equality, public health, and civic engagement, and has spoken across the country on issues of youth engagement, gender equality, and social impact. She studied Political Science and Economics at the University of Houston, and resides in Washington, DC with her family.

Vanessa Chauhan, Board Member

Vanessa is an independent subject matter consultant with 15 years of expertise working on issues of human trafficking and gender-based violence. She has acquired a unique speciality in creating highly customized, intensive training and consulting engagements to develop effective, sustainable, multi-disciplinary and survivor-centered responses to these crimes. Vanessa brings her empowerment and feminist-driven passion for social justice and equity to Shadhika and its program constituents and stakeholders. Vanessa is originally from Zambia and currently resides in Frankfort, KY. She loves to travel and eat her way around the world.

Board members