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.

Kendra Nicolai, Director of Operations

With a MA in International Development, Kendra is a youth advocate and experienced youth programmer. She has nine 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, Director of Programs

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 a rich professional experience of designing, scaling gender justice, and community-centric programs with marginalized and at-risk populations in India especially adolescents and young women and men. Prior to Shadhika, Upasana worked with nonprofit 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 14 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 Rotaract 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".

Jenna Sweig, Development Coordinator

Inspired by innovative ventures that have the potential to create widespread, sustainable change, Jenna is thrilled to join Shadhika as the development coordinator. Currently working on completing in MS in Nonprofit Management and social innovation, she has extensive experience working with nonprofits and social enterprises in the international development sector, including working with a small nonprofit in Udaipur, India to develop and implement women’s health and empowerment workshops.

Vanita Ganesh, Digital Media Coordinator

Vanita holds an MA in Women's Studies from TISS and a BA in English Literature from Delhi University. She has experience in the media and the non-profit sector, having covered pressing feminist issues and having supported the execution of campaigns on girls’ education. Unapologetic feminist, coffee enthusiast, bookworm.

Harshita Pandey, Program Officer

Harshita is a social work practitioner with a ceaseless enthusiasm for operationalizing feminist principles in various aspects of development practice. She has a Masters in Social Work in Women Centred Practice from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She comes with a rich experience of working with adolescent girls and boys in rural Madhya Pradesh where she worked with a community engaged in caste-based intergenerational commercial sex.

Sunil Gangavane, Program Officer

Sunil is a facilitator and development practitioner with a rich experience in working with grassroots organisations and marginalised communities, especially girls, Dalit and LGBT youth. He has extensive experience in facilitating youth-led participatory action research projects. Sunil has a postgraduate diploma in development education from Maynooth University as well as an MA in Psychology from the University of Mumbai. He enjoys gardening and travelling in his spare time.

Erin Vicelja, Fundraising and Development Intern

Erin is pursuing her Master's in International Development from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver where she is focusing on climate justice and gender equity. Prior to Shadhika, Erin worked as an Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) Consultant in Chicago.

Staff

Ankita Jhaveri, Board Member

Ankita (she/her) is: a mom, wife, aunty, sister, and daughter; a peer, colleague, friend, leader, learner, and neighbor; an aspiring writer; a yoga enthusiast; a (reluctant) runner; a reader; a lover of laughter; and a daydreamer. Born and raised in India, Ankita is the younger daughter of immigrant parents. She was raised to thrive across boundaries – age, gender, language, race, socioeconomic status, and culture among others. Her passion for driving change that supports young people to lead meaningful lives, especially those who are underrepresented, underserved, and overlooked in our communities, threads through her professional journey.

Diane Sigel, Board Member

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.

Lekha Masoudi, Board Member

Lekha is currently enrolled as a first-year student at Columbia University in New York City. She is the co-founder the Shadhika club at her high school to educate her peers about child marriage and women's rights in India. She is also involved in refugee advocacy and is committed to social justice for marginalized groups around the globe. Head to the Shadhika blog to read the two When She Leads interviews Lekha authored for Shadhika.

Lisa Acree, Board Chair

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.

Menka Lamba, Treasurer

Menka Lamba is a Senior Director of Marketing & Investor Relations at AGL Credit Management, LP. Since 2003, Menka has worked in the asset management industry and has raised over $2 billion in asset allocations through her career. Menka is passionate about gender equality and education and is humbled to serve on Shadhika's board and as its Treasurer. Menka received her BA from Wellesley College and her MBA from Columbia University Graduate School of Business.

Serene Singh, Board Member

Serene Singh is a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford pursuing a Doctoral degree in Criminology. Singh completed her postgraduate studies in Public Policy as the youngest student in Oxford’s global cohort of 100+ individuals. Singh also won the Oxford Union campus-wide election appointing her to the University’s prestigious and well-known Oxford Union Standing Committee. A Truman Scholar, Fulbright recipient, and an alumnus of the University of Colorado, Singh graduated with summa cum laude honors in Political Science and Journalism degrees and attained a minor in Leadership Studies. Singh won the title of 2020-2021 National All-American Miss - a coveted prestige for the world’s largest and most prestigious pageant system. A former America’s Junior Miss and Miss Colorado Teen, her pageantry and modeling experience inspired her to empower women worldwide. A signed MMG Model, an IMBD Documentary Film Star, Burger King UK commercial lead, and a runway and catalog model for brands like Victoria Secret, Serene strives towards increasing representation of Sikh women worldwide in many fields. In 2021, Serene wrote and published her very first children’s book “The Queen Machine” to build self-esteem in kids worldwide. This has led her to create The Serenity Project 501c3 nonprofit to give confidence and self-love tools to women survivors, work for Mrs. Obama and the Girls Opportunity Alliance to improve girls’ education, win Victoria Secret’s GRL PWR campaign, perform a keynote at Yale University, and serve as a Dalai Lama Fellow, US Selected Swiss Embassy Global Changemaker, and the winner of the Diana Award – the UK’s most prestigious humanitarian honor. As Founder of Hello South Asians to connect South Asians globally, the National Sikh Youth Program, an organization created to invest and mentor young Sikhs, Oxford Bhangra Society (Punjabi Indian folk dance), and the Rhodes Interfaith Alliance, Singh is passionate about challenging stereotypes, fighting injustice, and promoting diversity. Her leadership philosophy titled the “RDC Method” has been taught in leadership courses in colleges across Colorado like Colorado College and University of Colorado at Boulder and was the featured topic in a keynote to 2,000 individuals by Serene in February of 2019. A Speech and Debate teacher for the past six years, as well, Singh is part-time working with low-income students (especially girls and marginalized communities) to develop their public speaking skills. Her other hobbies include teaching over 10,000 students public speaking professionally with 3P Speech, painting, rapping, snowboarding, and videography. Singh plans to advance her passion for public service to one day serve on the United States Supreme Court.

Shaheen Lokhandwala, Board Member

Shaheen currently works in the nonprofit space building programs and opportunities for Black entrepreneurs to build wealth and create jobs in their community. Shaheen comes from the world of higher education, having spent 10 years working at universities helping researchers and students turn their ideas into successful startup companies. Her passion for generating equality in entrepreneurship is unmatched, creating access to resources and opportunities for traditionally underserved populations. Shaheen's family is originally from India and she is a Houston native currently residing in Northwest Arkansas with her two dogs.

Tara Risser, Board Member

Tara Risser is a senior executive in the technology sector who for nearly 20 years has led teams and spearheaded transformations to deliver a simpler, better way to do business. Currently President, Americas, Tara is responsible for management, strategy and growth in the Americas region, including operations in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Mexico and the U.S. at Equinix, the world’s digital infrastructure company. A champion of diversity and inclusion, Tara is deeply engaged in efforts both within her company and externally. Tara holds an M.S. in business from University of Colorado, and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of New Hampshire. She lives in Golden, Colorado with her husband, their two sons and an energetic dog.

Thresia "Teena" Sebastian, Board Member

Thresia (Teena) Sebastian is a pediatrician with a specialization in public health. Currently she practices clinical medicine in an urgent care while also overseeing pediatric research studies in infectious diseases. Prior to this current position, Teena and her family lived in southern Africa (Mozambique and Eswatini) for 9 years focusing on HIV care, treatment and prevention for children and their families. Originally from Kerala, India, Teena has lived in many places throughout the US and the world. She currently resides in Denver, Colorado with her family.

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 Secretary

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.

Vivek Sharma, Board Member

Vivek has spent more than two decades in the tech industry, most recently as a VP at Meta. He has a long history of working with technology giants to create new platforms and products that help people build communities as well as achieve their professional ambitions. Vivek spent his childhood in India and travels there extensively to gain insight and experience working with communities on the ground to increase access. Vivek lives in Seattle with his partner Katy and twin daughters.

Board members