Shadhika Shadhika


Starting back in July 2021, Shadhika began a strategic refresh that will culminate with the introduction of a new strategic plan in the summer of 2022.

My Lo Cook, Executive Director

Allyship is Transformation Upstream

By My Lo Cook, Executive Director

February 26, 2022

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Over the last two years, the world has gone through a profound collective reckoning and is now undergoing a paradigm shift as a result, and Shadhika is setting a new course for its work. Starting back in July 2021, the organization began a strategic refresh that will culminate with the introduction of a new strategic plan in the summer of 2022.

To do so, it has required us to question our most basic assumptions (e.g. why do we work on gender justice in India?) to understand exactly what Shadhika’s role is in this global vision of gender justice–and it is clear Shadhika’s place is not at the center.

It is an uncomfortable, destabilizing journey, especially for us good-doers. We often see ourselves on the right side of the fight. Our intentions are righteous and our hearts are full when we receive the occasional praise for our hard work and steadfast commitment. Yet, we often have blind spots we cannot identify ourselves, nor overcome alone. As a result, our work can suffer and the communities we serve often pay a heavy price

Make no mistake: Shadhika does have an important role to play. But Shadhika must re-center our work where it belongs: in India, with the individuals and organizations who are on the frontlines of the gender justice movement. 

It is a no-brainer. Our grantmaking will be more strategic because it will be more closely tailored to meet the needs of communities on the ground. Our organizational structure will be adjusted to optimally support these frontline practitioners in their endeavors. Our practices and attitudes–from our storytelling to our definition of success and impact–will be more purpose-driven and more deeply aligned with our feminist values. We can move away from our good-doers’ need to be patted on the back to focus our energy on contributing to and amplifying the impact of existing grassroots efforts.

To cement this shift, we are revising our theory of change by formally naming a third pillar that was already a tacit practice at Shadhika: Allyship, or engaging “power holders” (including men, boys, and Shadhika ourselves) to be champions in recalibrating power structures they may be purposefully or inadvertently upholding.

Practically speaking, this means:

1. Investing more heavily in our Men Against Gender-Based Violence pilot initiative and mainstreaming early learnings in other Shadhika programs;

2. Convening and consulting with  Shadhika’s Advisory Council, made up of Indian experts and Shadhika Alum, on key strategic decisions;

3. Offering new Learning Grants to all local partners so they can invest in their own learning, development, and growth;

4. Fostering a thriving and active Shadhika Alum Network;

5. Hosting convenings for Shadhika to listen and co-create with its community of partners, program participants, and experts in India;

6. Actively leveraging Shadhika’s platform, access, and influence to hold space for the perspectives and the wisdom of partners and program participants to showcase their work and to demand what they need (see the introduction of Partner Spotlights in our monthly newsletter);

7. Moving our programmatic leadership and workforce to India;

8. Prioritizing an intersectional approach to gender justice and fully embracing a decolonizing framework in all aspects of our work and operations.

This shift is a no-brainer and it has existential stakes. We cannot pretend to sit under the feminist tent and promote the groundswell of change that the Shadhika Scholars are spearheading in their communities without requiring a similar transformation internally at Shadhika. 

We must be single-minded and relentless about our desire for gender justice and we must not allow the temporary discomfort and disorder we will find along the way to discourage our pursuit. And if this transformation alienates some people, we were never really on the same journey anyway.

Stay tuned for more updates and news related to our new Strategic Plan in the next few months!

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