Shadhika Shadhika

Covid-19 Response in India

Sharing the stories of our grantee partner sites and the young women of Shadhika as they navigate the pandemic.

We want to share what is happening in India.

Below, we will collect the stories of our grantee partner sites and the young women of Shadhika as they navigate this crisis in their communities, along with relevant news and organization-wide updates.

Collaborative Storytelling through Covid-19

We are also conscious of the many organizations like Shadhika, working around the world to support and advocate for human rights. To that end, we are proud to be partnering with our friends and fellow Posner Center tenant organizations to share the diverse and beautiful stories of resilience, as each community is navigates the pandemic:


Check back often to see the latest.

9/28/20: When She Leads: Swati

Swati is a rising 12th grade student who plans to pursue a Bachelor’s of Medicine to become a medical doctor. She is a program participant and a Grade 11-12 Shadhika Scholar with our partner site Vacha in Maharashtra. Here she shares her dream of success in the rigorous field of science and her determination to make it no matter the obstacles. She says: Since childhood, where I live is not great. If anyone gets ill, they cannot afford medical fees. I want to become a doctor to people in my area and everyone who needs support. Read her interview.

9/24/20: When She Leads: Priyanka

Priyanka is a rising Shadhika Scholar who plans to pursue a Bachelor’s of Legislative Law towards a career as a Civil Judge. She is a program participant with our partner site Milaan in Uttar Pradesh. Here she shares her dream of becoming a judge so she can be in a position of power to advocate for gender justice. She says: I want to stand with women who need support and advocate for women who experience gender discrimination and violence. Read her interview.

9/19/20: When She Leads: Geeta

Geeta is a rising Shadhika Scholar who intends to pursue a degree in Business Management. She is a program participant with our partner site Vacha in Maharashtra. Here she shares how central her friendships are to her ability to overcome the stress of school closing and exams. Like the rest of us, her relationships are her haven for strength and guidance. She says: My friends and I have stayed closely connected and speak regularly to check on each other. Read her interview.

9/17/20: September Field Update

In August 2020, as India celebrated it’s 74th Independence Day, the central government announced they would increase the legal age of marriage for Indian women from 18 years to 21 years with the hope of halting issues related to the age of motherhood, maternal mortality rates and child nutritional levels. Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought industry to a halt and closed schools, widening economic hardships for most low income families leading to unsafe, forced migration, and many other poor decisions that come with long term negative gendered consequences on women and girls. This was an important topic of concern brought up by our partners during Shadhika’s Virtual Partner Roundtable meeting in August. The partners shared how early, forced marriage is causing higher rates of school drop out  and that trafficking would also increase with more and more experiencing poverty. Our partners agreed that changing the age of marriage to 21 is not a sustainable solution. Many recommended strengthening the existing child protection and prevention of child marriage laws and framing new policies that advocate for a right-based and inclusive approach. Continue reading.

9/16/20: The Technology Divide

It is undeniable that the spread of the coronavirus is pulling the curtain back on the most severe inequalities around the world and exacerbating their impact on the most marginalized. The anecdotal evidence and early data paint a grim picture of the compounding effects of COVID on existing vulnerabilities affecting women and girls in India. For the young women of Shadhika, the coronavirus pandemic presents immediate risks to their safety and security, as well as long term consequences on their ability to achieve their fullest potential. As the COVID situation in India continues to escalate, children and youth are contemplating their education options. Continue reading.

9/9/20: When She Leads: Mangala

Mangala is a rising Shadhika Scholar who intends to pursue a degree in Education. She is a program participant with our partner site Baale Mane in Karnataka. Here she tells us about why she chose to pursue education. Her commitment to the next generation is an inspiration to all of us, especially as we watch teachers and educators address the challenges of school start during COVID with care and creativity. She says: When I become a teacher, I will listen to my students when they have something to share, and I will understand their situations. I will help them overcome their problems and fulfill their goals. Read her interview.

9/1/20: When She Leads: Tajdina

Tajdina is a second year Shadhika Scholar who is pursuing her Nursing degree. She is a program participant with our partner site Jabala in West Bengal. Here she shares about the transition to online classes amidst the daily pressures of life at home during a pandemic and her hopes for the future. She says: I am here today and have a future tomorrow because of Shadhika and Jabala. I feel very grateful from my heart because I can become something tomorrow. Read her interview.

8/27/20: In Pursuit of Gender Equality

In almost 20 years of work in international human rights, I have worked on a number of issues, ranging from torture rehabilitation to refugee protection and human trafficking. In all places where human rights violations are allowed to be perpetrated with impunity, there is one common denominator: one or more groups are not regarded as fully human and therefore are not treated as such in the language, the culture, and the law. Continue reading.

8/13/20: August Field Update

With nearly 370,000 known COVID-19 cases and over 12,000 related deaths, India is in Phase I of re-opening the country after nearly 3 months of strict national lockdown. This means that places of worship and select hospitality businesses–including shopping malls–are allowed to be open while respecting social distancing precautions. Whether or not the country will enter Phase II of re-openings is still to be determined, based on national rates of infection and mortality. 

The lockdown has taken a heavy economic and social toll on urban settings in particular, with the Southern and Western regions still showing the highest concentration of red zones (i.e. highest infection rates, large scale testing, and extended lockdown). High population density in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, and Calcutta has been a central factor in dangerously high infection rates. Continue reading.

7/15/20: Making the Shift

At Shadhika, we recognize that our path forward is not black or white, but rather a thoughtful and courageous stance. We must adapt to the tidal change that is sweeping through the world and our sector. We must embrace the need to reinvent our operations because of the coronavirus and to interrogate the unconscious biases that may exist in our grantmaking and the body of organization. At the same time, our partners and the young women leaders in India are setting an example of perseverance, demanding that we remain steadfast in our support. And I learned a long time ago that if those most affected do not give up, we as allies cannot give up either–however twisted and difficult the road ahead may be. More than ever, Shadhika has our eyes firmly set on our vision to see an India that puts women and girls at the center of policy change and solutions in order to create a more equal, more prosperous society. Continue reading.

7/7/20: When She Leads: Sanjuckta & Pranjuckta

COVID-19 continues to keep the young women of Shadhika isolated from friends, school, and their NGO community centers. In this interview, sisters Sanjuckta and Pranjuckta discuss their experiences since the lockdown and how they’re supporting and encouraging each other. Sanjuckta and Pranjuckta live in Kolkata where they participate and work with our partner site Jabala.  Pranjukcta says: Having a sister is like having a best friend for life. Read more.

6/29/20: When She Leads: Mirekha, Navya, Nritha, & Meera

COVID-19 continues to keep the young women of Shadhika isolated from friends, school, and their NGO community centers. In this interview, four young women at Baale Mane, our partner site on the outskirts of Bangalore, discuss their experiences since the lockdown and how they’re trying to stay mentally and physically healthy. Mirekha says: Practicing yoga makes me feel refreshed. Meditation helps me to have strong breathing in my body and helps me to balance my mental health. Read more.

6/22/20: When She Leads: Parvati

Parvati is a third-year Shadhika Scholar pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree of Banking & Insurance and a participant with our grantee partner site Vacha, in Mumbai. In this interview, she shares about her recent experience negotiating with her family as they navigated migration. She says: We all have a right to say something, to express ourselves. I think whenever we feel something is wrong or different, we need to talk about it. Read more.

6/19/20: July Field Update

Over the last 3 months, India has been under a strict national lockdown. Our partners listened to the needs of the girls under these circumstances and pivoted to adapt accordingly. Read the update.

6/15/20: When She Leads: Reshma

Reshma is a third-year Shadhika Scholar pursuing a nursing degree in Delhi and a participant with our grantee partner site, STOP India. Recently, her community experienced a major fire amidst COVID-19 lockdown. In the face of such devastation, Reshma led a clothing and food collection for those impacted. She says: I asked everyone to gather clothes which they are not needing, for me to collect and share with the people who lost everything in the fire. Read her interview.

6/13/20: When She Leads Under Lockdown

Throughout COVID-19 in India, the young women of Shadhika have shown their tenacity, creativity, and resilience. Though the daily context in India has shown little reprieve, and is in many respects worsening, these young women are responding as leaders in support of their friends, families, and communities. When She Leads brings you first-hand interviews and stories from our young women leaders. Read more.

6/10/20: How can grant-makers make a difference?

To effectively mitigate the short- and long-term losses to COVID-19, nonprofit organizations have to be nimble, agile, and innovative to continue meeting the evolving needs of the communities they serve. As a grant-maker, Shadhika is stretching our flexibility to help our partners operate more autonomously and effectively. We are creating expedited processes and making fast decisions to facilitate funding re-allocation so our partners can adapt swiftly to the fluid conditions on the ground. Continue reading.

5/28/20: India’s Covid-19 Response continues

India’s lockdown continues in most metropolitan areas designated Red Zones, while restrictions are easing in other areas with fewer reported Covid-19 cases. Despite ongoing response, concerns of viral spread outpacing these efforts are evident. BBC News India reports.

5/21/20: Cyclone Amphan hits Indian coast

Cyclone Amphan made landfall close to Sundarbans between West Bengal and Bangladesh on Wednesday afternoon, washing away Indian islands to the mainland and uprooting trees and electricity poles in six-and-a-half hours that left Kolkata and most of south Bengal pulverized. Early reports show the cyclone claimed 10 to 12 lives in West Bengal and destroyed over 5,500 house. West Bengal’s chief minister shared the impact of Amphan was worse than the coronavirus pandemic and claimed that there could have been Rs 1 trillion worth of damage due to the cyclone in the region. Continue reading.

5/20/20: Toward a Feminist Foreign Policy

The roadmap to Covid-19  recovery is an opportunity to reimagine a feminist future that centers people, peace, and planet. That is why Shadhika is joining the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and 50+ organizations launching a call for a Feminist Foreign Policy alongside ICRW in the USA. Learn more about our bold vision and show your support.

5/18/20: India’s Lockdown 4.0

India’s lockdown is the largest in the world, covering 1.3 billion people. Since March 24, the lockdown has continued for 56 days and will now be extended to May 31. BBC World News reports.

5/14/20: School closures and the digital divide disproportionately affect girls and young women

Muskan, a Shadhika Scholar with partner site Vacha Charitable Trust, shared her experience with online college courses during the pandemic: “My lectures are now online, but most students do not attend because they don’t have a computer or internet connection. Due to this lockdown, students are not able to study or complete assignments. It has been difficult.”

According to a recent report by UNESCO: “Countries worldwide have closed schools at an unprecedented rate in an attempt to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is therefore easy to assume that learners will be safer or better off staying at home than mixing with others in the classroom. The reality, however, is that for millions of girls and young women, particularly those in the world’s least developed countries, school shutdowns bring other risks.” Continue reading the report.

5/12/20: Shadhika Scholars lead response efforts in their communities

As lockdown in India continues, the young women of Shadhika are leading in their communities. Parvati, a Shadhika Scholar is in her third year of university studying towards a Banking and Insurance degree. With our partner site Vacha Charitable Trust, Parvati and other Shadhika Scholars are distributing emergency supplies to their community.

5/11/20: India extends lockdown

India has extended its lockdown as cases begin to rise. Many of Shadhika’s students live in poor communities located in the “red zones” – areas where Covid-19 cases are on the rise. In these high density communities, infection is a true risk. But if a girl is infected, will her health receive priority? Or will she face the same discrimination she always faces and be given treatment last? Help us ensure the young women of Shadhika are taken care of during this crisis. Give to Shadhika’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund today.

5/7/20: A gender lens for Covid-19 response and recovery

We are proud to join The Deliver for Good Campaign and over 700 organizations from across 100 countries to advocate for the world’s governments to apply a gender lens and put girls, women, and gender equality at the center of Covid-19 preparedness, response, and recovery.
Learn more about the campaign.

5/6/20: Shadhika Alumna and fashion designer gets creative under lockdown

Savita, a Shadhika Alumna from Vacha, graduated with a degree in fashion design. She shares how she is continuing to practice her craft during the pandemic: “Until everything is completely back to normal there is no chance to open stores in the retail field. To pass the time I’ve been painting my jackets and pants, using concepts, styling clothes and posting them online. Here I styled a saree that my dad gifted my mom 22 years ago.” Check out her designs here.

5/4/20: For many girls in India, the pandemic will erase access to education.

The Covid-19 pandemic should not mean the end of your education, but for many girls in India, it will. According to a recent UNESCO report, the “economic hardships caused by the crisis will have spill-over effects as families consider the financial and opportunity costs of educating their daughters.” Shadhika is working to prevent this from happening, supporting our grantee partners to ensure those we support are able to keep up with their schooling online and negotiating with their parents when time comes to make sure they are re-enrolled in school. Valerie Strauss reports for The Washington Post.

4/29/20: Observing Ramadan during lockdown

Sabah Siddiqui, Shadhika’s Donor & Program Associate, shares about observing Ramadan this year amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. She shares: “India is a country of many religions and celebrations. During a festival, we are closer to each other and get the chance to learn more about other cultures and religions. But this year, with lockdown, things are different.” Read the story on our blog.

4/28/20: The shift to online classes reveals the digital learning divide

With most in-person classroom learning cancelled for the remainder of the year, many teachers, parents and children in the U.S. have been asked to turn to on-line learning. But how can you continue your education online if you don’t have access to a laptop, the internet, or even a smartphone? Such is the challenge for most of the young women we support at Shadhika. Our grantee partners are working hard to help bridge this digital divide and the government is starting to step up to develop educational tools that can be accessed through other means including radio and television. Abha Goradia reports for The Indian Express.

4/27/20: Learning under lockdown

Our Making HERstory Interns share how the lockdown in India is affecting their college courses and community mentoring work. Afreen shares: “It’s been one month since my college was closed. We are finished with our syllabus. From March, we are studying at home, and we still we don’t know when we’ll take our exams.” Read the blog.

4/23/20: United Nations calls for end to gender-based violence

UN chief António Guterres calls for women and girls to be at the center of all pandemic responses: “Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for Covid-19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes. Today I appeal for peace in homes around the world. I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.” View his full remarks in the video below.

4/22/20: When sheltering in place isn’t in fact safe

What if your “shelter in place” was not a shelter at all but rather an unsafe space? What if you were forced into a 30- 60- or 90-day lockdown with your abuser? Around the globe, since Covid-19 has forced us to stay at home, rates of domestic violence have skyrocketed. For too many women and girls, the choice is untenable, “Do I stay at home to protect myself from the virus but place myself at risk of harm from my brother, father, or uncle? Or do I risk my life to the virus by leaving?” Read Manjima Bhattacharjya’s report on The Indian Express.

4/21/20: Public toilets create increased risk for women and girls

On a normal day in India, women and girls have limited mobility and with the threat of gender-based violence, daily tasks present a myriad of challenges. One such barrier in many communities is the need to use public toilets. Now during the Covid-19 lockdown, what is normally a calculated difficulty, has become an enormous risk. For communities who do not have access to private toilets, social distancing and proper hygiene are nearly impossible. For many of the young women of Shadhika, public toilets are the reality. Read the story on our blog.

4/17/20: Shadhika leaders teach mask making

With resource scarcity on the rise around the world, the young women of Shadhika are responding with ingenuity and creativity. Watch this video of Vidya – a Shadhika Alumna living in Bangalore – shares her take on a face mask made from repurposed materials. The CDC now recommends wearing a mask, in addition to maintaining 6 feet of social distancing, “especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

4/15/20: News from India

As India continues on its national lockdown, the burden of household work falls almost entirely on women and girls. Studies have shown that 60 percent of the work Indian women do is unpaid and unrecognised, while for men, the number is just 10 percent. “Men and boys must be sensitised to the huge burden of care work women and girls carry. Boys must be trained in housework. In that sense, the lockdown could be an opportunity to introduce gender equality at home.” Read the article by Divya J. Shekar for Forbes India.

4/14/20: Working from home

Around the world, we are all becoming much more familiar with working from home. And most can attest – it isn’t always easy. Sabah, a member of Shadhika’s staff, shares her experience working from home for the first time while under national lockdown. She lives in Mumbai with her nine family members. Read her article.

4/13/20: Domestic violence on the rise

With “shelter in place” orders ongoing in India, the stress of families inhabiting tiny living spaces for days on end is immense. Most day laborers have lost their jobs. Children are out of school. Food resources are minimal. The current circumstances are fraught with tension and experts are projecting a rise in domestic violence cases as a result. Suyashi Smridhi with Feminism in India reports on the risks of domestic violence during the pandemic.

4/12/20: Partner sites respond with relief kits

Together, our partner sites are providing over 1,000 families across India with emergency relief kits in Shadhika supported communities. These kits will supply the young women of Shadhika and their families with food and hygiene essentials, including items such as: flour, rice or lentils, oil, potatoes, onions, salt, soap, sugar, and tea leaves. Support continued relief efforts like this through Shadhika’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund.

4/10/20: India continues to “shelter in place”

What does “social distancing” mean when you live in a 200 sq. ft. house with 8 family members? Such is the predicament for many of the young women supported by Shadhika, who as of last week, are required to “shelter in place” with their families. Confinement to such small spaces would be hard enough, but it will become even more difficult as India heads into monsoon season and the temperatures increase. Soutik Biswas reports for BBC News.

4/8/20: Social distancing in Murshidabad

Tajdina is a Shadhika Scholar with partner site, Jabala, lives in the community of Murshidabad. She shares: “For me and my family, we are staying in home. My father has to go to outside sometimes for necessary purposes like for food. But we are trying our best not to go outside.”

4/7/20: Infections rise and a community is sealed

A typically crowded and energetic place, the community of Bowbazar (a red-light district in Kolkata) has been closed. Our partner site Jabala works in this community which is now vacant as everyone is forced inside. Pranjuckta, a Making HERstory intern, reported today that several cases of Covid-19 were confirmed and the area was sealed. Entrances to the community have been gated and are being patrolled by police. Everyone has been instructed to stay at home – unless they have a medical emergency – and wait for the authorities to sanitize the area. She says: “We do not know when the community will be re-opened. It is a scary time.”

4/3/20: Weekly Recap

Wash your hands with our Making HERstory interns, read an update from leaders at Vacha, our partner site in Mumbai, learn about Durga, a Shadhika Alumnae working on the front-lines as a chemist in her community’s pharmacy, and more.

4/2/20: Durga’s Story

Vaishu Manjunath and Sabah Siddiqui, two of Shadhika’s India staff, spoke with Durga this week. She is a Shadhika Alumnae working as a chemist in a Mumbai pharmacy, on the front-lines against the Covid-19 outbreak. She shares: “Don’t panic. Stay home. By hygienic. Help others who need help. This is the time for everyone to show some humanity towards people in need.” Read her story.

4/1/20: Partner Site Update with Vacha

Shadhika’s partner sites continue to adapt to their realities on the ground in India. Yagna, a Co-Project Director with Vacha Resource Centre in Mumbai, shares: “Our field staff are in touch with the adolescent girls and boys of Vacha through use of family cell phones, and can be there for any crisis that may develop. We are distributing liquid soaps and soaps to Vacha kids. Our youth group has been a great support in this situation. With use of mask and gloves, they are distributing these sanitary material where ever possible. It was also difficult for us to get so many soaps and liquid soaps at a time.”

3/31/20: Global Impact – Hygiene Access

Want to learn how hygiene access during the pandemic is impacting other communities around the globe? Explore stories from our partners: 

3/25/20: India’s 30-day “stay at home” order

Yesterday all residents in India were ordered to stay indoors for 30 days. While such drastic measures are needed to help stop the spread of Covid-19, for the young women supported by Shadhika, a move like this can have dire impacts. As most of their parents are bricklayers, cleaners, rickshaw pullers, street vendors, or garbage collectors, they rely on daily wages to feed their families. With no chance of income for the next three weeks, family food supplies will run short. In a culture where tradition often dictates that girls eat last, the prospect of malnutrition and hunger for our young leaders is a new threat. Shadhika is coordinating with our grantee partners to address this new crisis. Vikays Pandey for BBC News reports.

3/20/20: A message from Kim Burnett, CEO & President

The Covid-19 outbreak has shown all of us how interconnected we are and how small our big world has become. We are seeing how each of our individual actions impact each other– even if we are half a world away… Read more.