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I have witnessed these young women taking sisters, cousins, and friends under their wings, sharing their knowledge on issues of women’s health, girls’ rights, and self-advocacy.

Diane’s Refrain

By Diane Sigel, Shadhika Board Chair

December 17, 2020

Having grown up in the 60’s and attending high school and college in the 70’s, my life has been greatly influenced by folk music and the witnessing of the Viet Nam war and protests on the nightly news. The last line of each verse of a song written by Phil Ochs in 1963 and recorded so beautifully by Joan Baez in 1964 has continued to course through my mind throughout my life:

“There but for fortune go you or I, you or I.” 

The song places the listener in the shoes of the displaced, disadvantaged, and the forgotten among us and around the world, forcing us to walk in their shoes.  This single line, written 57 years ago, has not lost one iota of power to almost bring me to tears just by the mere thought of its powerful words.

My husband and I are fortunate to have travelled to 51 countries on seven continents. Many of these destinations are developing countries; many afflicted by poverty, disease, malnutrition, and lack of formal education. They can be places where unabashed discrimination against females of all ages, including femicide, is rampant. In countries where we witnessed this phenomenon, we have become aware of the connection between a country’s economy and its inhabitants’ health and how women and girls were treated. Sadly, India is no exception and every time I have traveled back, Phil Ochs’ refrain has been on my mind.

That, my friends, is the short answer to why I have devoted so many hours and so much financial support to Shadhika over the past six years. While it may be hard to believe, one person here in the U.S. can change the trajectory of a girl’s life in India. By investing in the potential of the girl, one person’s gift can start a groundswell of action that will be felt throughout her community.

I have seen the impact of Shadhika’s support first hand. I have sat around a table with our Shadhika Scholars and heard the inspiring stories of how their lives have been changed. More importantly, I have witnessed these young women taking sisters, cousins, and friends under their wings, sharing their knowledge on issues of women’s health, girls’ rights, and self-advocacy.

The transformative potential of this kind of female leadership is evermore evident now, under COVID, with the same young women taking charge of educating, protecting, and supporting their communities during the pandemic. This is the groundswell we can nurture from the comfort of our homes.

There is a Talmudic parable that speaks to making the world a better place for all.  To paraphrase the ending:

Ours is not to complete the task, but neither are we free to desist from it. 

You don’t need to be a theological scholar nor a student of 1960’s folk music to join me in Shadhika’s mission to inspire a cultural shift in India by ensuring every young woman is empowered to realize her full potential. Please put Shadhika on your year-end list of organizations to support through a direct donation, gift of stocks, or a distribution from your retirement fund if you qualify to do so.

I am so grateful for your continued support. Thank you and may you and your loved ones be well in this holiday season.

Diane Sigel, Chair

Shadhika Board of Directors

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