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To watch our partners, our program participants, our staff, and our board rally at this moment is to watch our theory of change in action.

In Pursuit of Gender Equality

By My Lo Cook, Executive Director

August 27, 2020

In July, Shadhika started sharing blogs from our board members. In their own words, Susan and Lisa expressed why they are serving on our board and what their respective vision is for the organization and our program participants. The series will continue into the fall, so keep an eye out for those blogs!

In the same vein, I want to share with you how I got here. 

In almost 20 years of work in international human rights, I have worked on a number of issues, ranging from torture rehabilitiation 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. 

Those groups too often include women and girls because women and girls are considered inferior or not fully developed. Historically, women and girls are thought to be weak intellectually and physically, soiled, and unworthy. Therefore, they are disproportionately the victims of the most heinous atrocities and blatant discrimination. Whether I was working to eradicate human trafficking in Latin America or to support the healing of survivors of torture in West Africa, I witnessed first-hand that women and girls are targeted in significanlty higher numbers than men and boys and in more punishing ways.

For the same reasons, women and girls are last at the table of decision makers–in their respective family unit and in their communities. Yet, based on my own personal experience, watching my mother lead our family from war-torn Laos through the refugee camps in northern Thailand and two subsequent moves across international borders (our resettlement in France and our move to the U.S.), it is an immeasurable disservice to everyone to deny a woman’s leadership. 

Joining Shadhika as head of the organization is the culmination of the lessons I learned on the ground and in the industry. I am disheartened by the far-reaching impact of the coronavirus pandemic that is effectively rolling back the progress we have collectively made over the last decades on gender equality worldwide. But it has also been empowering to be leading Shadhika’s operations and grantmaking programs and to decide how we stand and act during this global crisis. To watch our partners, our program participants, our staff, and our board rally at this moment is to watch our theory of change in action. 

In the coming weeks, Shadhika will continue our When She Leads series, focusing on the experience of going back to school during the pandemic. The young women of Shadhika continue to show us how to confront impossible odds and move forward. Paired with the blogs of our board members, I hope these stories will inspire you in the same way they inspire all of us at Shadhika to be relentless in our fight for gender equality in India.



Shadhika continues to closely monitor the circumstances in India in order to best support our partners and program participants. In order to remain nimble and responsive to the needs on the ground, please help us meet our goal of raising an additional $15,000 for COVID-related funds.

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