Shadhika Shadhika


Together we hold the keys that can unlock the network, the knowledge, and the resources necessary to uncover new, more perfect solutions.

Leading in Relationship Towards Gender Equity

By My Lo Cook, Executive Director

July 30, 2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes

It is not possible to be in nature without reflecting on one’s place, role, and purpose. So, in the mountains of the Colorado Front Range and the misty hills of Lonavala in India, the entire team of Shadhika spent three days in retreat, surrounded by natural beauty and wildlife to crystallize our role — as an organization and individually — in contributing to the movement of gender equity and gender justice in India. 

The last year has been defined by a deep dive into both 1) the refinement of our model to realize our mission more thoughtfully and 2) a more faithful (re)alignment with our values and feminist identity.

This introspective work has proven to be harder than expected for all parties involved, and invited many chances to give up and take the path of least resistance.

But I am in good company, and the Shadhika community showed up time and time again with courage, integrity, and an appetite for learning. 

After several weeks of internal audit and consultation with partners and program participants, the team at Shadhika gathered locally, by country: the team together in the U.S. and the team together in India. Despite technological difficulties and time zones, through games, meals, walks, reflective conversations, and rest, the team reaffirmed our commitment to the opportunity to re-define and refine our work with greater input from partners and program participants. 

Of course, it is a best practice to include the communities we serve in any planning process that will affect them directly. For us at Shadhika, it is also a matter of integrity and strategy. First, our values of community, transparency, and collaboration dictate that partners and program participants in India inform our work. Second — but maybe more importantly — we know we cannot do it alone.

The roots of gender injustice in India and around the world are deep and wide. Eradicating the problem requires a deep understanding of complex, interconnected systems — human, political, cultural, and economic — that one person or even a team cannot possess. Alone, we cannot start to address gender injustice. 

But the global movement that is clamoring for gender justice is plural and intersectional–and there is so much strength in that. Together (our staff, our board, our partners, our program participants, and our donors), we hold the keys that can unlock the network, the knowledge, and the resources necessary to uncover new, more perfect solutions. It is coming full circle to our feminist principles and its foundational mindset of abundance.

Our team is not undaunted by the complexity of the issue of gender injustice in India, but we are unanimous in naming our people and our community as our strongest asset to uproot the problem. Just as in nature, it is our collective force that will make a difference–not our individual actions.

In our closing session, I shared with my team the epiphany that came to me while playfully blowing on a dandelion puff during a reflective walk: Each young woman Shadhika serves is like a dandelion seed, already packed with incalculable power and potential. While we may never see what happens to each dandelion seed and the soil it will choose to flourish, may we add our breath to the wind that carries them and allows them to reach their full potential. May we endeavor in power and conviction, knowing that we contributed to each seed’s lasting impact.

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