Shadhika Shadhika

Let us choose to practice hope, and by putting one foot in front of the other, let us do what we can with what we have, exactly where we are. 

The Practice of Hope

By My Lo Cook, Executive Director

January 27, 2022

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The start of a new year traditionally holds so much promise and hope for positive change. It is the usual time to set intentions, resolutions, and new habits to take on a world of endless possibilities. 

As the world enters a third year of global pandemic, it feels like there is little room for hope. And yet, we must find it.

In the first 10 days of the new year, the COVID-19 infection rate increased 10 fold in India and the U.S. reported more than 1 million COVID cases in one day–the highest tally in any country in the world since the beginning of the pandemic. 

UNICEF estimates that COVID-related school closures affected nearly 250 million students in India. Ten million girls are at risk of permanently dropping out of school and the intersectionality of gender, caste, region, and religion adversely affects these odds.

There is also the toll that the overall pandemic has had on the physical safety and emotional health of these young women. Worldwide, UNICEF estimates that 10 million more underage girls are at risk of forced marriage post-COVID. Parallely, new and severe depression diagnoses have soared among children leading to catastrophic outcomes worldwide. In the U.S. the rate of suicide among teenage girls have increased by more than 50% in 2021 compared to pre-COVID statistics. 

UNICEF warns in its recent report The State of the World’s Children 2021 that these numbers may be just the tip of the iceberg with implications on the welfare of this generation for years to come.

The beginning of 2022 feels heavy and overwhelmingly dark.

Yet, against all odds, we have a choice and it is to practice hope. 

I do not mean pollyannaish hope, but hope in the form of practical optimism or the ability to accept the way things are while also imagining realistic solutions so things can get better. 

At Shadhika, our mission demands practical optimism or else, we could not get out of bed most days, given the state of gender injustice in India.

When faced with upheavals outside of our control, we must do what we can with what we have, exactly where we are.

Last year, our ability to find equanimity and resolve in the face of adversity was tested during the second surge of the pandemic in India, when hundreds of thousands died daily for weeks. We saw the enormity of the crisis yet found a solution within our reach to make a difference. Shadhika called on its community of supporters and raised $28,000 in rapid emergency funding. While it may seem like a drop in the bucket for some, these additional funds and the flexibility Shadhika exercised across all of our programs contributed to all of the partners and Scholars finding the strength to persevere through the devastating surge of the coronavirus.

Shadhika’s mission demands practical optimism and we must always do what we can with what we have, exactly where we are.

We titled our 2021 year-end campaign “Lighting The Way” to recognize the inspiration and direction we draw from the actions of our program participants in India. And when a new student applies for a Scholarship grant, she is inviting us to walk alongside her as she lives her life with practical optimism. She says that she can defy the odds of gender injustice in India, if we believe in her potential and pledge our support to her success.

So in 2022, let us continue to walk in our program participants’ footsteps and take direction from them. Let us choose to practice hope, and by putting one foot in front of the other, let us do what we can with what we have, exactly where we are. 

Because the alternative is to leave the young women of India standing alone, and that is simply not acceptable.

Banner image credit: Milaan Foundation.

Read more