Shadhika Shadhika


On the other side of an intense year of transition, our Shadhika Scholars are the evidence and the inspiration behind the long view we bring to our work.

Shadhika Scholars: The Evidence and Inspiration Behind Our Theory of Change

By My Lo Cook, Executive Director

February 10, 2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Our theory of change is based on the seemingly simple idea that when we invest in the individual girl, she will create a groundswell of change that will lift up her community and that will ripple throughout the world to affect positive change. It relies on a scaling model that believes in grassroots partnerships as the incubator of innovation and the single girl as the agent of replication. 

As the coronavirus was spreading through the communities in India where our implementing partners work and our Shadhika Scholars live, Shadhika acted swiftly according to our theory of change. We unrestricted the use of our program support funding by our local partners and we worked to accommodate each Scholar’s individual circumstances to keep her in college despite school closures and exam cancellations.  

The streets and gathering sites grew silent under local and national lockdown orders, creating the kind of social isolation that spurred on what the United Nations now describes as a “shadow pandemic” or the alarming uptick of gender-based discrimination and violence worldwide. In India, red zones where stricter stay-home orders were in force due to higher infection rates, the increase in domestic violence complaints was 131% higher than in green zones with fewer movement restrictions.

Applying learnings from recent epidemics like ebola and Zika, our partners mobilized immediately to deliver emergency relief that would include safeguarding the emotional health and physical safety of our program participants. 

Under this umbrella of support, our Shadhika Scholars rose up to educate their communities about the virus to abate its devastating effects. They suited up with PPE to distribute material support and conduct welfare checks in their neighborhoods. They provided younger school-age children with academic tutoring. They guided their own peers through remote access to college lectures. Together, our Scholars–current and alum–were a reliable backbone of service, comfort, and connection.

The test of 2020 was undeniable. Our ways of life were tested. Our relationships were tested. How we spend our time and how we allocate our resources were tested. What we value most was tested.

In 2020, like all of us, our Shadhika Scholars were tested and their collective action is the proof of concept that validates our theory of change. Under pressure, they have shown us that, when given the space to believe in and exercise their leadership skills, they can be the change makers that communities around the world need in the face of unprecedented adversity. 

On the other side of an intense year of transition, our Shadhika Scholars are the evidence and the inspiration behind the long view we bring to our work. Many things will change in 2021, but Shadhika’s theory of change is unshaken and, more than ever, we believe in the truth of our tagline: When she leads, change follows.

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