Shadhika Shadika

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“I am looking for someone, someone like me. Someone who can be my sister in changing our world.”

Sisters

By Kim Burnett, Shadhika's President & CEO

June 11, 2019

“I’m looking for someone, someone like me,” Parvati* chants as she slowly turns around. She stands in the middle of the circle. Her question is part of an “energizer” – short games that are played in India to engage conference participants and keep the energy up in the room. This particular energizer is a form of musical chairs where the person who is “it” finds herself in the middle of the circle. The only way out is to swap with someone who shares a given characteristic or trait.

The game is being played during a session at Shadhika’s Leaders for Change summit in Mumbai. The summit brings together young women from across India, who are recipients of a Shadhika college scholarship, for three and a half days to design and develop projects to advance girls’ rights in their communities.

But it is clear from the very first day that the summit is about more than skill building. For these young women, it’s a journey of firsts. Their first time away from home. Their first plane ride. Their first time meeting other girls who share their stories.

“I’m looking for someone, someone like me.”

Over the course of the conference, we are staying at a nearby hostel where girls are bunking together, two to three in a room. Invariably the girls stagger into breakfast, bleary-eyed, having been up all night talking. “We have so much in common. Though she is from Bangalore and I am from Mumbai, we both have mothers who are from Karnataka and five sisters,” they tell me excitedly over their eggs and toast, smiling broadly at one another.

We take the short walk to the conference, the Mumbai streets already coming to life, heavy with pre-monsoon humidity. As we walk, the girls casually hold hands, their heads bent together in steady conversation.

As the day’s sessions get underway, the girls are divided into groups according to the subject matter of their individual projects. There are teams working on sanitation, the right to education, safety, and child marriage. Over the course of the day they receive instruction on the different aspects they need to develop their project plans and strategies including timelines, budgets, and monitoring and evaluation.

During the afternoon tea break, I approach one of the groups working on child marriage to check in on how things are going. “It is so good,” Razia* shares. “I only knew about child marriage in my place, Mumbai. But now I learn about what it is like in West Bengal and Delhi too. It is also the same.”

Does that make her feel sad? I ask. “Oh no, she replies. “Because if we are working on these projects together in our different places we are stronger. We can help each other.” The other girls nod their heads.

I am looking for someone, someone like me. Someone who can be my sister in changing our world.

*names changed for security reasons

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