May 18, 2017
By Kim Burnett, Shadhika President and CEO
I love Spring. After six months of snow here in Colorado, the arrival of Spring, in the form of flowering bulbs emerging in my garden, makes me smile and gives me hope for the future. I also love Spring because that is when we receive our annual applications for Shadhika’s Scholars Program. Through this program, a group of Shadhika donors comes together every year to provide college or vocational school scholarships to young women from our projects who have shown themselves to be leaders on girls’ rights issues in their communities.
Like the daffodils and tulips in my garden, reading the applications from these amazing young women every Spring fills me with hope. As part of the application process, every applicant writes a personal essay and it is one of my great joys to read these essays and learn about their lives and dreams for their futures.
This year I had the honor to read essays from young women nominated by our grantee partners in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, and Kolkata. One of these applicants was Vaideshwari from Baale Mane in Bengaluru. Vaideshwari came to Baale Mane when she was very young after being found living on the streets. With our help, Vaideshwari wants to pursue a degree in journalism. In her essay, Vaideshwari explained why: “I choose journalism because it is a powerful weapon which will help people in society…I would like to encourage women to be aware of their rights and to solve women’s issues.”
Then there was Razia, nominated by STOP India, our partner in Delhi. One of six children, Razia’s parents never attended school but have always been supportive of their children getting an education. Razia applied for support so she can pursue her MBA. She explained her choice this way, “I have taken a decision to do an MBA because girls are ahead in every field, but in MBA, or the field of business, one sees extremely few girls. Most people think this field is only for boys. I want to be a trailblazer for girls in my community.”
I also read about the progress of our returning applicants, young women who have been attending college with Shadhika’s support over the past two years. It has been a great gift to be able to follow their progress navigating their increased independence and responsibilities and coming into their own. This year I was excited to hear how Poonam, one of our scholarship recipients from Vacha in Mumbai, was one of just four girls in all of the state of Maharashtra to be selected to participate in Republic Day celebrations in Delhi. This highly competitive process has earned Poonam newfound respect in her home and in her community – a great change from the resistance she encountered two years ago when she first made it known that she wished to go to college.
Then there is Sneha, also from Vacha. In many ways, she is emblematic of many of the young women we support through this program and why this program is so important. She’s been a youth leader at Vacha for nine years now, helping to organize activities to advance the rights of girls in her community. However, when she first came to us three years ago, she was very shy. Part of her shyness came from the challenges of mastering English and part of it came from her struggles to figure out where she fit in with this new “college crowd”, a community far removed from where she grew up. Over the past two years, it’s been moving to watch Sneha as she’s overcome these challenges, gained self-confidence and crystallized her vision for her future. In this year’s essay, she shared that, “This year I achieved various things. I have got a lot of confidence now.” Her knowledge of English has improved dramatically, witnessed by her essay written entirely in English, she’s made new friends, and she even organized an event at her college on women’s rights. It is inspiring to read her essay and the list of things she participated in the last year and to see how her world has expanded and how she’s risen up to meet it.
But the greatest ray of hope I take from reading all of these essays is not, ultimately, the accomplishments of these young women themselves; it’s their desire to help other girls behind them. As Sneha wrote,” The scholarship programme must be continued so that many girls like us can progress in their life.”
And so, like bulbs in a garden, Shadhika’s Scholars Program will continue to multiply and bloom year after year, sending many more amazing young women out into the world, enabling them to achieve their dreams and give hope to other girls behind them.
If you’d like to join the donor circle for Shadhika’s Scholars Program, email me: