Updates from the Executive Director's Desk
My Lo Cook
“It is with sadness and gratitude that I am announcing my departure as Shadhika’s executive director at the end of October.
The COVID-19 global pandemic was a trial for all of us. Yet leading Shadhika through this turbulent time was one of the greatest periods of learning in my life. I am so grateful to everyone who trusted me with this awesome responsibility.
As I reflect on the last three and a half years, I couldn’t be more proud of the impact of our work.
We held ourselves accountable to practice and behave according to our feminist and decolonizing values. Together, we accomplished the just goal of trusting our local partners and Scholars to lead the way. We created an Advisory Council of human rights and development experts to guide our strategy from India.
We led with connection as we welcomed 4 new partners and 182 new Scholars from some of the most marginalized groups in India, including Dalit, Devadasi, Muslim, Adivasi, tribal, and trans communities. We hosted 3 Leaders for Change Summits in Kolkata, Lucknow, and Vadodara with almost 400 participants from Shadhika, EMpower, and American Jewish World Service. We conducted 14 site visits to former, current, and prospective partners in 12 states.
The work of Shadhika has never been the work of any one person. It is the result of a community that is united by the singular desire for gender justice and that believes in the transformative power of their collective action.
The hardest thing for me is to leave the people who trusted me to lead Shadhika: the Shadhika board, staff, partners, and Scholars. Each of them has shown me generosity and support to take risks and make mistakes. It is the lessons, the laughs, the tears, the food, and the stories that each of them shared with me that I will treasure forever.
It is hard to move on from a place I love. And I cannot wait to see what Ankita, the staff, and the board will continue to accomplish on behalf of the partners and the Scholars in India.“
My Lo Cook
Statement From Ankita Jhaveri
“While I will miss working alongside and learning from My, I am thrilled to step in as Shadhika’s interim executive director. My’s unapologetic and steadfast leadership, compassion, and commitment to feminist, decolonizing values have changed the trajectory of the organization. With her at the helm, Shadhika has transformed into a purpose-driven organization that centers those on the ground and deeply honors their lived experiences. Her leadership – along with her humor, care, and laughter – will be thoroughly missed.
Along with Shadhika’s staff and board members, I am committed to advancing access and opportunity for women and girls in India. We will continue to work toward this vision by deepening trust in, and partnership with, our on-the-ground partners and Scholars, as well as learning from them as they pave the way for future generations of girls and women to thrive. I am committed to leaning into Shadhika’s principles of growth as we strive for a future where each person can choose their own path to meaning, purpose, and happiness. As someone born and raised in India, stepping into this role is an opportunity to move resources into the hands of changemakers.
I believe that the time is now to relentlessly push forward in service of gender justice, girls’ education, and women’s economic rights and opportunities in India. Because we know that when she leads, change follows.“
In service and partnership,
Statement from Board Co-Chairs
“Change is never easy and the departure of My Lo Cook from her role as our executive director, is a bittersweet one for all of us at Shadhika. My began her role during one of the most globally tumultuous times in recent history. She stepped in with a single focus of ensuring that girls and women in India would have more access, opportunity, and power. And this pursuit was achieved in an unapologetically feminist, decolonized and trust-based manner that centered the work on the Scholars and on-the-ground partners in India.
Her vision helped create a more equitable mode of governance and management, with an India-based Advisory Council, a purpose-driven board, and a staff structure that shares power and elevates the lived experience of those in India. My’s leadership has changed the trajectory of Shadhika, and we are so grateful for that. She will be dearly missed, and we know she will continue to be a major force in our shared purpose of advancing gender justice around the world.
During this change, we remain in a strong position to advance this critical work for girls and women in India. We have an incredibly powerful team in India and the US. While this team and our interim Executive Director, Ankita Jhaveri, focus on continuing the work of Shadhika, the board is focused on the leadership transition. Our board members have significant experience with executive search and transition, and we are engaging in a thoughtful and thorough search process in order to continue building our leadership team in a way that is aligned with our mission and values.
We are deeply grateful to all of you for your support of Shadhika through the years and especially during times of change. In the spirit of the motto for this year, “Our Time is Now,” let us continue to ensure a solid future for our scholars and partners. Let us not take our foot off the accelerator as we navigate some new roads to our goal of gender justice and empowerment. Our priority has always been and will remain the advancement of girls and women in India. Please continue to join us in this pursuit.”
Teena Sebastian and Lisa Acree
Shadhika Board Co-Chairs
What You Can Expect
My will continue to serve as executive director of Shadhika until the end of October. Ankita Jhaveri will temporarily leave her current position as Shadhika board member to be interim executive director while the board searches for the organization’s next leader. There will be adequate overlap for My and Ankita to coordinate the transfer of strategic relationships and responsibilities thoroughly and carefully.
Shadhika was intentional in developing leadership and decentralizing authority by creating two new positions in 2022: a Director of Operations in the U.S. and a Director of Programs in India. Through this shared leadership structure, the team has developed strong and deep relationships with grantee partners, program participants, donors, and other key stakeholders in India and in the U.S., and is particularly well-positioned to effectively sustain our existing grantmaking portfolio and simultaneously grow the organization.
With Ankita, our board and team offer the kind of commitment, talents, and lived experience that will ensure that Shadhika continues supporting young women in India to choose their own path to meaning, purpose, and happiness in a way that is aligned with our principles of growth–just as Juthica Stangl intended over 30 years ago.
Starting Monday, October 30, 2023, please direct your inquiries as follows:
- – For all program-related matters, please email Shadhika director of programs Upasana Saha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- – For all operations- and fundraising-related matters, please email Shadhika director of operations Kendra Nicolai at email@example.com.
And welcome our new interim Executive Director Ankita Jhaveri at firstname.lastname@example.org!