"...to pursue paths that will give them independence of mind and body, of thought, and of finance."
Wherever The Scholars Lead, Shadhika Will Follow
By My Lo Cook, Executive Director
August 30, 2021Reading Time: 4 minutes
Over the last decades, the World Bank and others have published irrefutable data that investing in women and girls has a multiplying effect on the wellbeing of a society: GDP rises; emotional and physical health indicators go up; and gender-based violence and discrimination incidents diminish. Directionally, these international development bodies are moving towards a new kind of investment: Massive investment in people to close the gender gap and, thereby, drive economic and human change.
This is not news to us at Shadhika.
Shadhika invests in the individual girl through the most vulnerable stages of her development because she is the most effective agent of replication for change. We have measured that, just during her participation in our programs, each individual girl will reach 112 people on average in her community. The multiplier effect is real and Shadhika is committed to supporting it.
I am writing this on the heels of Shadhika’s annual Leaders For Change Summit, where examples of leadership and change will both humble you and inspire you.
- – The advice from Shadhika Alum to their younger peers is to love themselves and to pursue paths that will give them independence of mind and body, of thought, and of finance.
- – The Climate Change fellows are turning their own awareness about climate change into community service and advocacy to address a critical issue of natural resource management in their neighborhoods.
- – The 2020 class of Shadhika Graduates completed their degrees in the midst of a global pandemic. They are entering careers in traditionally male industries (i.e. STEM, Sports, and Journalism) and will challenge gender norms in the workplace with their presence.
But the most outstanding and meaningful form of leadership is the love the Scholars have for each other. They jumped to each other’s help when technology or language got in the way of their peers’ full participation. They cheered on the Special Achievement Award recipients who were recognized for their outstanding work promoting gender equality in their communities. They showed up day after day, despite the technical difficulties, the time difference, and the spotty network in order to be with each other. As one Scholar puts it: “We have formed this unique relationship with each other and it feels so special.”
The Scholars and Alum instinctively know that their own success depends on their ability to stand together, cheer one another on, celebrate each other, and support each other through challenges. They know their fate is bound to one another, and they care about and for each other.
In the same way, if we care about the young women in India, we must care about the fate of women and girls right now in Afghanistan and elsewhere where their rights are threatened. Of course, we must be focused on our mission. But we cannot ignore the circumstances of other women and girls, or else we accept that there is a hierarchy of rights; a belief that upholds a zero-sum game that is counter to Shadhika’s feminist mindset of abundance.
While in the throes of the global pandemic and when it seems like the news cycle cannot run out of human disaster, it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel and find inspiration and hope.
But at Shadhika, we know what the light we must follow: the young women we serve.
Right now, they are telling us we cannot succeed without each other and, at the Summit, they gave us just a taste of the groundswell of change they are capable of. A groundswell of change that is dictated by them and for them.
This year, Shadhika is welcoming 70 Scholars to its 2021-2022 cohort. As the multiplier effect takes hold, these 70 Scholars will go on to touch numerous lives–directly and indirectly–and have an incalculable impact on their communities, India, and the world.
And that is inspiring and worth fighting for.Read more