By Prisha*, one of the over 60 young women supported by Baale Mane,
Shadhika’s partner in Bengaluru. This month, we’re introducing a new column
where girls we support write about life in India through their eyes. *name changed for safety
With a grant from Shadhika, Baale Mane launched a Life Skills course last year to prepare the girls for this change. The course serves girls, age 13 – 24, in all stages of transition. The Life Skills course has exercises to help the girls explore and understand issues ranging from sexual health, self-confidence, stress management, living independently, interpersonal relationships, and career planning.
Are you an independent girl? Staying alone in the city is a big deal and if you are a woman it becomes even more difficult. But today’s women are very strong like our Baale Mane girls who study and work in the city of Bengaluru. When girls from Baale Mane turn 18, they stay in the PG (paying guest house) and they study in a reputed college and work in a good job. Because of Shadhika and Baale Mane supporting these girls, they are getting pocket money, they go shopping, they go to temple, they participate in college events like sports, they even travel alone and try to live adult lives with the goal to achieve.
These girls would like to thank Shadhika, who is helping them with education, scholarships, and even economic and moral support. We are really proud to be part of Shadhika. Thank you for helping us to fulfill our wishes, hopes, and dreams. In the future, we will be valuable persons. [The Baale Mane girls over 18] have gotten so much support and freedom to make their own choices, staying alone in the city is not a big deal. Staying in the city helps our girls know about the world and life in a better way.
As part of Baale Man’s support, the girls attend workshops, personal skill development classes, care planning process, and career guidance sessions for an independent transition which will make them strong enough to face the difficulties that lie ahead. This is very helpful for them when they lead an independent and happy life in the city. In the future they will be educated, proud citizens of the nation
Shadhika’s Fall Fundraiser is over! A big thank you to our friends in Madison, Wisconsin who hosted a fundraising party, our donors who participated in our matching program, and to each and every supporter who helped us raise just over $70,000 this October!
The support we received from each of you is absolutely critical to Shadhika’s mission and the girls we serve. It is because of you that the girls we support are completing their education, becoming economically self-sufficient, and are empowered to pursue their dreams — and that the boys we support are becoming advocates for women’s rights.
With your continued support, we’ve been able to increase the number of girls we serve by 300% over the past three years.
Shadhika is now calling the Posner Center for International Development “home.”
Home to over 60 international development nonprofits, the Posner Center will help Shadhika exchange ideas with other like-minded organizations, cut costs and improve the products and services we deliver. Our new address is:
1031 33rd Street, Suite 194
Denver, CO 80205
Shadhika was recently awarded GuideStar’s Platinum status – the highest level of recognition they offer. As a Platinum Participant, GuideStar has determined that Shadhika meets the highest level of accountability and transparency to its donors and is focused on measuring and sharing our progress and results with our donors.
We are honored to receive this designation. Visit our GuideStar page.
Medhavinee Namjoshi (Medha) is the Chief Project Coordinator at Vacha, Shadhika’s partner in Mumbai. I sat down with Medha in October to learn how Vacha is making huge strides in changing cultural norms of a girl’s status in India.
Vacha works with at-risk girls age 10-18 who live in the ‘bastis’ (slums) in and around greater Mumbai. They run over fifteen after-school centers that teach the girls about women’s rights, support them to stay in school, provide them with nutrition information and sex education, and expose them to the world outside of the slums.
Q: How does Vacha’s work make an impact on the girls’ lives and their families’ lives?
A: We see a huge change happening within a girl usually right away, primarily in the way she perceives herself and her confidence level. Generally, in our society, girls are not taught to raise their voice or say they feel discriminated against – an ideal girl does not question how she is treated. Once they come to us, they start seeing the different treatment they are getting at home and they start to raise questions about fairness. At times we feel our initial success is when the first complaint from parents comes asking what happened to their quiet daughter. This opens a dialogue with the family about why their daughter is asking questions and about how some aspects in her home life are indeed unfair. We are in constant contact with the girls’ families educating them about their daughters’ rights, why they should value their daughters and why it is so important for their daughters to continue education through Class 12.
Q:How do you engage boys and young men in your efforts?
A: At Vacha, we believe that no matter how strong you make a girl you have to make her strong among boys as well. To do this, on one level you have to empower the girls and at another level you have to teach the boys to accept the girls who are equally vocal in their group, as well as teach them to feel comfortable being under woman leadership at times. Here’s how it starts: we mix the groups in their general curriculums (English, Computers, etc.) and questions about gender naturally come up. For example, if a girl is not in class that day, we ask the students why. Someone may answer “because she has a lot of work to do at home.” Then a discussion arises about why she has to miss class to do work at home, about who pitches in and about who doesn’t. Often times this is the first time the boys are encouraged to think about gender inequities at home and they start to question the fairness within their own families and within the community at large.
Q: When asked at our Denver event why you chose to get involved in women’s rights issues in India, you responded, “As a woman, how can I NOT get involved?” How do you instill this mindset into the girls and young women at Vacha?
A: At Vacha, our entire agenda is to empower each girl, not only for her personal gain, but also to make her socially active. We teach young women and men that now that they are empowered, they must use their power and voices to help those who need it. Around the globe I feel like the women’s movement is lagging behind because many women today are benefiting from the fight of past generations of women in rights such as voting, working benefits and so much more. But not every girl and woman in the world has those rights, so there has to be that realization and sensitivity to those women without rights. The forms of gender parameters are different around the world, but they still exist today in every country. I want to encourage women questioning gender equality around the world to not remain silent – only then can the movement move forward.
We are excited to welcome our new interns Soujanya Sridharan and Mitchell DeVito to Shadhika!
Both will be working to support the following efforts this year: Shadhika’s Capacity Building Program and Partner Conference in Kolkata and Shadhika’s Life Skills Initiative.
Soujanya is native to Bangalore, India and is finishing up her Master’s in Finance and Risk Management at the University of Colorado at Denver. She is fluent in Kannada, Hindi, and also speaks/understands Tamil.
Mitchell is a self-described feminist and is also a Master’s student at the University of Colorado at Denver. He’s studying International Relations.
Nandita* is a 2015 Shadhika College Scholarship Recipient. During Shadhika’s January 2016 Donor Trip to India, we had the opportunity to speak with Nandita about her college experience this past year.
Nandita is the eldest daughter of her family; she has one younger sister who is in middle school. Nandita’s father works as a day laborer and her mother is a maid servant. Nandita’s family lives on less than three dollars a day.
Nandita’s mother made it a priority to get her daughters through high school, but due to a lack of funds for college, she made plans for Nandita to get married after graduating high school. Last year, Uddami (Shadhika’s partner organization in Kolkata) convinced Nandita’s parents to delay marriage and allow Nandita to go to college, all expenses funded by Shadhika’s College Scholarship Program.
Nandita is currently going to college to receive a Bachelor of Commerce degree. She told Shadhika that she is very much enjoying her college experience thus far and especially enjoys the freedom that goes along with managing her own schedule. She is admirably juggling a busy schedule of college courses in the mornings, teaching computer courses at Uddami in the afternoons, and helping her family with housework in the evenings.
Nandita told us that her family is very proud of her hard work and that she serves as a role model to her younger sister. Nandita is also a huge inspiration to the students she teaches at Uddami.
After college, Nandita wants to get a job at a bank. Nandita is hopeful that getting a college education will help her secure a job that will allow her to live a self-sustained life and also take care of her family.
During our recent visit with Nandita, a Shadhika donor asker her what advice she has to give to future college scholarship recipients. Nandita passionately answered, “Do not waste this opportunity. Fulfill what you set out to do.”
We want to thank Shadhika’s Donor Circle participants for supporting Shadhika’s College Scholarship Program and for giving even more girls like Nandita the opportunity to fulfill their potential this year.
*name changed for safety
Shadhika is trying to raise $5,000.00 USD this month to support our partner organization Uddami’s Spoken English Program for 1 full year!
Having the qualification of speaking English greatly helps Uddami graduates secure desired jobs.
Here is a clip of Shadhika playing a vocabulary game with Uddami teachers during our January 2016 Donor Trip to India:
“We want our students to be confident in communication in English as this language is becoming more important to get a respected job – today’s world mostly depends on English.” – Rabia, Uddami Project Manager
Join Shadhika in helping at-risk young women in India secure jobs and reach economic self-sufficiency today!
This Giving Tuesday the girls we serve want to thank you, the donors who are making a huge positive impact on their lives.
Because of your support, in 2015 Shadhika was able to expand its reach to two new sites in Delhi and Bangalore. In Delhi, we are supporting STOP India – an organization that works to rescue girls that have been victims of sex trafficking. In Bangalore, we are supporting Baale Mane – a safe haven for girls and young women who have previously been forced into child labor. In the last year, we have expanded our outreach from four cities to six. We now support organizations working with at-risk girls in every major city in India.
In the last 12 months Shadhika also initiated a College Scholarship Program for girls graduating from high school. Ten girls have started university level programs in nursing, banking and accounting. The Shadhika Scholarship Program guarantees the recipients financial support for three years, the usual length of time to earn a bachelor’s degree in India.
In addition, your support has helped Shadhika launch entrepreneurship training for former victims of sex trafficking at STOP India, helped start a life skills/job readiness program for the girls completing their computer training program at Uddami, and has secured a $40,000 grant from Dining for Women (a donor circle) to operate two of Vacha’s centers in Mumbai for the next two fiscal years.
This year more at-risk girls in India are having a chance to escape early marriage and a life of poverty; they are getting a chance to pursue their aspirations by completing their schooling, training for a career, learning about their rights, and gaining leadership skills to become agents of change in their communities.
Looking into 2016 we hope to double our college scholarship fund, expand our reach to 2-3 new communities, help our current grantees grow their capacity, and launch a Career Initiative that will expose girls to career opportunities in the fields of medicine, IT, and finance. We look forward to continuing to work with you in the coming year on these efforts.
On behalf of all of us, thank you for your generosity and continuous support – it means the world to the girls we serve.
The following is a reprint of Shadhika’s CEO’s (Kim Burnett) remarks from our fall fundraisers.
A recent study found that India was the worst country for women among all the G20 nations¹. Why is this? Because extreme poverty, an entrenched patriarchal culture, and the on-going presence of the dowry system compel many poor families to see their daughters only as a burden. Thus, when forced to choose between providing for their sons or their daughters, they choose to invest what little they have in their sons. As a result, girls in India:
- Do not get sent to school– 46 percent of women are illiterate in India
- Don’t get enough to eat
- Are regularly disrespected – every 5 seconds, a woman is sexually harassed in India.
- Are kept from realizing their full potential.
Their dire economic circumstances can lead parents to unburden themselves of their daughters when the girls hit puberty. These girls find themselves forced into early marriage or sold for work – or even sex.
Though I think we all agree that these circumstances are alarming, I know for many of us the fate of these girls seems a long way off from impacting our daily lives.
I would argue that nothing could be further from the truth.
In the last decade, our world has grown unstable as global violence and terrorism have risen. Recent studies have shown the root causes of these threats to be poverty and injustice. But what’s the best way to combat these issues? By investing in girls.
When girls succeed, poverty is reduced, corruption is diminished, and democracy flourishes at a statistically higher rate than any other intervention.
Not investing in girls impacts all our wellbeing, even if they live half way around the world. As the world’s biggest democracy, situated in one of the most volatile regions of the world, ensuring girls succeed in India is key to this cause.
Shadhika sees the urgency of these issues for the girls we serve and for our world. For over 20 years, we have invested in girls in India so they can complete their education, become self-sufficient, and stand up for their rights. But we just don’t stop at girls. We also invest in programs that teach boys to respect women and girls because that has to be part of breaking the cycle of violence.
The success of the young women we serve has taught us that when we invest in them, when we give them the tools they need to succeed, they will do the rest. They will become the change they want to see in India. Their success will impact their siblings, their parents, their communities, and eventually their own children and their families. They will help make our world more fair and secure.
Which is why, at Shadhika, we say, “Invest in a girl, she’ll do the rest.”
¹ “The best and worst G20 countries for Women”, Thomas Reuters Foundation, 2012