Shadhika's Covid-19 Emergency Response

by Shadhika Project Inc
Shadhika's Covid-19 Emergency Response
Girls learning to make sanitary pads
Girls learning to make sanitary pads

Shadhika implemented the Community Leadership Project component of the scholarship program in June, 2019 where scholars were trained at the Leaders for Change Summit and selected topics as per their community needs. They learned the process of planning of a project, budgeting, project management and enjoyed each other's conversations in person. The main goal of this leadership community project is to lead a project, to know things in detail, to be educated in specific topics fully and to spread awareness in themselves as well as in their community.

2020 and 2021 are different, difficult years and the situation is critical. Shadhika has moved fully to virtual engagement and trained our 2nd Year scholars in the Virtual Leaders for Change Summit 2020 on how to plan and conduct a community leadership project. They have learned all the procedures in a 3 days summit virtually, where they have planned their project, chosen their topic as per the community needs, they made a budget and started working on their project from December. In 4 months, they have completed their project with majority of the scholars doing virtual projects. Our Shadhika team was in touch with scholars during their project through calls and WhatsApp texts.

They have chosen their topics like such as; education, technology and health. One thing I have noticed, they have chosen one topic as per their community needs, as per current situation. They have been working on their project in detail from planning a little step to achieve their goal. I must say, now they are aware about Covid-19 and they made their plan according to the situation.

I want to share 2- 3 scholars community project. We have one scholar who chose “Right to Education” and she started her work with a google survey form and after completing her survey form, she had a conversation with each girl on phone call and was clearing their doubts related with Education. During that she get to know about one girl who is in her college. She has drop out because of her financial issue Covid-19 situation but our scholars took initiative and had a conversation with college principal and she said their college will be paying her fees, now she is studying. We feel so happy to hear this story of how confident and strong she is.

I have another story; one new scholar is in 2nd year and started her community project with no experience to lead this kind of project. After having a conversation, I realized she has so much potential and the way she explained about Mental Health issues was empowering. Yes, she chose this topic and she felt it is an important topic for all girls, she conducted a workshop at school and with all social distancing and protection, she led that project and answered girls’ questions related with Mental Health. Especially in this lockdown, girls had a lot of work to do - along with studying and avoiding drop out due to financial condition or maybe about their marriage.

I am so proud our Shadhika scholars are creating a space where they are learning and growing and supporting other community girls through their Shadhika community leadership projects. They are building confidence in themselves as well as others. Despite Covid-19 they know how to connect with girls using technology.

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In India now everyone has started working slowly but there are some people who either they get a job with minimum income or they’re unemployed. Everyone keeps thinking about sources of income and it is just not troubling only parent’s minds with this thought but also their children who have been thinking, “How can we survive without income or low income?” Our Grantee Partners in India are constantly helping those girls and providing necessary things and supporting their family. Even our scholars are managing to attend online classes with the support of Shadhika scholarship in this pandemic. Scholars are so passionate about their studies and learning new things at home. 

To value this time despite all the negativity we try to create a virtual learning space where Shadhika Scholars could learn something new. Shadhika has conducted virtual learning activities starting from May and have succeed to involve scholars through WhatsApp. We sent few videos where we talked about few basic but important topic like “Daily Exercise, Reading Inspirational Poem and Passions and Hobbies”. They all liked the topics and started talking about their personal experiences and shared that they are feeling tired and not able to manage time for studies as well as household chores. But through these activities they are taking  “Me Time” and they were able to start focusing more on themselves. Few of them have discovered their hobbies and passion, few of them started doing exercise with their mom and sisters and there are few scholars who get the confidence to write their poems and share them with us. 

Later on, we continued this learning activity through a virtual Panel in July month, where we invited one girl from each site to share about their pandemic experiences like online classes, ration distribution, migration, increasing numbers of drop out in the community and child marriage topics. From this panel we all get to know the situation and how confidently they are doing their best.  

We next moved to “International day of the Girl” with a 10 days awareness camp from October 1st to October 10th where our scholars reached out to more than 100 girls in the community and through the calls and messages they shared “Girl Bills of Rights”. There are few girls who are really not aware that “Girls” have their own day to celebrate even if they get to know and learn “Girl Rights” from this campaign only and then we celebrate October 11th (International day of the girl) with a Facebook live to share such beautiful and amazing stories from scholars.

Currently, we just did a four day “Virtual Leadership for Change Summit” in the second week of November, where we discussed a lot of things over WhatsApp. First year scholars learnt Time Management, College Preparation, Negotiation and self-confidence. Second year scholars learnt about Leadership and got prepared for upcoming community projects which they will be doing. Third year and graduate girls have learnt about job careers like interviews, C.V writing and more things to get prepared for their job and self-confidence and awareness. We ended our Virtual Summit with an amazing graduation ceremony over a live Zoom meeting – we were able to see all of their faces – so nice to connect. This year would be not the best year but this Summit realised how important it is to learn and grow from any situation.

We are trying to make this time more valuable and interesting for our scholars where they feel comfortable and get to know new things. We have received feedback from scholars - one scholar says, “I feel so stressed to focus on online studies only, but these little activities make me feel I need to utilise my time to the best of my ability” and “I am happy that apart from my studies I am learning lot of important things from Shadhika”. 

Maybe this Covid-19 disturbed us but we all shouldn’t stop learning.

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Reshma, a scholar from Delhi, has her classes on Zoom from 9am-5pm every day.  She must attend this live class, while her family sits in her room and watches TV.  They don’t understand why she is on her phone all day – she gets pressure from them that this isn’t really “college”.  In addition to the pressure and lack of privacy to study, Reshma also has to navigate doing household chores throughout the day.  She is home, so she can help out, right?

Reshma tells me that it is expensive to pay for network on her phone.  Many times, she runs out and luckily her scholarship can help pay for this. 

These are common challenges among the scholars at Shadhika since the COVID-19 Pandemic has swept across India, causing a nationwide lockdown for months. 

As we continue to shift our programming to meet the needs of our young women, technology has been the forefront of conversation with our partners and our young women.  If these young women cannot access their online classes and are not able to submit assignments timely and of quality, there is potential for them to drop out of college.  This consequence will lead to marriage and all the hard work that these young women have fought for will be taken away.

We are currently working with each scholar so this does not happen, but the likelihood for them to complete college without proper technology is slim.  Our young women face a reality that is harsher than other college students – they have to navigate additional challenges at home that many others do not face.  Like Reshma, household chores and taking care of siblings is an expectation while home, which makes college classes a challenge to make a priority.  It was easier when the young women could travel to school – they were able to escape the reality at home and focus on their studies.  We are working closely with our partners and young women to support them both emotionally and academically, helping to keep their spirits up and giving them the tools they need to succeed during this time.

Thank you for your generous donations to Shadhika’s COVID-19 fund.  We hope that you can share this with your network so that we can continue to provide our young women with what they need so they do not fall behind.

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Organization Information

Shadhika Project Inc

Location: Denver, CO - USA
Website:
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Project Leader:
Sabah Siddiqui
Denver, CO United States
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