SIT Netherlands Alumna Awarded Fellowship to Support Women’s Health Abroad

Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship Recipient Julia Ellis-Kahana

Julia Ellis-Kahana, recipient of the Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship

Congratulations to SIT Netherlands alumna Julia Ellis-Kahana! Julia is the newest recipient of the Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship, which returns SIT alumni to the country where they studied abroad to advance human rights.

A rising senior at Brown University, Julia studied in the SIT Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender program in the fall semester of 2011. She will return to Amsterdam in June to work with the international nonprofit organization Women on Waves, which provides safe abortion and reproductive health services. Julia will be developing materials for reproductive health education in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

“I feel so honored that I have been given the opportunity to spend time working on what I am most passionate about,” says Julia. “I believe that reproductive rights are fundamental human rights.”

Julia worked with Women on Waves while studying abroad with SIT in the Netherlands. She first met with the organization’s director and founder, Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, early in the semester. She recalls being immediately inspired. “This organization is incredible,” she stated. “They are on a mission to help women everywhere, and nothing can stop them.”

A scene from Amsterdam, The Netherlands

A scene from Amsterdam

Julia worked for Women on Waves for eight weeks, and the organization became the focus of her Independent Study Project (ISP). Titled The Perfect Storm: How Pro-Abortion Activists in the Netherlands Incite Social Change From International Waters, her ISP examined the history of abortion legalization in the Netherlands and how Women on Waves has emerged within that socio-cultural context.

Julia’s upcoming work with Women on Waves will focus largely on the expansion of the organization’s work in the MENA region. According to Julia, she has an advantage as she visited Morocco on her academic excursion with SIT. “The excursion helped me begin to better understand the culture surrounding gender relations and sexuality.”

The family of Alice Rowan Swanson created the fellowship as a living tribute to Alice, an Amherst College graduate who died in a 2008 bicycle accident in Washington, D.C. Alice was inspired to work in international development and human rights following her SIT Study Abroad experience in Nicaragua in 2006.

Alice Rowan Swanson in Nicaragua

Alice Rowan Swanson during her study abroad with SIT in Nicaragua

“The fellowship is our way of giving graduates of this program an opportunity to expand their work, to ‘do more’ for the community that had become their home,” said Ruth Rowan, Alice’s mother.

Interested candidates can learn more about qualifying for the Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship and can download an application here.

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