SIT Uganda alumna named Alice Rowan Swanson Fellow

Publication Date: November 19, 2019
Publication Location: Brattleboro, Vermont
Contact: Kate Casa  |  [email protected]

Shaylah Nichols will develop a girls empowerment program

Shaylah Nichols

BRATTLEBORO, Vermont – Shaylah Nichols, an alumna of SIT Study Abroad in Uganda, is the newest Alice Rowan Swanson Fellow, the School for International Training announced today. Nichols plans to return to Uganda in May 2020 to establish an empowerment program for girls and young women in Kisenyi, a marginalized community in Kampala.

“My interest in developing this project began during my SIT internship at an organization called Raising Up Hope for Uganda (RUHU), a childcare institution that provides alternative care to former street children through education and empowerment,” said Nichols, a 2018 Syracuse University graduate who majored in human development and family studies. Nichols studied abroad on SIT Uganda: Global Development Studies in spring 2017.

By providing psychosocial support, we are creating mentally and emotionally stable women capable of caring for themselves and each other.

Although RUHU currently conducts outreach for street children and operates a rehabilitation program, the program is mainly targeted toward young boys, Nichols said. Her program, Muwala Mulungi (which translates to “beautiful girls” in Luganda) will start with a group of 10 girls between the ages of 12 and 21.

The program will operate three days a week, facilitated by a Ugandan social worker. It will also offer support for basic needs including shelter, food, clothing, and women’s health products “so the women can focus on their journey towards self-actualization without worrying about where their next meal is going to come from,” Nichols said.

“Many women who live on the streets of Uganda are more susceptible to gender-based violence, poor health conditions, and inaccessibility to education,” Nichols wrote in her fellowship application. “During this project, I will work with RUHU to identify a variety of options for the young women to pursue, such as trade schools, apprenticeships, or employment. …

"By giving women access to knowledge and opportunity, we are assisting them in becoming the leaders of tomorrow. Lastly, by providing psychosocial support, we are creating mentally and emotionally stable women capable of caring for themselves and each other.”

Dr. Charlotte Mafumbo, academic director of SIT Uganda: Global Development Studies, said psychosocial support is often neglected by other programs, which focus on helping the women and girls find work or vocational education.

There is “an extreme lack of resources to support their mental health,” Mafumbo noted. “Uganda has only 11 qualified psychiatrists and is wholly dependent on other means of support that are often very expensive and not accessible.” She said Nichols’ project will augment other programs.

The Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship was established in 2009 by the family of SIT Study Abroad Nicaragua 2006 alumna Alice Rowan Swanson as a living tribute to her life, her desire to bridge cultures and help others, and the role that SIT Study Abroad played in her life. A 2007 graduate of Amherst College, Alice was killed while riding her bicycle to work in 2008.

The program awards fellowships twice annually to SIT Study Abroad and IHP alumni to return to their program country to pursue human rights projects.

SIT Study Abroad is a fully accredited study abroad provider that works with some 200 colleges and universities to send more than 2,200 undergraduate students abroad each year on about 80 semester and summer programs on all seven continents. In these programs, students step beyond the boundaries of a traditional classroom to analyze the critical issues shaping local communities around the globe.