WAPPP provides J-Term funding for PAE/SYPA as well as Summer/Winter stipends to Harvard graduate students for field placements that focus on closing gender gaps.

Student Spotlight

Strengthening Health Systems in Northeast India

women speaking in a hut

After a summer in India as a WAPPP Cultural Bridge Fellow, Priya Sarma returned home feeling not only that she’d made an impact on the health of the women and children she worked with, but that they’d impacted her as well.
Priya, M.S. 2024 at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, spent her summer in the Northeast India region of Meghalaya, working to strengthen health systems with a specific focus on women’s leadership and agency.

Reflecting on her fellowship, Priya wrote:
“I have grown as a researcher and a person, and I have often thought about what the future of health systems strengthening looks like. Empowering women is crucial as it can translate into improved health and educational outcomes for both women and children.” 

Priya Sarma, HSPH M.S. '24, center, with her internship team in Meghalaya
Priya Sarma, HSPH M.S. '24, center, with her internship team in Meghalaya

She worked on several projects for the Government of Meghalaya’s State Capability Enhancement Project, an initiative developed by state leadership to employ an adaptive approach for addressing complex problems. 

Meghalaya is one of the few existing matrilineal societies in the world, which makes addressing gender equity in the region especially important. 

The Cultural Bridge Fellowship, which is funded through WAPPP by a gift from the Germeshausen Foundation, enabled Priya to live and work for several months in a region of the world she had never been to before. The experience was extremely meaningful, she said.

people walking across a bridge in fog
Meghalaya, in Northeast India

“I had the opportunity to talk about my work as a Cultural Bridge Fellow at a [local] Rotary Club meeting and to engage with community members about the ongoing challenges that exist in the health sector in Meghalaya,” Priya said. “It really felt like a cultural bridge was being formed.”

Over the past year, WAPPP has supported nearly 70 students like Priya, who have a vision for advancing gender equity – whether by conducting research to make public policies that uplift women and gender minorities, or by running for office themselves to better represent marginalized communities.

Join us this year as we drive even more systemic change in closing gender gaps around the world!

About Our WAPPP Student Programs

The Carol J. Hamilton Scholars Program is made possible by the generous support of Carol J. Hamilton, Group President of Acquisitions for L'Oréal USA and Chair Emerita of the Women's Leadership Board (WLB). 

The Carol J. Hamilton Funds support WAPPP's endowment and research to advance women and gender equity with particular emphasis on WAPPP's research in conflict and negotiation. Since it's inception, the Carol J. Hamilton Funds have supported: WAPPP summer interns working in countries including Mexico, Sierra Leone, and the United States; research assistants supporting HKS faculty Erica Chenoweth and Zoe Mark's project on youth and LGBTQ+ participation in global social movements as well as their upcoming book project, tentatively entitled "Rebel XX," on how frontline women's participation leads to progress in women's empowerment; and research and program assistant for the Leadership Academy and other WAPPP-led negotiation training programs.

Through the Germeshausen Foundation’s generosity, the Cultural Bridge Fellowship program has allowed students to couple their academic knowledge with real-world experience in the field. The Germeshausen Foundation’s remarkable support of the Cultural Bridge Program has served as a foundational model from which WAPPP has steadily built its funding sources and multiplied its impact. 

Cultural Bridge Fellows have worked across various fields, including education, advocacy, health, microfinance, and environmental and racial justice. Fellows have worked on projects in more than 53 different countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Jordan, Liberia, Nepal, South Africa, and the United States, and with clients such as IMAGO Global Grassroots, Casa Migrante, Ifakara Health Institute, UNICEF, the World Bank, and Instituto Maria da Penha. Each experience is focused on understanding gender inequality and working to close gender gaps across the globe. As Cultural Bridge Fellows build bridges and expand their networks through these fellowships, they also strengthen their host organization and country’s capacity while applying theoretical concepts to real-world policy situations.

The Lara Warner Scholars Program is made possible by the generous support of Lara J. Warner, Chair Emerita of the Women’s Leadership Board. 

The Lara J. Warner gift supports the advancement of women and gender equity by providing stipends to Harvard graduate students for field-based summer internships and capstone theses, as well as scholarly research— with a focus on closing gender gaps. Since 2015, Lara Warner has supported over 70 students working in countries including Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guinea, India, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. WAPPP summer interns have worked as trainers, policy analysts, and researchers across sectors—in non-profits, government agencies, and socially responsible enterprises. Additionally, Lara Warner Scholars have focused their PAEs and SYPAs on critical gender topics related to economic opportunity, political participation, health, and education, among others.