Amrika Sieunarine ’16 has been awarded Hamilton’s Bristol Fellowship for her project “Women and Poverty: Uncommon Perspectives on an All Too Common Struggle.” The fellowship is designed to encourage Hamilton students to experience the richness of the world by living outside the United States for one year and studying an area of great personal interest. Sieunarine will receive a $30,000 award and travel to Brazil, Greece, Bangladesh, Thailand and Ghana.
Major: World Politics
Hometown: New York, New York
High School: Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School
The Bristol Fellowship was begun in 1996 as part of a gift to the college by William M. Bristol Jr., (Class of 1917). The purpose of the award, created by his family, is to perpetuate Mr. Bristol’s spirit and share it with students of the college that was such an important part of his life.
Sieunarine, a world politics major, will explore the ways in which women living in poverty see themselves and will examine the success and limitations of initiatives to alleviate poverty. In each country she’ll volunteer, live and work with poor women in marginalized communities. Sieunarine will also meet with grassroots organizations, government officials and others who strive to address the issues of women in impoverished communities.
Sieunarine explained her proposal, “Over 65 percent of the world’s poor are women… Poverty undermines women’s freedom and agency for it often leads to labels of inferiority and details of autonomy. Fortunately women are increasingly being included as an essential part of the international development agenda,” she said.
She’ll begin her travel in Brazil where income inequality and social exclusion remain the key underlying causes of poverty, and the poorest and most vulnerable are women living in rural communities. Since 2006, the government has prioritized women’s development and implemented the largest social welfare program in the world, Bolsa Familia. It gives a monthly stipend to poor women in hopes of increasing women’s decision-making power in the public and private spheres. Sieunarine plans to spend time with Bolsa Familia recipients and observe the government initiatives in action.
In Greece she hopes to understand the direct result of an economic crisis on the welfare state, poverty and women. While Greece has benefited from international bailouts, women’s rights and fundamental freedoms have not been addressed, said Sieunarine.
In Bangladesh poor women are disproportionately affected by poverty and social exclusion because of cultural barriers and traditions. Women are usually restricted to the domestic realm, limiting their mobility and decision-making. NGOs work to empower the poor and marginalized communities in ways that influence public opinion, development and policy; Sieunarine will meet there with beneficiaries of various empowerment initiatives.
Thailand is an active global development partner and in many ways exemplary in terms of poverty reduction. Government initiatives have decreased poverty from 21 percent in 2000 to approximately 12.6 percent in 2012, bringing the country closer to middle-income status. Sieunarine is eager to learn about the social dimension of women’s empowerment in a country where sexual tourism plays such a key role in economic survival.
Her trip concludes in Ghana where the establishment of the Ministry of Women and Child affairs has taken a leading role in Ghana’s efforts to foster gender equality and women’s empowerment. She plans to speak to beneficiaries of its women’s empowerment policies to learn whether they are actually working.
While at Hamilton, Sieunarine participated in the college’s New York City semester program and she studied in India. She is a Higher Education Opportunity program (HEOP) social media intern and alumni coordinator, a member of Hamilton Alumni Leadership Training and La Vanguardia/Caribbean Student Association. She volunteered with Project Shine and taught English to Utica’s refugee population.