Arwa Gayar- Pre-departure Preview

I had heard about this fellowship last year and was really interested in applying but I had no idea what my research would be, how I would do it, and what I would focus on. Then this year I had enough time to think about the work I wanted to do and I was really able to hash out my research idea. However, like in all things, I procrastinated, and the day the application was due I left a screening of Black Panther mid way and sat on the stairs of the theater to finish the application. Looks like it paid off though!

When I found out I was chosen as a fellow I was ecstatic! It really caught me off guard, I was running a few errands and got a notification on my phone saying Congratulations! I got so excited and I emailed my NGO with the news that I would be coming in the summer.

My NGO is Sanlaap which mainly does work against Human Trafficking. Not only do they provide support to victims in the traditional sense of sheltering and training them, but Sanlaap also does a lot of research of its own. What really drew me to the organization was that they have a legal aid and advocacy wing which uses their research to advocate for policy changes surrounding their work. My Research topic came to me during a class I was taking this semester. It focused on international human rights law and policy, and we had a large section and several case studies detailing the positive and negative obligations that states have under the UN. This really caught my attention, especially when reading the applicable cases, and the idea to apply this to my NGO work around Human Trafficking only grew the more I read into the roles NGOs play, which almost crossed over with governmental duties.

Im going to be staying in Kolkatta, which is one of the large cities in India. I’ve been following instagram accounts that detail the most beautiful parts of the city and its food to get a better feel of what its like and the places I should try and see. Kolkatta used to be the capital under British colonial rule, and so there is a lot of history in the city. It also has a lot of art galleries which I hope to be able to visit. Ill be staying in an Airbnb with this host and her mother, they have a pretty central location and it is close to my organization.

It hasn’t really hit me yet that I am going to India. My NGO isn’t being very responsive so I really am not sure what my work will look like there. Because I won’t be in the US again until mid-August, i’ve been focusing a lot on getting what needs to be done, done. Along with graduation season, the travel health appointments, moving out of AA, and packing for the Summer, its been really hectic! But I don’t mind it all because its all for an amazing opportunity! I also have to give a shoutout to Arian and Janelle for constantly being there throughout the application and planning process. Their support and this amazing fellowship is allowing me to do work and research I would have never imagined would be available to me at such an early point in my educational career.