Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Michelle Olakkengil is determined to become a formidable advocate for women’s health and empowerment. Growing up as a first-generation Indian American gave her an in-depth and intimate perspective of the tremendous challenges facing women internationally and even more by women from developing countries.
Michelle explored these issues affecting women during her undergraduate studies at Stony Brook University. In the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Medicine, she worked with a team examining how environmental stressors increased vulnerability to intimate partner violence among women living in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Michelle was also involved in UN Women’s HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 Initiative, developing awareness campaigns to engage the community on ideas of gender equality.
Her passion for women’s issues brought her to Ranomafana, Madagascar in 2017, through the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, where she conducted an exploratory investigation on the sexual and reproductive health status of women in rural villages and presented her findings to researchers and government officials. After graduating summa cum laude with her Bachelors of Science in Sociology and Psychology, Michelle became a Global Youth Advocacy Fellow for Planned Parenthood. In this position, she lead trainings on the role of the U.S. in advancing global sexual and reproductive health and rights and assisted in developing an International Women’s Day advocacy campaign for the 2018 UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Michelle will be attending the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, pursuing a Master of Science in Global Health and Population. She is honored to be a part of the 2018 Payne Fellows cohort and is excited to become a Population/Health/Nutrition Officer in the USAID Foreign Service, helping empower communities to strive towards gender equality. In her free time, Michelle loves entertaining her friends through song and busting out some yoga moves to unwind.