On January 10th Jill Benderly, one of our nation’s leading activists in the Balkans, passed away after a struggle with colon cancer. A long term partner with Tides through the STAR project, Jill received and administer money granted by Tides to women’s groups in the Balkans from 1994 to 2005. Her death leaves a huge hole in the activist community. She will be missed.

Benderly’s accomplishments are many. From 1994 to 2006, Benderly co-directed World Learning’s STAR Network (Strategies, Training, Advocacy and Resources), a project dedicated to supporting women’s social change leadership in the Yugoslav successor states.

From 1994 to 2006, along with her co-founder Lael Stegall, Benderly co-directed World Learning’s STAR Network (Strategies, Training, Advocacy and Resources), a $10 million project supporting women’s social change leadership in the Yugoslav successor states. She served as founder and Academic Director for SIT Study Abroad’s program on Gender, Transformation and Civil Society in the Balkans and later as Associate Academic Dean for Europe at World Learning/SIT Study Abroad.  Ms. Benderly earned an M.A. in Women’s Studies and East European Studies from George Washington University and an A.B. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University.

Jill Benderly worked in Eastern Europe since 1986 and lived in Zagreb, Croatia from 1994-2010. She published, presented, and taught extensively on new social movements, women’s empowerment, feminism and nationalism, trafficking in human beings, and the impact of international assistance in European conflict zones. She co-edited the book, Independent Slovenia: Origins, Movements, Prospects (St. Martins’s, 1994). At the time of her death, she and co-author Jill Irvine were preparing a book with the working title Entangling Encounters: Women’s Activism and International Involvement in the Balkans.

Prior to her work in the Balkans, Benderly was active in reproductive rights organizing and alternative journalism in Brooklyn, New York for many years.

Ms. Benderly is survived by her husband Evan Kraft, son Sasha Benderly-Kraft, sister Eve Benderly Berman, and by a global community of activists, alumni and colleagues.

Jill Benderly worked with women in the former Yugoslavia for more than two decades, supporting their struggles for gender equality under law, economic and political empowerment and against sexual violence and human trafficking. The Balkan Women’s Fund, administered by the Tides Foundation, has been set up in her memory to help continue this work. While the region is no longer beset by armed conflict, most of the issues Jill worked on are still actual.

Jill expressed a desire to give to the organizations listed below.

Zenenadelu:  www.zenergija.org

Centarzamirovnestudije: www.cms.hr

Social Innovation Laboratory: http://socialinnovationeurope.eu/directory/organisation/social-innovation-laboratory


Institute for Public Finance, Zagreb: www.ijf.hr

Antiko Macedonia http://www.antiko.org.mk/eng/index.asp


Autonomous Women’s Center Against Sexual Violence (Serbia) http://www.womenngo.org.rs/english/index.php

To donate in Jill’s memory, please make your check to the Tides Foundation, and write Balkan Women’s Fund in the memo line. Checks can be mailed to Evan Kraft, 5233 Nebraska Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20015 or directly to the Tides Foundation at PO Box 29198, San Francisco, CA 94129.