Julia Holladay

Julia is a graduate student at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs pursuing a Master of Arts in International Affairs with a concentration in development and global gender policy. Her interests lie primarily at the intersection of migration, climate change, and humanitarian action. Prior to her fellowship with the Advocacy Project, Julia was a Climate Displacement intern at Refugees International where she executed research for the Climate Displacement Program, and wrote blogs and policy briefs connecting migration and climate change and awareness around gender-based violence perpetrated against Eritrean women refugees in Tigray. Julia has also worked in communications, public relations, and advocacy on a variety of issues including immigration and national security. As a Peace Fellow, Julia will support the Children’s Peace Initiative Kenya by helping them develop a survey to integrate more climate-related programming into their work and develop the outlines of a 3-year program.

Feelings are real. Feelings are helpful. Feelings are neither good or bad.

27 Jun

“Feelings are real. Feelings are helpful. Feelings are neither good or bad.” That’s the takeaway from a lesson Hilary and Monica teach at their holiday peace exchanges with students from tribes in the midst of violent conflict. They use the lesson to teach students about emotional regulation and how they can use their feelings in constructive ways when it comes to conflict de-escalation.

I’ve found myself revisiting this lesson quite a bit in the last 3 days since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. It turns out I have quite a lot of feelings about it. Outrage, confusion, sadness, overwhelmed, tired, scared, helpless to name a few…

Parts of me feel very heavy about the Supreme Court’s decision. Abortion is still legal in Washington D.C. where I live, but I’m grieving for people across the U.S. living in states with trigger laws or intentions to ban it in the coming weeks/months. Part of me feels tired from what feels like endlessly fighting and caring about basic human rights in a country that spends over $800 billion on its military rather protecting its children from school shootings. Part of me feels helpless because I’m halfway around the globe from protests and my friends and family.

Part of me also feels extremely grateful. I’ve lived a comfortable, privileged life. I’ve had amazing work, education, and travel opportunities. I’m healthy. But that’s not the case for 36% of Kenyans who live below the international poverty line, the 41% of Kenyans who do not access to clean water, or pastoralists in Northern Kenya in the midst of violent conflict. I almost feel selfish for caring about a U.S. Supreme Court ruling when there is so much work to be done in Kenya, too.

In reality I know that ALL my feelings are real. ALL my feelings are helpful. And ALL my feelings are neither good or bad. I know that emotions aren’t binary. As I talked about in my first blog, multiple things can be true at once. My feelings about Roe v. Wade are valid. And my feelings about what I’ve seen in Kenya thus far are also valid.

I’m a firm believer that all healing happens in connection. At the end of the day, connection to myself and others has kept me going in the past 3 days. Taking time to reflect, write, and breathe has kept me going. Stretching has kept me going. FaceTiming with my dear friend Martha back home has kept me going. Connecting with Monica and going to see a movie with her has kept me going.

This coming week, myself and the CPI Kenya staff leave to launch 2 startups in Northern Kenya[1]. One is a women’s entrepreneur network that aims to empower pastoralist women to build their own businesses and create sustainable livelihoods/opportunities for peace between 2 warring tribes. Another is a cow camp that will bring warriors from 2 opposing tribes together to figure out how they can share resources, like pastureland. These projects are keeping me going.

I have no wise words to say. But I’ll leave you again with the mantra I’ve been repeating to myself: feelings are real. Feelings are helpful. Feelings are neither good or bad.

[1] (You can donate on to help us launch these startups on July 20th via GlobalGiving!)

Posted By Julia Holladay

Posted Jun 27th, 2022


  • Bobbi Fitzsimmons

    June 28, 2022


    Julia, I share your feeling about Roe v. “being overturned. I was there (not exactly on the front-lines, but perhaps the next tier back.) I’ve worked for women’s rights for many years and feel as though we’ve all been slapped down by a hierarchy that doesn’t care about our issues. “When sleeping women wake, mountains will move.” Chinese proverb

  • Iain Guest

    June 30, 2022


    Very honest expression of your feelings, Julia, and as Bobbi notes this is a time of deep anxiety and reflection here in the US. To say that people are shocked by the Supreme Court decision here is an understatement and it does seem extraordinary that the main court in the land has turned its back on protection. Not just women. The next day it made it much easier for people to carry guns – a month after 20 school kids were gunned down in their classroom. Now we learn that the elected president of the US launched an armed coup to bring down the government here. You respond to Roe v Wade as a woman, and I get that. I’m asking whether we have any right whatsoever to preach democracy and reproductive rights to the rest of the world.

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