Jill Benderly, activist and educator

January 15, 2013

Jill Benderly, 57, a social justice activist and educator who was co-founder and co-director of a project supporting women’s leadership and education for social change in the states of the former Yugoslavia, died of colon cancer Jan. 10 at home in Washington.

Her husband, Evan Kraft, confirmed her death.

With the support of the nonprofit organization World Learning, Ms. Benderly and a colleague, the late Lael Stegall of Washington, directed the Strategies, Training, Advocacy and Resources Network from 1994 until 2006.

Ms. Benderly also was founder and academic director of another project in the Balkans on gender, transformation and civil society under the auspices of the School for International Training study abroad program. She began this in 2003 and continued until shortly before her death, based initially in Zagreb, Croatia, and since 2010 in Washington.

Jill Benderly was born in Washington and graduated in 1973 from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac and in 1977 from Princeton University. In 1992, she received a master’s degree in women’s studies and East European studies at George Washington University.

Before working in the Balkans, Ms. Benderly was active in reproductive rights and alternative journalism in Brooklyn, N.Y.

She was an ensemble singer and swimmer.

With her husband, she renovated an old stone house in the village of Pitve, on the Croatian island of Hvar, and since 2005 they had used the house as a personal retreat.

Survivors include her husband of 27 years, Evan Kraft of Washington; a son Sasha Benderly-Kraft of Hvar; and a sister.

— Bart Barnes