I was first introduced to PLEN through an email and Facebook post from my university’s Women & Gender Center and the Career Center’s Careers in Non-profit & Government page. I felt the need to attend the Women in Global Policy seminar because growing up as a young Latina, I saw my parents watching the news, which showed men in the government coming up with the solutions and making the decisions about how to deal with a certain country or global issue. As a child, I was conditioned to believe that neither the government nor global politics were establishments that were meant for me. I never saw or learned of a known Latina in the field of global policy until I was around 20. I learned of programs to encourage women to run for office, but not specifically to pursue careers in global issues such as wars in the Middle East or human rights in Latin America: issues that are considered “tough” or “dangerous” and are not associated with females. However, a passion that has been constant in my life since I was a child is to meet and learn from people from different countries.
After being exposed to public policy through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Internship on the Hill, I realized my interest in learning about the impact of policies and laws on every day people in different countries just as much as I like learning about their music, dance and culture. I recognize and accept that my presence and experience as a woman of color who has been financially independent from her parents since the start of college are drastically different from those who are white and male. Therefore, it was of the utmost importance for me to attend PLEN’s seminar, because it not only focuses on the experiences of women, but PLEN scholarships support women from different backgrounds, regardless of their ability to pay. In a world where women are portrayed as each other’s competitors and are not encouraged to support each other, I have found the opposite in PLEN.
I came with no expectations about the program or the group partly because I was not sure if my enthusiasm towards sustaining a supportive group of women would be reciprocated. However, my roommates Mirna and Addi welcomed me without hesitation. Whitney and Quoia accompanied me to see the office where I will be working for my one-year fellowship starting in August, and Alejandra not only ventured out with me to find the house where the current fellows are living, but ran with me on the street to chase after the CHCI employee who had supported me during my first time living as a professional in D.C. These are only a few of the amazing women I had long conversations with and had the privilege to get to know, without mentioning the wonderful PLEN team. These women asked tough questions to the panelists and appreciated the women who answered questions directly. We were able to engage in candid conversations about race, class and gender.
A few of the lessons I learned are that the foreign service can be social justice work. Women are needed and successful in the fields of law enforcement and the FBI. Women’s issues are national and international security issues. This seminar could have not come at a better time for me. Spending my senior week with PLEN helped me cope with my fears of moving to D.C. as an official adult in August, empowered me and the type of work that I can do to help myself and others, enlightened me on the gentrification of D.C. and most importantly, reminded me of the work that we, women, have been doing for centuries. Thank you PLEN for holding up mirrors in front of young women and helping us to see ourselves reflected in the women that have worked in male-dominated fields, inspiring us to continue on our work.
Angela Hernandez Veloza recently graduated from Amherst College, a liberal arts institution. She majored in Political Science and attended the Women in Public Policy and Women in Global Policy seminars thanks to the monetary support of the Amherst College career center and PLEN. Angela is from Colombia and moved to Alabama at the age of 12. She will move to D.C. in August to start a one-year fellowship working in immigration law on cases of gender violence.