How PLEN Helped Me Sail Towards My Dreams

“A ship in port is safe–but that’s not what ships are built for. Sail on.”

This quote, popularly attributed to computer scientist Grace Hopper, perfectly encapsulates the sentiments of PLEN’s Women in Global Policy seminar. I am so honored to have been given the opportunity to attend this incredibly inspiring conference thanks to a PLEN scholarship. I will carry this quote and this experience with me as I work to effect positive change in my community. 

I recently earned a master’s degree in Women’s History from Sarah Lawrence College. My thesis argues that menstruation stigma, which is often perpetuated by public policy, is a barrier to gender equity. Recognizing that these taboos curtail health and opportunities, I want to help smash period stigma once and for all. I see deep connections between my goal and PLEN’s mission to increase the number of women in top leadership positions influencing all aspects of the public policy process. 

I graduated on May 15. On May 17, I attended PLEN’s Women in Global Policy seminar

Going into the conference, I was intent on using the skills and resources to help empower girls and women to have a healthy sense of self and realize their full potential. I shared this intention with some members of my cohort. I loved learning about their goals and their dreams. Whether their focus was on education, immigration, or international relations, everyone was motivated to be at the seminar. I truly loved being in a community with these conscientious, hard-working women. 

In addition to gaining a support system, I also obtained hard skills that will enable me to meet my goals. For example, one of our speakers, Tammy Key, spoke about the importance of finding common ground in advocacy work. Part of this process involves discovering the motivation behind a decision or opinion. Only through understanding can we find solutions. This simple piece of advice has transformed the way I approach menstrual equity initiatives, and advocacy and activism at large. Finding common ground can be challenging, but I know it is a crucial component of creating a more socially just world. 

Another important lesson learned was taught by Nancy Bocskor, who was serving as the Interim Executive Director at PLEN. She outlined how to efficiently address an issue. The first step is recognizing what action should be prioritized. In other words, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Then we must ask what is needed to move forward and who can help make this happen. Finally, there needs to be accountability, which necessitates a timeline. I am a more effective changemaker because of this session. Thanks to Nancy for also sharing the “sail on” quote. 

I still want to help girls and women realize their full potential by upending menstruation taboos through public policy measures. We must make period products more accessible by ending the tampon tax and ensuring that menstrual products are available in all restrooms. But now I have a much better understanding of how I can make this happen because PLEN helped me recognize my full potential. 

To my PLEN cohort, sail on!

Elizabeth Tripp attended the 2021 Women in Global Policy seminar. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College this past May with a master’s degree in Women’s History.

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