Meet Brigid Grabert! Brigid is a graduate of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management and the UNC School of Law. Brigid first became involved with Planned Parenthood while she was an undergraduate where she spent a semester abroad in Cape Town, South Africa and led sexual health and HIV education sessions at a Planned Parenthood youth clinic. Since then, she’s volunteered in the U.S. at Planned Parenthood Health Systems in Charlotte and at PPCNC in Chapel Hill and Durham. She currently serves as a volunteer within PPCNC’s Development department, helping with events such as Choice Affairs and our 30th Anniversary Celebration.
Read about her experiences volunteering with Planned Parenthood below!
- What experiences led you to become an advocate for women’s health?
My plan was to work in bioethics after graduation, with a specific focus on how religion and morality shape our cultural perception of sexuality and reproductive health. This interest led to research about women and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, and something just clicked. I decided to study abroad in South Africa and do an internship with Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa (PPASA). I worked in a youth clinic in Khayelitsha Township about 40 minutes outside of Cape Town. It was completely overwhelming and amazing, and the experience irrevocably altered the course of my life and redefined and focused my goals. I did HIV and STI counseling, provided contraception, and attempted to extol the virtues of condom usage (my teenage audience was dishearteningly deaf on this issue). I also did an independent research project on the link between gender-based violence and HIV transmission in black South African youth. (South Africa in general, and Khayelitsha in particular, has one of the highest rape incidences in the world. And this is with an approximately 20% HIV prevalence rate. It’s truly horrifying.) After working with those young women and men in South Africa, I can’t imagine not being a women’s health advocate.
- How did the international work that you did with Planned Parenthood Global as an undergraduate influence your advocacy work back here in the States?
Working abroad made me realize the impact of my work on real people. My international experience underscored the importance of knowing the personal side of women’s health. Appealing to morality and other abstract concepts in policy isn’t as powerful without confronting the women and girls behind these policies: their faces and their stories. I’ve kept that lesson in mind ever since leaving South Africa. Women’s health is personal.