Half of our DukeEngage has gone by already, and it has been a learning experience through and through. For the past month, I have been working at the Women’s Legal Centre and I have grown to feel like a part of its community. The WLC is a women-only space, all its employees are women and all of their clients are women. I worked at another NGO last summer that employed both men and women, and I didn’t expect my summer at WLC to feel any different than my experience there. However, I have learned how unique and empowering this space is, and all-female spaces are in general.
There is a sense of comfort and ease, no one’s guard is up. I laugh with my bosses who are decades older than me about jokes on men and masculinity. We openly discuss periods and PMS as if they have never been stigmatized. But at the same time, it is a space for discussion and healing. We are comfortable to ask each other our own experiences about being a woman, of sexual assault and harassment, and on how we deal with it in our own lives. At WLC, I have mentors — I see strong women attorneys of color doing amazing things every day. Though they have many years of experience over me, I feel comfortable to approach them and talk with them in a way that I would not be so empowered to at a regular law firm. These attorneys both show me and reaffirm my own beliefs in the vast possibilities with a career in law.
Looking forward, I have a deeper appreciation of female spaces and of organization building. The space at the WLC did not come about by itself, it was carefully planned and cultivated by the women there. I want to be a part of more of these spaces and to take an active role in creating them. And through my time at WLC, I feel more comfortable saying I want to go to law school after college. In a weird way, I can see myself working at this very office in 10 years, continuing the work that they do as an attorney myself. Half our trip is over, and I am excited about how much I have learned in this time. I look forward to the next half.