100 Women, 100 Stories: Anna V. Eskamani

Where do you live? Orlando, FL

What is your profession? I currently serve as the Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

How did you get involved with Planned Parenthood? What’s the story leading up to you working there? My Planned Parenthood story — like that of many American women — first began as a patient.

I am a first generation Iranian-American, was born and raised in Central Florida and attended Orange County public schools. My mom passed away when I was 13 years old and Planned Parenthood was there for me when I needed to learn more about contraception and reproductive health. I visited our East Orlando Health Center for the first time in 2008 when I was 18 years old. My experience as a patient lead me to become an advocate and while a student at the University of Central Florida I began organizing too. In 2010 I started to volunteer at Planned Parenthood as a health center escort, walking patients from their cars into our front doors during moments of protest activity. I was offered a job at our local Planned Parenthood shortly before I completed my undergraduate coursework in 2012, and thereafter continued into a graduate program at UCF too.

What did you study in school? During my undergraduate career at the University of Central Florida I completed a dual bachelor program in Political Science and Women’s Studies with a certificate in Service Learning. Following that I then completed a dual masters programming in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management, also complete a Graduate Certificate in Gender Studies. Today I am pursuing a PhD in Public Administration.

What advice do you have for someone looking to do something outside their field of study and how should they approach it? When I was an undergrad at UCF I was clueless to what my future would look like and changed my major several times. I would encourage all young people to get involved in your community — seek the academic experience to complement your involvement but seek an organization, the movement, and people that give your life purpose.

Has anyone been a mentor to you? What role did they play and how do you feel about mentorship now? Yes, and mentors continue to play a key role in my life and I am humbled by those who consider me to be their mentor today.

What’s the hardest thing that you’ve had to deal with in your career so far? Florida is a state of great potential and we continue to face deep opposition by those in political power who oftentimes hinder our progress in ensuring equality for all. Working within an aggressive political climate that perpetuates shame around reproductive health and women’s empowerment can prove to be draining — but it is absolutely worth it.

What has been a really rewarding moment in your career? You gotta lose a couple fights to win, and at Planned Parenthood we are up against a lot — especially in Florida’s aggressive political climate. My most memorable experiences are finding common ground with unique partners, inspiring elected officials to stand up for reproductive health, and building power among our volunteers and patients. This work is rooted in compassion, and my heart is always full.

What do you want to accomplish in your lifetime? I want to see an increase in the representation of women in elected office and of women in the media too. We need women sharing their own stories on women’s issues and crafting the policy for it too.

What’s something you want young women to remember when thinking about their future? We gotta crack the glass ceiling together which means as young women we shouldn’t be aggressive towards each other and we must proactively communicate with our peers. Being direct with one another and to your aspirations, is essential. It’s an area that I practice daily in. And remember that there are no “tough” conversations — only courageous ones.

What’s one thing you want to try to make an impact on in your lifetime? Reproductive health, rights, and justice. I want to ensure that young people have the ability to make informed decisions around their body and life.

Where can people find you on social media if they’d like to connect with you?

Twitter: @Anna_V_E

Instgram: @Anna_V_e

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/annaveskamani/