"I have been called aggressive more times than I can count for speaking up about rape culture and feminism, but that doesn’t phase me anymore. I believe that girls can make a difference in the world, but to do that you have to step outside of your comfort zone."
GABBY ARANDA is a junior at the University of Wisconsin and is on a mission to improve women's health. She is majoring in biology and minoring in LGBT and Gender and Women Studies. After graduation, she plans on attending medical school to be an OBGYN. But wait... it doesn't stop there! She has also started her own non-profit called For All Women, which provides awareness of women's health issues and offers assistance to underprivileged women.
This girl is changing the world!
Every Ella: Hi Gabby! Tell us about yourself.
Gabby: Hi! My name is Gabby Aranda and I’m 20 years old, entering my junior year at the University of Wisconsin - Madison this upcoming fall. I was born and raised here in Madison, Wisconsin and I have a younger sister and brother, ages 17 and 12 and a white west highland terrier named Dash who is 6 years old and always sleeps in bed with me. My parents are from Venezuela and immigrated here before I was born to provide my siblings and I with better opportunities and lives, since Venezuela has gradually become corrupt and dangerous.
I am an aspiring doctor, right now I am majoring in biology and getting two certificates (minors at other schools) in LGBT and Gender and Women's studies. I apply to medical school after my senior year to take a year off and focus on my applications. I was a gymnast from the age of 3 and still go to UW club practices here and then, I was also a diver, played tennis, and ran track in high school. I have been working in a research lab since my freshman year working on OBGYN material that is (in the long run) trying to find out what causes preeclampsia and find ways to help it. I am a phlebotomist at Meriter Hospital here in Madison and on the executive board of my pre-med club WMS pre-med chapter. I am a huge feminist and I love advocating for women and the LGBT community as well.
You recently started a nonprofit called For All Women. Can you tell us about that?
I originally started For All Women in October, but I got overwhelmed trying to do everything on my own so I put it on the back-burner until April when I told my friends how I wanted to pick it back up and make it work and they expressed a lot of interest in helping me. The goal of For All Women is to raise awareness on women’s health and a lot of the issues and difficulties they face trying to get access to physicians who will take their concerns seriously and help treat them. It tries to raise awareness for underprivileged and underrepresented women who may be uninsured, unemployed, in poverty, single mothers, etc. who don’t have access to healthcare. We try to, overall, bring awareness to women and help empower and support women everywhere to become strong, motivated, and driven people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and speak out about topics they feel passionate about. We want to push women to advocate for themselves and others and make themselves heard.
My organization raises money through health-focused fundraisers such as yoga, spinning, and a 5K that I am currently organizing for the spring, because we want to emphasize the importance of staying healthy since many of the health-issues women face can be helped by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I also make custom-made pocket t-shirts to raise money for For All Women and the proceeds of all our fundraisers go to Share the Health, which is a free women’s clinic started by my mentor’s residents in their first year of residency as OBGYNs. They provide advanced OBGYN care that most of these underprivileged and underrepresented women would otherwise not have access to. The women go to organizations such as Planned Parenthood for basic care and treatments such as a pap smear and then are referred to Share the Health if results look strange so that they can get ultrasounds, medication, and advanced treatment to help them.
How did you come across Share the Health?
I heard about Share the Health when I was talking to my mentor about wanting to start For All Women but not having any local organization I was passionate about to donate funds to. He then told me about Share the Health, which his residents started in their first year of OBGYN residency and explained to me what it was about and what they do. I was crazy about it from that moment on. I’ve always wanted to start my own women’s clinic to help as many women as possible get accessible health care and treatment and finding out that there was one in Madison made me happier than words can say. I still hope to open my own free women’s clinic someday in residency as well.
Why is providing OBGYN care to women who are uninsured or in poverty so important to you?
I don’t see healthcare as a privilege, but more so as a right that everyone should have, especially women. For women to not be able to see a doctor when they are feeling sick or have abnormal test results but can’t afford to find treatment breaks my heart. These women that can’t afford to see a physician are usually women who are working extremely hard to provide for their families and work never-ending hours to be able to do that. These women deserve to be able to receive physician care when they difficulties with their health to help them stay healthy and avoid complications such as uterine or cervical cancer, that may go undetected if not found or treated.
One of the residents who started Share the Health told me a story of why she started the clinic, which was that she once saw a woman in poverty who had been having severe abdominal pain for a while and was finally able to come in to get seen and was then diagnosed with uterine cancer that could have been prevented and treated if she was able to be seen earlier. This drove the resident to make gynecological care more accessible to the uninsured due to the fact that many of the gynecological cancers and illnesses that these women face are preventable. This story hit home with me and made me fall in love with the clinic even more because I stand behind that reason 100%. A lot of the illnesses and issues women face can be preventable and treated if seen in time and for a lot of women who are uninsured or in poverty, that usually doesn’t happen. By helping these women get OBGYN care for free it decreases the chances of cancers happening and/or helps treat them without them having to worry about the finances that usually come with going to the hospital. I believe that all women should have access to OBGYN treatment to stay healthy and live long, fulfilling lives, which I hope to also provide when I become an OBGYN in the future.
Have you faced any obstacles bringing For All Women to life?
I didn’t realize how difficult it was to start an organization until For All Women, which has been a lot of work. We have faced difficulties with trying to create a website and get organized to be able to attract awareness to our cause. We are still in the beginning stages of For All Women, trying to register with Wisconsin to trademark our name and organization, as well as reach out to people everywhere to support our cause. I think the hardest thing we’ve dealt with right now is trying to create a website and making ordering shirts a lot easier for the general public. I never realized how difficult it was to make a website! Fortunately, for us, we’ve received a huge amount of support from people everywhere who want to help us build our organization up and get the word out. People love the idea of helping women get access to OBGYN care and it truly means the world to me. I am so lucky to have 8 other fantastically amazing and driven ladies helping me with For All Women!
What are your goals with For All Women?
My goals for For All Women are to spread the word of our cause and why we feel so passionate about women’s health. I want to create an annual 5K (hopefully later on a 10K or mini marathon) that raises awareness to women’s health and how living a healthy lifestyle can have a huge impact on your quality of life. I want to fundraise as much money as possible for Share the Health to be able to help with test and treatment costs so that they can see many more patients than they do now. Medical equipment, tests, and medications cost a lot of money and if I can help, even a little bit, by donating money to help cover some of those costs I will be happy. I want women’s health to be a cause that is greatly talked about, since it is swept under the rug a lot more than people realize, unless it’s the topic of abortion. I want people to realize that women are people too and deserve just as much attention and medical care as everyone else. Women face a lot of difficulties, whether it be pregnancy, menstruation problems, breast cancer, gynecological cancers, and etc. that require medical attention. Women’s health doesn’t seem to be a very popular topic of conversation and I want to change that as much as I can to have people realize the importance of women’s health and accessible care and how it needs to change.
How can someone get involved or donate to your cause?
People can get involved and donate to my cause by liking our facebook page For All Women, following us on instagram at UWForAllWomen and messaging me about events we have coming up! We are trying to get organized and publish all our news on our facebook page until we have our website up and running, but it would mean the world to me if people checked us out and supported us. We are working on getting some local health-focused fundraisers like yoga or spinning that we will share with people who would be interested in coming!
Name one woman who has inspired you.
Wow this is a hard one… I would have to say that one woman who inspires me is Ellen Page for being so outspoken on gender inequality and women’s rights. She always speaks out in interviews and press tours about women’s rights and feminism, which I love. She never stays quiet about topics she feels strongly about even if they receive backlash from people who don’t agree with her. She is one of the strongest and motivating feminists that i’ve followed and I aspire to attain that kind of passion and fiery assertiveness in bringing attention to topics that aren’t very popular or receive negative lighting. She’s not afraid of being seen as “pushy” or “bossy” for speaking out about women’s rights, gender inequality, and feminism. I would have to say that her and Emma Watson tie though, because I absolutely adore Emma Watson and her take on feminism. She is extremely strong-willed and one of the greatest supporters of feminism there is. She makes beautiful speeches on the topic that make people listen to her, even those who don’t agree. She is a grade A class act that I also hope to embody as a woman. I love watching her interviews and speeches on the internet because it drives me to do more and speak out more. She is such an intelligent, classy, beautiful, and driven woman. She is an extremely hard-worker for what she believes in and I think that she is definitely the face of feminism. I also adore Beyonce and Michelle Obama, there are too many women I look up to!
What do you like to do for fun?
When I actually do have free time, I love to hang out with my friends. I would like to say that I probably have some of the most driven, inspiring, outspoken friends in the world. They always push me to think outside of the box and get more involved with causes I am passionate about. I love to have talks with them about feminism, rape culture, gender inequality, and women’s rights, to name a few. I also love to eat ice cream at the Memorial Union Terrace on campus, which is right on the lake and the most beautiful place I know. I love to go on runs and work out as well. I enjoy going to the Farmer’s Market on the Capitol Square on saturday mornings with my friends and family and spending time with them being happy. I also am addicted to Grey’s Anatomy right now and am currently binge watching it this summer, I just started season 9!
If you could give one piece of advice to girls, what would it be?
If I could give one piece of advice to girls it would be to never back down or stay quiet. Be assertive, be aggressive, be passionate about what you believe in and what you stand for. There will always be people who don’t agree with you and will label you as aggressive because you speak up about things you feel strongly about and try to make you believe it’s a negative term. I have been called aggressive more times than I can count for speaking up about rape culture and feminism, but that doesn’t phase me anymore. I believe that girls can make a difference in the world, but to do that you have to step outside of your comfort zone and learn to accept that some people will try to label you negatively or tell you to “settle down” or “relax” because women shouldn’t be assertive and outspoken. Change the world and never settle for less! Speak up for everything you believe in, even if people don’t agree with you. Just never ever stay quiet or back down, go after what you want and don’t let people stop you.