“Hello, my name is Mikang Longjan, an Atlas Corps fellow from Nigeria serving at Population Action International.”

And with that greeting, my fellowship year began. I came to Population Action International (PAI) ready to embark on a professional journey. I still remember my first day and what I had hoped to achieve. One year later, it has been an amazing experience.

This fellowship provides a platform for individuals to serve in cross-cutting organizations around the United States. I am fortunate to have served at PAI where it became a year of  professional and personal growth.

PAI uses research and advocacy to improve global access to family planning and reproductive health services. As a Research Fellow, the professional  experiences gained at PAI have provided me with the skills, knowledge and exposure to function effectively in multidisciplinary teams. I have learned to be an effective leader, and my work at PAI has fueled a strong desire to continue to actively contribute to my country’s development.

Through PAI I have observed and appreciated a family-friendly environment where an employee is not just an employee but where professional and personal growth are closely linked. I have gained new knowledge in reproductive health through the budget lens and have been challenged to think in different ways. As a lawyer I have had to leave my comfort zone to understand the intricacies of financing.

As a Nigerian, I am keenly aware of the many challenges facing my country. The knowledge I have gained during my fellowship will be used to engage in crafting solutions with my peers back home. Acquiring the skills to advance the rights of women and girls is important to me as a woman committed to serving as an agent of positive change.

I have witnessed firsthand the leadership skills of Suzanne Ehlers, the President and CEO, the Vice-Presidents of the various departments and my supervisor Suzanna Dennis. I thank them and the PAI team for lessons learned, the knowledge I take back with me and the promise that one day every woman and girl will understand clearly her reproductive rights as an individual. Thank you PAI for a wonderful fellowship year filled with many stories.