2013 Linda Elhalabi 100x150By Linda El Halabi

Today, it will have been exactly a week since I started my internship at Equitas. I feel very lucky to be spending the summer in Montreal. The city is so lively this time of year, with so many festivals and events to check out during the weekends, and beautiful scenery – and flowers – everywhere. Throughout this summer I will aim to share my thoughts both on the internship and life in Montreal during the summer.

My role as an intern for Equitas is to help plan and implement their renowned 3 week long conference, the International Human Rights Training Program taking place in June. The program brings together participants who work in local human rights organizations in their countries. Participants come from all over the world, including West Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, South America, and South Asia. They attend the program to learn valuable skills and make important contacts which they can then use to improve their organization’s programs and advocacy/lobbying efforts back home. I like the idea of the program because it is tailored to the needs of the participants and is meant to give them the necessary resources to work on their own grassroots level programs. Participants learn a lot – from the best ways to lobby the state for change, to how to deal with conflict arising during their training and advocacy sessions with the community they serve, as well as how to mainstream a gender analysis into their organization’s work among other things. The organizations represented at the IHRTP are very diverse both in terms of their religious, political, and ethnic backgrounds, and in the type of activism they engage in and the causes they defend.

Over the past week, I have started working on several tasks in view of preparing for the program. Every day has been interesting. My colleagues are all friendly and welcoming, and they are very helpful whenever I have questions about a certain task or about the program. I have learned a lot in only a week. The more I learn about the program, the more I look forward to the month of June. Before starting my law studies, I completed my undergraduate studies in political science and East Asian studies at McGill. I took several classes that focused on international development, and learned a lot about the successes and failures of the various international actors that work in the field. An important lesson from past failures is the importance for actors with resources – mostly actors from the North who wish to operate in the South – to respect the needs and voices of those they seek to help, and not to try to impose their own views of what the human rights issues are in the country’s context and how to best deal with them.  Throughout this week I have had the chance to learn about Equitas’ work culture, their goals and mission, and it is clear that the way the program was designed reflects this idea of respecting the needs of those you seek to help.

Those were some of the thoughts I had during my first week. I am looking forward to the rest.