by Catherine Ndiaye
Going into my internship at Equitas, I was expecting to help big-shot lawyers defend victims of human rights violations, just like Just Mercy! Maybe it was the lack of research on my behalf, maybe I watched too many movies, or maybe it is a combination of both haha. But my internship at Equitas proved human rights work to be much more than what I was led to believe. Thus, I am dedicating this blog post to 3 lessons I learned working at Equitas.
Firstly, human rights work does not equate to human rights advocacy and defence. Working on Equitas’ Global Right Connection (GRC) program, I learned that human rights education was another means of doing human rights work. Their program aims to teach human rights to activists worldwide, who in turn produce a project that marginalized individuals in their communities while applying concepts learned during their training. Some have even gone on to create their own human rights program to have a greater impact on victims of human rights violations.
Second, no matter how trivial you believe your work is, it has a purpose. During my first few weeks at Equitas, I struggled with understanding the meaning of my tasks. I was told to do an online training, answer emails and make lists; tasks which I did not think were related to human rights work at all. However, my supervisor assured me that the emails I sent encouraged potential GRC participants to sign up for the program and that the lists I made allowed them to reach out to organizations worldwide and have greater outreach.
Lastly, human rights work is not limited to individuals with Law degrees. Going into Law school, I believed that the only way to have a meaningful impact in the human rights field was by going to Law school and working for big organizations like the United Nations or private litigation firms. In reality, many people working in the field, do not have Law degrees, and that does not mean their work is any less meaningful! Many participants of Global Rights Connection only base themselves on personal experiences with human rights violations to make a change. As well, many of my coworkers do not have Law degrees and still participate in various international human rights projects. Thus, human rights practice is not as inaccessible as it is portrayed to be!
My experience at Equitas has shown me the intricacies of human rights work and that there is no just way to do it. As long as you are making a change…that is what counts!