By Aziz Driss

The International Human Rights Training Program (HIRTP) has started and is in full swing. Coming to this internship, I anticipated the IHRTP to require a significant amount of work, but the program proved to be more demanding than I expected. Interns are expected to work long shifts, starting early in the morning and finishing late into the evening. In addition to the professionally challenging nature of the program, it was also challenging on a personal level as I had to overcome my fear of driving in order to get to the John Abbott College campus from Montreal.

The facilitator’s orientation took place during the first three days of the IHRTP prior to the arrival of participants. The facilitators are selected by Equitas to deliver the program to participants. They are responsible for getting participants through the Equitas curriculum and guiding class discussions. During orientation, I was required to perform simultaneous translations from French to English over long periods of time. I never thought that translation work would be so exhausting. At the end of the facilitator’s orientation, the IHRTP officially launched and participants started arriving from all over the world. On registration day and later with the start of classes, I had the privilege of meeting human rights defenders from over 40 countries. Although I did not leave Quebec this summer, I most definitely got an international experience by being exposed to a diversity of participants from across the globe. In my day-to-day, I worked closely with the facilitators and ensured their needs were met in order for them to deliver the educational content. Additionally, I was responsible for welcoming distinguished guest lecturers (some from the UN) and ensuring they had a smooth experience. This allowed me to develop coordination, logistical, and business development skills. 

Working at Equitas before and during the IHRTP exposed me to the different facets of human rights work. My experience at Equitas during the IHRTP was more rewarding and intellectually stimulating than the pre-HIRTP work I carried at the office. Before starting this internship, I believed that human rights work would primarily involve advocacy and research. However, this internship allowed me to discover that human rights work is very diverse. My work at Equitas revolved around training human rights defenders in order to equip them with the necessary skills for them to successfully carry out advocacy work in their respective communities. I was also able to learn that practically speaking, being a human rights defender does not mean that one defends all aspects of human rights. For instance, one could be an outspoken defender of women’s rights or the rights of disabled people but also not be very inclusive of the rights of LGBT communities. 

Overall, my internship has been an enriching learning opportunity that helped set my career goals for the future.