Project Description

Human Rights Internship Program in Cape Town

Some of the most prestigious human rights internships in South Africa are offered through our program. Since the end of Apartheid in 1994, the world has praised South Africa for its peaceful transition to democracy. South Africa has one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, one that enshrines a respect for human rights. Yet protecting these human rights cannot be left to individuals or the government alone; there must be independent institutions to ensure that human rights are protected in a country that, prior to 1994, was governed by one of the most repressive regimes of the 20th century. As a VACorps intern, you will gain direct access to this nation’s progressive human rights culture through your daily internship work.

This is a structured immersion internship with additional supervision and support. The objective is to provide you with a hands-on internship experience in South Africa. The program runs on fixed dates that are listed below. 

OVERVIEW

The VACorps Immersive Human Right’s Internship program is a structured internship that is facilitated by our Human Rights Program Coordinator, Kelly Stone, who is a qualified lawyer in the USA and is currently a human rights policy advocate in South Africa. Through a combination of active mentorship, discussion, reflection and relevant hands-on practical experience, the program delivers an immersive Human Rights internship in South Africa. You will develop practical skills while acquiring a deep understanding of the human impact of right’s violations and challenges in South Africa.

South Africa is an enriching environment in which to gain first-hand experience of the challenges that arise in a transitional democracy— specifically, those that relate to protecting and promoting an individual’s basic human rights. While the country’s Constitution is recognized as one of the most progressive in the world, due to high levels of poverty, inequality and institutionalized racism, many South Africans do not enjoy the rights and freedoms that should be guaranteed to them by law. Nevertheless, South Africa’s commitment to building a human rights-based society is unwavering, which makes it the ideal place for a human rights internship.

During the internship component of this program, you will be placed with local organizations that provide services to victims of rights violations. By working directly with service providers and the people they are trying to assist, you will gain exposure to the challenges associated with protecting and exercising one’s human rights in South Africa. The program manager, who is also a human rights lawyer, will be designing specific internship projects with you and organizational leadership to develop and create tools to address some of the most pressing rights issues and concerns facing the organization and the people it is trying to help. 

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION 

The Internship Experience:

Human rights internships are scheduled for 4-6 weeks in duration, with two-to-three interns being assigned to a specific placement within the same organization.  These placements will depend on your area of academic interest and the needs of the specific organization.

Most placements are service-oriented and deal with specific categories of human rights. For example: women’s shelters, refugee and migration centres, and organizations working with ex-offenders. These organizations benefit greatly from the work of human rights interns to further enhance the services they are able to provide their clients.   

Internship Schedule and Time Commitment:

Internships will be five days a week (Monday through Friday), from 09h00 – 17h00, or 08h00 – 16h00, with the exception of a half day on Fridays to allow interns to participate in VACorps Social Excursions. Placements rely heavily on the work of interns, so it will be important for you to treat your internship as if it were a job.

Supervision:

In addition to the general orientation program provided by VACorps, participants of our Immersive Human Right’s Internship program will receive a special 1-day orientation that is facilitated by the program coordinator. The content will cover topics specifically related to the Human rights landscape in South Africa as well as guidance in how to get the most out of your internship.  

During your internship, you will be directly supervised by your site manager, and are encouraged to take initiative to identify ways you can contribute, especially in areas of career interest.

During the program, you will meet with other Immersive Human Rights participants every Tuesday evening at the VACorps office for a 1-hour seminar and group discussion. The aim of these meetings is to allow the program director to connect with you in an advisory and mentorship capacity and allow you time for facilitated group reflection away from your respective internship sites to discuss project progress and other relevant issues.

Weekly Discussion and Reflection Themes:

Week 1: An introduction to human rights in South Africa

Week 2: Fundamental Rights and limitations of the law in South Africa

Week 3: Unpacking the complexity of gender-based violence and limitations of the law

Week 4: Criminal justice reforms: policing, prisons and the courts

Week 5: Socio-economic justice and collective rights: the challenges of achieving meaningful transformation

Week 6: Final reflection

Optional extra session: There will be a special advising session for all students preparing law school applications in the USA and/or preparing to find jobs in the field of human rights.

The program leader:

Kelly Stone is a lawyer from the United States who moved to South Africa in 2013 to pursue a career in human rights. As VACorps alumni herself, Kelly fell in love with the country when she interned during her second year of law school and made a commitment to herself that she would move back to Cape Town when she finished her studies.

Kelly’s currently manages the crime and violence prevention portfolio of work at the African Police Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF), where she conducts policy research and development on police oversight, pre-trial justice, and crime and violence prevention initiatives across Africa.

Before joining APCOF in 2015, Kelly worked as a research associate for the South African Human Rights Commission and as a legal fellow at the Women’s Legal Centre, where her work focused primarily on constitutional law and human rights, as well as gender-based violence, socioeconomic and environmental rights, and access to information.

Prior to her arrival in South Africa in 2011, Kelly was a legal fellow at the Political Asylum Immigration Representation Project in Boston, Massachusetts, where she gained extensive experience working with refugees and asylum seekers. Kelly has a deep commitment to human rights and is very excited to work with students who share the same passion!

PROGRAM START DATES (you can choose 4 or 6 weeks duration)

2018

  • June 4th
  • July 2nd
  • September 3rd
  • October 1st

2019

  • January 7th
  • February 11th
  • May 13th
  • June 3rd
  • July 1st

NOTE: This is a very competitive program with limited spaces, so early application is suggested.

Get Started. Apply Now

Meet past participants:

Noah Goldman – North Carolina, USA (2018)

Noah joined the VACorps program in June 2018 and participated in a Human Rights internship. "I chose to come to Cape Town because it was a good opportunity to add hands-on experience to my studies [...]

Allison Angelidis – California, USA (2018)

"I decided Cape Town was the best place for my internship because of my passion for human rights work and my interest in South Africa's history. I completed a human rights internship working specifically with [...]

  • Madhavi Public health internship VAC Cape Town

Madhavi Kuthanur – San Jose, California (2017)

Madhavi participated in a Human Rights & Public Health internship in Cape Town, in 2017. "The main reason I chose to intern in Cape Town is that I wanted to learn about how health systems functioned [...]

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