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. 


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 human 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. 


The Internship Experience:

Human rights internships are typically 6 weeks in duration, and 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 centers, 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.


In addition to the general orientation program provided by VACorps, participants of our Immersive Human Rights 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 on 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.

The program leaders:

Kelly Stone is a Policy Development and Research Advisor based in Cape Town, South Africa, with more than twelve years of international human rights experience. Kelly holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Sociology and Philosophy from the United States and has been working to advance the social, political, and economic rights of persons across Africa since 2006. Kelly is well-versed in legal analysis and research, and has provided technical expertise in developing legal norms and standards, assessing risk management and strategies, and has assisted government actors in developing policies and protocols relating to safety and security, ranging from national to provincial to local government. Kelly is also a certified facilitator and has trained government officials, NGOs, and community leaders on a variety of topics, including law, policy, safety, and development. In addition, Kelly has strong project management and organizational skills, and a demonstrative publication record, which includes peer-viewed journal articles, book chapters, and opinion pieces.

Dr Simon Howell is a senior research fellow at the Centre of Criminology and Global Risk Governance Programme, both at the University of Cape Town. His core research interest focused on the relationship between justice and violence, and how this relationship is made manifest both in the structures of modern governance and in the architecture of marginalised peoples’ identities. As such, he has conducted research in a diverse array of analytical domains and with people from many different walks of life, including teenage mothers, township youths, drug users, gangsters, and police officials.

Get Started. Apply Now

Meet past participants:

Clancy Erickson, North Carolina, USA (2022)

Clancy recently completed her BA in Human Services Studies at Elon University. She joined the VACorps program in September 2022, and participate in an internship at an NGO that supports refugees in Cape Town. [...]

Pallavi Bhargava, Maryland, USA (2023)

Pallavi joined the VACorps Program as part of her Gap Year and participated in a human rights internship.  "The last 2.5 months in Cape Town have been some of the best of my life! [...]

Mya Tosomeen, Queensland, Australia (2023)

Mya is studying towards a bachelor's degree in Government and International Relations and a Bachelor's in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Griffith University. She joined the VACorps program in October 2022 and participated in [...]

Janna Elhawary, California, USA (2022)

Janna (pictured on the left) is studying for a Double BA in Political Science, Public Affairs at UCLA. She joined to VACorps program in June 2022 and participated in a human rights internship.  "I [...]

Kaylee Nezwek, California, USA (2022)

Kaylee is studying for a Bsc in Psychology at UCLA. She joined to VACorps program in June 2022 and participated in a human rights internship at a human rights and youth empowerment organization.  "I [...]

Francesca Vaneri, California, USA (2022)

Francesca joined the VACorps program in June 2022 and participated in a human rights internship.  She is studying at UCLA, majoring in pre-international development studies and English. "I am so grateful for my experience [...]

Elizabeth Long, California, USA (2022)

Elizabeth is studying at UCLA, joined the VACorps program in June 2022, and participated in a human rights internship. "I had a wonderful time during my summer in Cape Town! I learned a great [...]

Grace Krsul-Sullivan, California, USA (2022)

Grace is studying for her B.A. in Political Science and Psychology at the University of California. She joined to VACorps program in June 2022 and participated in a human rights Law Internship at a [...]

You may also be interested in: