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 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 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 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 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!

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Meet past participants:

  • Human Rights Internships South Africa

Keira Harbour – Cornwall, United Kingdom (2019)

Keira is studying Politics and International Relations at the University of the West of England, Bristol. She joined the VACorps program in June 2019, and participated in the VACorps Human Rights Internship Program.  "My [...]

  • Human Rights Internships in South Africa

Kristy Lam – Hong Kong, China (2019)

Kristy is studying Philosophy/Economics at University of Chicago. She joined the VACorps Program in August 2019 and participated in a the VACorps Human Rights Internship Program. "I am so grateful that VACorps placed me [...]

  • Human Rights Internships in South Africa

Alex Villalobos – Illinois, USA (2019)

Alex is studying Psychology with a minor in Philosophy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined the VACorps Program in July 2019 and participated in the VACorps Human Rights Internship.  "I chose [...]

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