Promoting Human Rights & Rule of Law in South Africa
8 August, 2012
Every year SALC provides an opportunity for law students to intern at the organisation. If you are interested in interning at SALC, we would love to hear from you. To learn more about our internship programme click here.
This year SALC was joined by Melissa Chastang, Katie Flannery and Sandeep Prasanna. Here’s what they had to say about their time at SALC.
Melissa Chastang, Harvard Law School
“When I accepted my internship with SALC, it became the first time that I would work with an international NGO as well as the first time that I would live and work abroad. Before I arrived, I fully expected that the experience would be life-changing in a number of ways and I have not been let down.
In my time here I have seen the concepts of my law school courses come to life and take shape in new and exciting ways. From helping to prepare an affidavit for a case before the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa concerning the exercise of universal jurisdiction, to drawing up a legal opinion brief on the merits and challenges of a case to protect the rights of the blind and visually impaired in Malawi, my work at SALC has been undeniably innovative, stimulating, and inspiring.
As I near the close of this experience, I am reminded that the kind of work that SALC does is the kind of work that first motivated me to become an attorney. Because I was offered the chance to contribute to SALC’s body of work, I am incredibly grateful to this organization and the individuals that make it possible. They have truly helped me to develop both as a student of international law and as a human rights advocate.”
Katie Flannery, University of Pennsylvania Law School
“After the second year of law school in the United States, American law students are supposed to think strategically about where to spend our summer working. In many cases, our second summer job is a foot in the door for more permanent employment after graduation the next year. I guess I am not an overly strategic person, because I came to South Africa (a country where I am not allowed to practice law without jumping through a lot of hoops) and threw myself into the world of international human rights law. Not the world’s greatest career plan, perhaps, but I knew I would enjoy it.
I came to SALC with a focus on HIV and human rights, and I am leaving with the same area of concentration. However, one of the reasons I chose to intern at SALC was its diversity of programs and the breadth of topics I hoped I could engage with, and I have not been disappointed. From the very beginning of my time here, I have been involved with the new disability rights program, helping to draft client intake questionnaires and put together litigation manual for practitioners in the region. I also dipped my toes into international criminal law, exploring countries’ legal obligations related to refugee law and crimes against humanity that I had never considered before. I also had my first real opportunity to work with issues related to HIV from a legal (rather than a public health) perspective – and I learned that it’s a very different place to be in some interesting ways.
For all this, I am grateful for my time at SALC – for the things I have learned, the people I have met and the work I have been allowed to do. I have no idea what I will be doing a year from now when I graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, but I do know that I have not regretted my decision to come to SALC for a single day that I have been here. Wherever I end up, I am confident that this experience will serve me in very good stead.”
Sandeep Prasanna, UCLA School of Law
“Although I had spent large portions of my upbringing outside the United States, there were troubling geographic gaps in my understanding of international affairs and human rights issues. Most pressing of these, I believed, was a lack of engagement with human rights in southern Africa. I was initially drawn to apply to SALC because of its location and singular focus on this region, but I found myself quickly taken with their ambitious scope and major legal and advocacy successes. Every one of their project areas seemed utterly fascinating.
My experience this summer has lived up to those initial impressions. Eight weeks, I have learned, is much too short to get involved on every project, but the (incredibly kind and inspiring) lawyers handed me diverse and interesting projects during my time here. These research and writing projects ranged from assisting in advocacy efforts to reinstate the SADC Tribunal, to synthesising data and making recommendations on the promotion of sexual and reproductive health rights. I also learned how to research and apply foreign law to southern African law, in fields as diverse as corporate law and sexual rights law. Every SALC staff member was so encouraging and helpful throughout the entire internship. This is, of course, only the beginning of a long learning process, but I think that I have grown substantially as a legal thinker, reader, and writer during my time at SALC. I am sad to leave, but I feel so extraordinarily fortunate to have had my first substantial human rights law experience with such a warm, active, engaged community of lawyers and social justice advocates.”
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