Against some pretty stiff competition, I was lucky enough to win the £1,000 University of Birmingham International Work Experience Bursary Award sponsored by Enterprise, enabling me to undertake a month’s placement as a human rights intern with Projects Abroad/Inherit Your Rights, in Tanzania. Here's how my experience helped my career goals.
One of my main duties was to conduct legal research online, focusing on the practice of ‘widow inheritance’, in which widows are forced to marry one of their husband’s relatives in order to retain their home and sometimes their children. I authored a report on the practice and the stance taken by the Tanzanian legal system. This will be used to advise Inherit Your Rights and provide guidance regarding the steps they may take to support women facing the practice. It is intended that the report will also form the basis for training documents for Maasai women.
Writing the report was a lot more difficult than I was expecting, because access to the law and judicial decisions is very limited. Initially I found it very hard to find information on the topic and I had to think more creatively to find the information I was looking for. Therefore, I feel that my research skills have improved a lot through my work here. However, I enjoyed the challenge and found that the environment in which I was working was extremely productive.
I had the opportunity to discuss the current situation for human rights in Tanzania with a number of different people, ranging from lawyers, pastors and NGO workers to other volunteers. It was really interesting to get different perspectives on the law and to be able to discuss the differences between the Tanzanian, English and American legal positions. It was also particularly interesting for me to discuss the legal position on property rights, because I will be studying the relationship between property law and human rights in my advanced property law module next year. It has been really useful to understand the legal situation in a developing country, and to consider some of the principles and questions I will be looking at this year.
My experience will contribute immensely to my career goals. I would like to work within a multinational legal organisation and so the fact that I have been able to do legal research in Africa is significant. The continent is currently of large interest to the global legal market for both commercial work and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. I have been able to highlight areas and issues that the large commercial firms I want to work for could look to work in for CSR purposes. The opportunity has also helped me identify that I would like to work for an organisation in which CSR is an important component of its activity.
In addition to helping me clarify my career goals, my experience in Tanzania helped me to improve key employability skills including research skills and my ability to communicate clearly and concisely. My host organisation, Inherit Your Rights, also benefited from the contribution I was able to make to their cause, especially the work I did in regard to education, empowerment and representation for the Maasai women.
I couldn’t have undertaken my placement and experienced all I did without the help of Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the University of Birmingham alumni. In the current job climate, it is increasingly difficult to set yourself apart as a prospective employee. The support I had has helped me to increase my employability and get the job I desire, while Enterprise’s cooperation with the University of Birmingham has given lots of students like me the opportunity to push ourselves and show our prospective employers what we have to offer.