The Equal Rights Trust provides those at the start of their career in human rights the opportunity to gain essential experience in paid internship and fellowship positions. Through these placements, we are helping to level the playing field so that those not able to support themselves financially can break into the sector and help us to advance equality worldwide. In December 2015 we spoke to our our Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region Research Fellow, Fatima Ahdash on her experience and thoughts on the scheme.
I have been working with the Equal Rights Trust as its MENA Region Research Fellow since November 2015. Before this time I worked as a paralegal at Brixton Advice Centre, processing housing and community care concerns, and with a number of legal NGOs in internship positions. I hold an LLM (Master of Laws) in Human Rights Law from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) and an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) also from LSE.
As the MENA Region Research Fellow, what are your main responsibilities?
During my fellowship I have been involved in various aspects of the Trust’s MENA region projects, including research, drafting reports and funding applications. I have also been creating a database of contacts for the Trust’s Equality Volunteers Network.
Could you outline how the fellowship has helped you to broaden and develop your experience?
I have furthered my knowledge on human rights and equality law, particularly concerning the international and regional standards on equality and non-discrimination and prevalent trends in discrimination in the MENA region. I feel I have taken initiative and responsibility for my work and this has given me an unparalleled opportunity to learn how legal charities function.
How would you describe your experience overall?
So far I have found the fellowship immensely rewarding. The simultaneous learning and “doing” has given me the chance to develop my knowledge and skills through practical experience. The combination of substantive and procedural aspects of my fellowship has been well-rounded and has increased my confidence in my transition from the university environment into the work environment.
Would you say the fellowship provides a unique experience? How so?
Yes, absolutely. I have also been given a great deal of autonomy during my time here - the Trust trains its fellows and gives them scope to work on a wide variety tasks so we make as much of our opportunities as possible. At the same time, we are offered a great deal of support which has been extremely important in making me feel comfortable and valuable.
What made you apply for the fellowship?
A career in the legal charities sector is notoriously difficult to access without lengthy unpaid internships and positions, so the fellowship was a particularly attractive way for me to gain knowledge and skills in an area I am extremely interested in and passionate about, whilst allowing me to afford the expensive living costs of London. The Trust practices the standards that it preaches, making equality of opportunity a reality for individuals like myself who would otherwise be unable to pursue a career in the NGO sector.
Do you think the fellowship will help you when seeking future employment?
Although my fellowship started fairly recently, I have already gained knowledge, skills and practical experience that has greatly improved my CV - I’m sure this will help secure the jobs and positions I am interested in.