Promoting Equal Opportunity for People Entering Human Rights Sector - Abi Ogunmwonyi

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. By doing so we are helping to level the playing field, so that those who are not able to support themselves financially are able to break into the sector and advance equality worldwide. In December 2015 we spoke to Abi Ogunmwonyi our former Legal Research Intern to ask her how she found her experience and what she thinks about the Trust’s internship scheme.

Prior to starting my internship with the Trust I completed an MSc in International and Comparative Law and Anthropology. My academic interests centres around international human rights law, intellectual property law and discrimination as well as comparative constitutional rights law with a focus on US, German, European, Canadian and South African courts. 

As a Legal Intern with the Trust, what were your main responsibilities?

My internship was focused on legal, policy and social research as well as advocacy support. It was incredibly beneficial and I gained a great insight into non-discriminatory and equality law. Some of the specific tasks I worked on with the Trust involved research of social and cultural thematic work such as on gender discrimination in nationality laws. I also researched human rights legal judgments from international, national and regional courts. My advocacy research skills were particularly developed by drafting advocacy submissions to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights committee for countries including, Sudan, Ukraine and Guyana and by assisting with the drafting of constitutional reform public consultation reports.

Would you say the internship provided a unique experience? How so?  

Yes, the internship offered a unique opportunity - I was given real responsibility and felt that I learned a lot from the internship rather than just carrying out administrative tasks as you can do in many internship positions. I was able to develop my interest in equality and non-discriminatory law in areas that I previously had broad knowledge about. I was also able to combine legal and advocacy work which consigned with my degree which focused on both human rights from the legal and anthropological perspectives. Furthermore, the work the Trust carries out is very much in line with my future career ambitions and I was inspired by the way in which the Trust's combats discrimination and promotes equality as a fundamental human right in countries and cultures that are not exposed to their rights or that do not have access to the knowledge to be empowered through law.

How do you think the internship helped you to find a job in the sector?   

I think the internship provided me with skills and knowledge that will be (and have been) instrumental in the next stage of my career. It complemented my degree perfectly and I have especially point to the experience when applying for jobs.

While working with the Trust, I gained an insight into applying the research skills I developed during my studies in a professional setting. For example, I furthered my research skills relating to advocacy submissions as well as legal and social thematic research and in my current job I use these skills to carry out background research on humanitarian issues regarding distributing UN aid during humanitarian crises. In fact during the interview for my current role, I used the internship at the Trust to illustrate that I have experience carrying out legal research on engaging with NGOs around the world to expand civil societies’ understanding of their rights to non-discrimination and equality. As my career goal is to work within organisations to promote more effective ways of strengthening international development and rights discourse, the skills I gained at the Trust proved especially relevant.

Did the internship being paid make a difference to your decision to work with the Trust? 

Yes. This is mainly because I was a full time student at the time I was completing the internship. It was helpful as it allowed me to sustain my living costs and aided me with travel, food and other costs which are often quite high for a student in London. If the internship had not been paid, I would have only been able to work for around one day a week and I know I would not have gotten so much out of the experience as I did. Furthermore, I don’t feel this would have been very efficient to the level of work carried out at the Trust.

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