Cassandra, Honours in Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Alternatives, South Africa, Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa Network, Program support and research officer
The international internship with the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa Network (SIHA) is not for the faint of heart. In Spring 2020, I had the opportunity to apply for an international internship with the University of Ottawa, which led me to obtain an internship with the SIHA Network for the fall of the same year. This internship is not a position made up of rainbows, candy, and butterflies; but rather a deep-dive into the lives and society women face every day in the Horn of Africa. The SIHA Network was created as a grassroots movement by women in the Horn of Africa, working towards the progress of human rights in their own countries. By being a grassroots organization, they are able to conduct a bottom-up approach of the root causes that causes the maltreatment of women in society. SIHA also focuses on creating stepping stones for women to integrate themselves in the economy and the workforce, they provide resources for women who are victims of gender-based violence, and they raise awareness of serious human rights violations against women that go unreported everyday.
Although my internship position is remote, and I am not working on the bigger/hard hitting projects in the organization, I have still been able to work on projects that give me an extensive background on political, economic, and social issues facing women globally. Every week, my assigned project to collect news articles for the internal news bulletin reflecting SIHA’s mission for the countries within the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland, Uganda), the rest of Africa, and the world; has allowed me to learn and understand the challenges and vulnerability that women face. From forced child marriages of young girls, to the increase of domestic abuse in many African countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more and more apparent that women are continuously facing the same gender-based discrimination that was present in the past. Women’s rights violations are still a serious issue globally, and the articles that I have read on the abuse women receive in countries like Uganda, can also be found in the Indigenous communities of Canada. Indigenous women are constantly facing the harsh reality of not only racial discrimination, but gender discrimination within their communities, with law enforcement, and with medical professionals. Discrimination and violence against women is common in all societies, and it is important that we work together to fundamentally change the challenges that women face in their everyday lives.
Even with the intensity of the material I view every day, I am glad that I was chosen to partake in the internship with SIHA. Not only am I able to educate myself on human rights issues that I possibly would have never learned, but I am also able to use my new found experiences to guide me in my future studies and career. The knowledge that I will continue to access through the work experience is one that I would have never been able to gain through normal course work, even if position is conducted online. The internship has guided me towards an academic path that I never knew I would choose, and I am glad that I am able to participate in an experience that will enrich my life for years to come.