You’ll find answers to all of these questions and many more by reading comments from Faculty of Social Sciences interns on this blog. Students posted all around the world will share their experience, challenges and success stories with readers. Please visit this blog regularly to find out about their adventures!
Please visit the French version of this web page to read the French postings published by our Students.
Gaining some first-hand experience and a new perspective
Heather, DVM, World University Service Canada,Malawi, Coalition for the Empowerment of Women and Girls (CEWAG)
Although I believe the experiences that I have gained, and will continue to gain over the course of the next few months, by working remotely with an NGO in a developing country is dampened compared to what I would have experienced physically working in the field, I have regardless learned a significant amount about Malawian culture and the country-specific Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) targets that Malawi is continuing to work towards through my placement.
The SDG’s (specifically Goal 5: Gender Equality) have been explored extensively in my development classes for the Bachelors of International Development and Globalization program at the University of Ottawa. However, it was not until I began working with an NGO based in Lilongwe, Malawi called the Coalition for the Empowerment of Women and Girls (CEWAG) that I gained some first-hand experience and a new perspective on how deep rooted the numerous issues that cause gender inequality are in developing countries. For example, the World Bank (2021) reports that Malawian women and children are more likely than their male counterparts to suffer from poverty and its related impacts, such as violence, poor nutrition, and a lack of access to education and employment. Although these areas of concern have improved in recent decades, gender inequalities in Malawi persist.
Another international development theory that I have observed through my partnership with CEWAG was through their implementation of their project “Elimination of Practices that fuel Gender Based Violence (GBV) among Women and Girls in Mzimba in the Mzikubola area”, which followed the GAD approach. The GAD approach focuses on the socially constructed difference between men and women, the need to challenge existing gender roles and relations, and the creation and effects of class differences on development (Harcourt, 2016, p. 106). It was observed that Mzikubola was still registering high cases of GBV that were fueled by the high migration of males to South Africa in search of better employment opportunities, causing CEWAG to work to strengthen a coordinated GBV prevention and response initiative. Training was provided for women and girls through awareness campaigns on GBV and other methods, and was provided for men through a two-day training process to deconstruct their beliefs about women and girls’ socially constructed roles in society. Although CEWAG’s core values remain to primarily empower Malawian women and girls, they demonstrate how important it is to follow a GAD approach that considers all aspects of gender issues, and the class differences that are created by it. It is important to understand how social norms and power structures impact the lives and opportunities available to different groups of men and women to produce sustainable development projects.
Harcourt, W. (2016). The Palgrave handbook of gender and development: critical engagements in feminist theory and practice. Palgrave Macmillan.
Overview. (2021, March 18). The World Bank. Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/malawi/overview
Internship at a distance: 6th week
Julia, WUSC, Honours Political Science, WUSC Malawi office, Research Officer
My first month as an intern for WUSC Malawi as been both enlightening and fairly easy to adjust to. My particular placement is slightly different from what my peers this year are experiencing as my mandate expects me to produce research reports on certain areas of interest for the Malawi offices. This combined with the time difference between Ottawa, Canada and Lilongwe, Malawi leaves me working almost entirely independently, with only monthly check-ins as supervision.
This is evidently quite different from my time as an undergraduate student as I used to work based on deadlines and due dates- now I have several months to produce two research reports on subjects I am entirely unfamiliar with. This has proven to be the most fulfilling and interesting part of my work so far, despite my initial fears. Blind research is a very interesting way to spend weeks at a time, allowing my interests and curiosity lead my search rather than a syllabus. It can be very daunting at first, but it taught me to let go of my performance fears and delve into a foreign and strikingly interesting country.
My everyday work always begins with emails and passes on to researching whatever question needs answering that week. This usually leads to lunch, which then leads to either compiling the funding I was looking into this month and analyzing the content. I write this a month and a half into my internship, where I have now finished writing my first research report and am reviewing feedback that mentors and colleagues have given. I will admit, the writing of this report was definitely a relief as it was a return to the familiar processes that we use in university. Drafting the structure, writing out the bulk of the content and adding relevant citations, then requesting my friends and professors to review the paper is typically how I spend every weekend during the school year. Working this internship was a step into completely new territory and the lack of in person office culture, or having regular colleagues, or even working with material that is familiar threw me off more than transitioning to online work ever did. Bear in mind I work in customer service in the summer, and therefore have not worked at home yet.
That being said, I appreciate the opportunity as I believe it is fairly close to the work I will be doing in the future and being off balance at this stage is much more forgiving than the first few month at the first professional job I work would be.
This internship has allowed me the opportunity to reach out to some big names both in the field and at the university which has been an interesting element to my learning. I originally felt quite lost on where to start researching which led me to seek out experts to see how they approach these types of projects and what they like to see in the resulting reports. Networking is, of course, a somewhat mysterious aspect of career building we infrequently touch on in undergrad. These connections will hopefully continue to be fruitful and beneficial as time goes on.
My new life
Geneviève, Masters in Social Work, World University Service Canada, Malawi
Student Refugee Program, Intern
Before arriving in Malawi six weeks ago, I knew I was going on the trip of a lifetime. Having prepared myself internally to enter a new culture, new environment and new me, I thought I was prepared for the experience that was too come. Truth be told, I was never prepared for this. This experience has been life changing for me in so many more ways than one. All of which, has absolutely been for the better.
Upon my arrival in Malawi, I was shocked by the accuracy behind Malawi’s title as “the warm heart of Africa”. Although many people here do not speak English (or French), they never fail to try and be helpful, to say hello, and to be welcoming. That being said, I found out quickly that this level of welcoming energy was also going to be extended to me by those who are not Malawian.
My responsibilities in Malawi include working in Dzaleka Refugee Camp, as a Student Refugee Program intern. There, I teach the Canadian life course to refugee students who have been accepted into the program. The refugee camp is where I spend most of my time, and despite it having its hardships (such as a 4-hour daily commute), I would never trade this experience for the world.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been able to get to know my students, as well as many others within the camp, and listen to stories of happiness, resilience, excitement and hardships. I’ve gotten to learn that about their beliefs, and share laughs between us. Furthermore, I’ve gotten to know my supervisor who has been an undying force of support, introspection and kindness.
I have managed to travel around Malawi, to see safaris and beaches, and taste new food. I’ve made new friends throughout the city, as they show me their life, and ask me about mine. I got to taste nsima for the first time (the Malawian national dish), and get dresses made out of chitenge. Yes, all of these experiences has been truly wonderful, and eye opening at times. But my time at Dzaleka, that is the place where my true growth lies.
As I hope I am preparing my students for their new life in Canada, I don’t think they know that they are preparing me for MY new life in Canada. Being as Master’s student in Social Work, I learn about taking on new perspectives and active listening. Although my position includes teaching, I have found that creating meaningful connections with my students has allowed me to truly get to know about their excitement and their fears about moving to Canada, and has allowed me to put my knowledge from school into practice. Malawi…I came to you thinking I was prepared. I fear I may not be able to leave as I will never be the same again.