My experience as an intern at Civil Rights Defenders

My experience as an intern at Civil Rights Defenders
Are you looking for an internship in Sweden? NFGL member Severin Filonov has dreamed of working with Civil Rights Defenders - and his dream came true. Severin shares his experiences so far.

How it all began

For my third term as a student at Lund University, I had a chance to do an internship course here in Sweden or abroad. Even though it is often much easier to find an internship abroad, I really wanted to get an experience of working in Sweden.  In my heart I already knew the place I would love to work: Civil Rights Defenders.

I met the organization’s representatives during the Human Rights Forum in Stockholm in the autumn of 2013 (thanks to the Swedish Institute I had a chance to participate in that event). I loved the passion they had for their work, which of course is very difficult, often stressful, and sometimes even dangerous.

But the most important was that the organisation works closely with my own country – Russia – and the regions I am most familiar with on the Human Rights situation, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. What a reward, to be able to apply my own knowledge and experience to the development and strengthening of civil society in your own country!

But of course I have spent a few months applying to different organisations and looking for different possibilities. I’ve also found a few courses in other universities in Sweden, which I planned to attend if I did not get an internship position.

About Civil Rights Defenders

 So Civil Rights Defenders (previously Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights) is a non-profit independent organisation devoted to defending human rights (in particular people’s civil and political rights), and to support and empower human rights defenders at risk. In Russia, Civil Rights Defenders has several projects with local organisations –in Chechnya, St. Petersburg (my home town) and other cities.

The working methods of CRD are quite broad. CRD supports human rights defenders using its international network of human rights defenders to empower partner organisations and networks. CRD seeks to draw attention to the situation for human rights defenders in the countries where it works. The organisation supports human rights defenders with training, resources and expertise to protect the space in which they act and strengthen their performance. CRD conducts lobbying and advocacy work aimed at national and international decision makers.

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Getting the internship

Being an intern at the Eastern Europe and Central Asian Department, already in my first week I have met Programme Directors and Programme Officers of all other departments: the LegalSweden Department which works with legal issues internationally and on some projects within Sweden (Roma people discrimination, police brutality), the Communications Department (internal and external communications, advocacy, fundraising), the Finance Department, the Human Rights Defenders at Risk Department (Security, Natalia Project), the East and Horn of Africa Department, the Southeast Asia Department, the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Department, and the Latin America Department.

I have participated in various workshops and seminars on security, universal periodic review (UPR), “writing for human rights” and many others organized by specialists in each of these topics. I was impressed, how much interesting and useful information one can get from partnership with CRD.

Of course, the most exciting time I had was while meeting with our local partners from Russia and some other countries. Learning from their experiences in the fields and current partnership with CRD or other organisations I had a real-life experience of human rights work.

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My own project

CRD is a very intern-friendly organisation. Besides various seminars and events organized specifically for interns, everyone has a possibility to start a project within his or her area of expertise. From some of my observations and knowledge of different approaches from university courses, I’ve decided to look at the CRD’s partner’s needs. I can’t go deep into the explanations yet, but my intern project got a physical form of a special handbook for partners. Now the project is in a testing stage, but hopefully soon it can be adopted by several departments in the organisation.

To be continued….

Are you interested in sharing your story, about an internship, job, project, or just life in Sweden? Email us at [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you!