“If I didn’t apply, I honestly don’t think I would have been approached.
Lesson learned: always go after things.”
Over the course of a full semester, this should teach me quite a bit about myself and what I want in a career and in my future workplace. Am I more independent, or do I like team interaction and communication? Do I prefer advocacy work for large groups or would I rather make an impact on individual clients? Am I open minded, or do I need to work on accepting the opinions of others as valid? While I think I may know the answers to these questions, working at a place like CRR over a longer period of time may change how I view myself as a worker and global citizen. As a progressive nonprofit, I am expecting staff to be passionate about the mission of the center, yet, still open-minded and ready to understand and empathize with different cultures when alternative points of view are presented. Lastly and most importantly, regardless of how much transcription I help out with or how often I use SharePoint, it is vital that I feel like I am making a difference (big or small) in someone’s life, and that I am passionate and in sync with the mission of the organization that I’m working with and representing.
The office is certainly like no other office I’ve ever seen. The walls are filled with color and many media publications that highlight the Center’s work around the globe. There are 6 meeting rooms and two large conference rooms, all equipped with multimedia devices and surrounded by glass windows and walls. There are also “huddle rooms,” which, unlike meeting rooms, do not need to be reserved. They are fashioned with comfortable couches and bright tables for informal meetings and discussions. Huddle rooms are also used when you want to get away from your desk to do work. With the exception of the meeting and conference rooms, the entire office is open and natural light floods in everywhere. There are stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Seaport district, and the kitchen (which generously provides free coffee and tea), undoubtedly has the best view.
After comfortably settling in at my desk, I received an assignment transcribing the 2016-17 meeting on policy initiatives and the Center’s role in global access to justice. While I was simply transcribing a voice recording into text, the assignment served the purpose of orienting me with “where the Center is now,” and “what we would like to achieve within the next year.” The policy adviser for Africa explained that when taking on legal cases and working directly with clients, we must be cognizant of the socioeconomics of the clients and regions we are serving. Essentially, because many of the cases we take on are “high impact,” the case puts the immediate needs of individual clients on the backburner. She discussed the creation of urgent action funds, which would assist clients with immediate access to basic services like food and education while concurrently pursuing their case. The focus on ethics was powerful and truly made me feel like I am interning with an amazing organization who wants to get the job done, but refuses to do so at the expense of others.
This week I was blue-booking (and fact-checking) a policy brief for child marriage in Nepal. Some of the citations were in Nepali. Now I know what my Arabic professor meant when she told me to “never use or rely on google translate.” Blue-booking was tedious, but easy in English. Fact checking was fun. Mostly because it allowed me to interact with the text of the brief and learn a lot about the prevalence of child marriage in Asia. In Nepal specifically, forty one percent of girls/women are married before age 18.
My type-A personality calls for extreme and efficient organization. I printed, stapled, and hole-punched twelve affidavits and put them into a binder, adding tabs for each one. When I finished, I highlighted key points and made fact sheets and briefs for each affidavit. It wasn’t asked of me, but I wanted to go above and beyond and actually interact with the material. Affidavits and court cases are extraordinarily fascinating to me, and I never get bored reading them.
I finished compiling biographies for judges so that speakers could have a solid foundation for understanding their training and experiences and how they make decisions regarding reproductive rights. Apparently the training is to gently remind many of the top African judicial officers of international law surrounding reproductive rights. I’ve learned that although there is law in place, international law is totally and completely voluntary, and many countries tend to totally and completely ignore it. For the most part, the ignorance is never pursued because it’s hard to say whether or not countries are violating human rights when considering the cultural context.
I am working on an abortion case in Kenya. I received about fifteen affidavits and petitions, each around 25-30 pages, and was asked to read and create briefs for each of them. Sounds like an easy task, but it is definitely time consuming and detail oriented. I read the first petition and created a brief. I had a dry start: the first petition served the purpose of outlining many treaties, conventions, and laws, but did not explain the content of the case itself, or how all of these treaties and laws were relevant or pertinent to the case. The second petition came along and was filled with the kind of content that fuels my desire to create social change: a firsthand look at a young girl who was brutally defiled and sought an unsafe abortion out of fear, embarrassment, lack of financial resources, and lack of information surrounding the legality of abortion. A horrible and devastating case, but on a positive note, I am so proud to work for an organization that is working toward justice and empowerment for girls in these situations.
The office was closed on Monday for Columbus Day. I spent the day doing research from home to work on a project with the Asia team on child marriage policies and gaps in both domestic and international law surrounding the practice. I always thought that child marriage was this cultural thing that was defined by years of historical practice. While that is partly true, I’ve learned that there is far more to account for when analyzing child marriage. Often, low socioeconomic standings affect when girls get married. I’ve been faced with challenging ethical arguments in completing this research. What do you do when seventeen year old girls want to get married and it isn’t forced? While the Convention on the Rights of the Child claim that anyone under eighteen does not have the capacity to make such decisions, I still see both sides and understand why people argue that interfering with child marriage is interfering with culture and pushing traditional western ideals. But… many Asian countries have ratified the convention. It’s all so debatable, but having the same stance as the Center definitely helps fuel my research.
I’ve been having meetings and interviews here and there regarding employment at the Center. They have all been going really well, but I know that the application process is competitive and that there are most likely very highly qualified candidates. For some reason, I am still encouraged to push. I think that I’ve learned that if you don’t go after something or you don’t ask, you’ll have a zero percent chance of getting it as opposed to a one percent, two percent, three percent chance. It’s always best to ask and go after.
I finished a twenty five page single spaced research project on child marriage. Wow. I could tell you a lot about the gaps in law surrounding the practice. Child marriage is regulated by inconsistent general and personal laws in much of south Asia, resulting in ambiguity concerning which law is both dominant and applicable. These inconsistencies make it difficult to know whether or not a marriage is illegal and what rights are protected. Personal laws were granted legal prominence by colonial governments that conceded the regulation of issues pertaining to family and property rights as a means to negotiate for broader legal reforms. The laws accommodate the religious and cultural differences in a pluralistic society, but are frequently discriminatory against women and can undermine human rights protections. Where personal laws are recognized in law, they are given wide deference by citizens and government and undermine national legislation that is intended to prohibit discriminatory traditional norms that contradict national constitutional protections of gender equality.
Since I finished the child marriage research project, next week I’ll be working on sexual rights and reproductive health advocacy tracking. Basically, I’m creating a virtual mapping of what other SHRH organizations provide and do and where we can “fill the gaps.” There is a lot of gap filling in nonprofit advocacy work. I’ll be researching outreach programs, online platforms and resources, and advocacy networks in order to create an evaluation for our own organizational capacity building. I feel so lucky to have so much trust from all of the staff members to work on important projects like these.
Today I was trained on publications coordination. I am acting as the liaison for any regional teams who want shadow letters, reports, fact sheets, and anything else under the sun to go through the publication process. Everything goes through a first round of design, and is subsequently reviewed by the regional team. The communications department then completes a first round of review and then the designer incorporates edits. Both teams do a second round of review before institutional sign off, and the publication is sent to print. While this
sounds relatively simple, it’s not. You end up dealing with teams who want to shift around paragraphs, delete mass amounts of text, or just can’t get their report in on time. All of this messes with the graphic software that formats the publication. Regional teams are busy with conferences and trainings, and comms works on TONS of publications, so there is usually a pretty tough battle surrounding deadlines. One thing is for certain: I absolutely love how the Center is meticulous about maintaining its powerful brand.
Apparently John Oliver made a pretty hilarious mockery of Donald Trump on “late term abortions,” and Meryl Streep gave a fabulous speech at our annual Gala. The office seemed relaxed and at ease. I’m happy that the gala was a booming success—even if I couldn’t be there to take selfies with John Oliver.
Holy cow. When I say holy cow, I really mean it. Holy cow. I am twenty one years old as of less than one week ago and I am already officially a salaried employee, who more importantly, is extremely passionate about the field of work she going to contribute to. I’d like to thank the academy (laughter). If I didn’t apply, I honestly don’t think I would have been approached. Lesson learned: always go after things. The worst thing that can happen is learning that you aren’t the right fit. Apparently, while the combination of my skills and experiences put me at the same level as my fellow candidates, what put me over the top was my passion. I molded my personal and professional experiences together in a way that was so appropriate in addressing why I wanted the position and what working at the Center would mean to me. And I was told that was what locked me in. How. Freaking. Cool.
Adding onto my mapping document, I added about fifteen additional advocacy networks, thirty more online platforms, and a myriad of educational courses and tools. I found another gap in online platforms and resource hubs. Almost all of the online platforms provide international resources, but there are no links to local organizations. Perhaps that may be because it is harder for local organizations to gain international visibility, but it is something worth looking into. I created another section for additional grant and funding opportunities. I am convinced that there is a grant for anything in the world, but finding specific grants for specific issues for specific geographic regions that meet specific requirements of your organization can be challenging. Not surprisingly, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has some of the most relevant grants for the Center’s work. One specific grant aims to strengthen advocacy and alliances at national, regional and international level in order to actively support progress in implementing the ICPD PoA, and to contribute to the promotion of the ICPD through enhancing cross-regional co-ordination and networks surrounding SRHR in African countries. Pretty spot on with some of the goals and missions of the Center.
– Martina Nadeau, Fall 2016