This course sets itself apart from others due to the emphasis on practice based learning, and the unique opportunity to complete a placement in Malaysia. Having never had experience of working abroad, the knowledge and skills I gained will be vital for pursuing a career in human rights.
I completed a two week placement with MSRI (Malaysian Social Research Institute). MSRI is a humanitarian organisation that provides assistance to minority refugee and asylum seeking communities in Malaysia. They have adopted a holistic outlook to ensure the services provided empower and strengthen these marginalised communities. MSRI focuses on programmes in education, livelihoods, health, counselling, social services and legal support. They aim to look beyond beneficiaries’ immediate concerns, to ensure long term stability, and to preserve human rights.
In the field
Our task was to produce an annual report, so our primary focus was conducting research and evaluating data. This also included a trip to Malaysia’s UNHCR office. The experience presented new and different challenges for me; in addition to the constraints that many non-profit organisations experience, I was also having to be mindful of the political constraints and laws in Malaysia.
As we contemplated the struggle to resolve complex problems and dilemmas that lie in the ‘swampy lowland’ of field work, I learnt that sometimes the decisions you have to make as a human rights practioner are not ideal, but in the best interests of ensuring the longevity of the organisation and its beneficiaries. Applying what we had learnt in class to reconcile ethical and practical challenges was a valuable experience. I now feel I can confidently apply these skills elsewhere.
The relationships we forged with the staff at MSRI were a great opportunity to learn about thier career journeys and receive advice. In addition, we were able to enjoy the extensive network the Centre for Applied Human Rights has. We met a former CAHR student who lives and works in Malaysia; I really enjoyed hearing about the work she has been doing since completing the course. Attending a sit in protest and vigil with her was one of the highlights of the trip for me personally.
During our downtime, it was great to explore some of Malaysia’s attractions and get to know my peers better. I feel I have made life-long friendships in this process.