If you decide that studying Applied Human Rights at York is the next step for you then I promise that I will just be the first in a very long line of people telling you to take the opportunity to go and learn in South Africa. Because despite the fact that you are going there to work, and despite the weekends you will have free to be a tourist, or the amazing bonds you’ll form with your course mates – this is, above all else, a chance to learn.
I have been working with Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, alongside three other students. This organisation is involved in counselling services and court support services for anyone who has been affected by rape and sexual assault. They’re more recently turning their attention to advocacy, in particular lobbying the government for Specialised Sexual Offences Courts. Working alongside them we’ve learned so much; from organising a picket and interviewing a director to the correct way to carry a table across a car park and up a flight of stairs.
One of the most invaluable parts of this experience was seeing an organisation in the middle of evolving how they think about progress. It feels like everyone on this course is doing so in the hopes of making a change in the world; it’s been clear that we have all arrived with very different views of how you should go about effectively creating that change. It was really eye-opening to see that this organisation, which has been tackling the same issue since the 70s, is still wrestling with the question of how to bring about the most effective change. This trip has taught me that when it comes to human rights, everyone is still learning.
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