Six Months with the British Institute of Human Rights
Stacey De Souza, LLB Senior Status Law Student: Not everyone comes to Law School knowing exactly what they want to do with their degree. The lucky ones who do seem to be the most noticeable in the crowd, but for the rest of us, internships are important for discovering alternative paths to a legal career.
Last summer in an attempt to answer my own questions about the future, I undertook an internship at the British Institute of Human Rights; a seven-person charity dedicated to developing awareness surrounding the Human Rights Act 1998 and its effect on day-to-day life, located just on the third floor of our Law building! These days human rights is a term with a lot of stigma attached to it so awareness of the HRA 1998 is more important now than ever before.
Given the small team, my role as an intern was varied. During their Annual UK Human Rights Tour I spent a lot of time researching venues, contacting partner and volunteer organisations, researching potential case studies and putting together packs for the day’s events. I also had the opportunity to attend several of the events myself. At a Nottingham event, we provided a full day of training for those who work in mental health services on how the HRA affects their duties and responsibilities. At another event in Wales, we were part of a two day conference on children’s rights which was being lead by the Children’s Commission. Over both days we held workshops directly targeted at individuals under the age of 18 to teach them about the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, and to map out what they felt was lacking in Wales with regards to their rights. Part of what made this workshop so fantastic was the graphic facilitator who accompanied us to visually map out a summary of the day’s discussions.
BIHR's Annual Human Rights Tour has become a huge success with packed-to-capacity events in nearly every location nation-wide. These full-day training sessions are completely free to attend and open to the general public. Aside from the annual tour, BIHR also works closely with partner organisations throughout England and Wales year-round to provide interactive and practical workshops on the HRA in general, or more niche workshops on how the Act applies to the work of specific sectors such as midwives or carers. During these workshops, BIHR’s human rights officers’ dissect the HRA before attendees have the chance to work in teams to apply what they have learned to hypothetical scenarios. Feedback from these events is always positive with people claiming to leave knowing significantly more about their rights than when they walked in. For those who can’t attend the training sessions, BIHR produces easy-to-read fact sheets and guides on human rights in practice for different groups in society. These resources are available to download online and are completely free.
I thoroughly enjoyed my internship at the British Institute of Human Rights which unfortunately is drawing to an end this February. It appealed to my desire to educate and my interest in eventually working for a charity. I believe that these kinds of experiences expose us to different uses of the law and the way that it can serve people outside of a firm or chambers. I also believe that through internships we discover talents and interests we didn't know we had. In a legal world where everything seems premeditated and unilateral, internships like these are a welcomed opportunity.