Careers in Human Rights

Human Rights Career Panel
March 28th, 2006

1. Jehanne Henry

Jehannne has been involved in overseas work since undergraduate days
at Columbia College (CC ’93, Philosophy), when she spent summers in
Latin America with Amigos de las Americas. Following graduation, she lived
in Egypt for two years, working at the American University in Cairo and
writing about development issues for a monthly magazine. Upon return to
the U.S. she continued to work in journalism and attended law school at
the University of Texas School of Law, where she was active in the public
interest law association and spent summers working against the death
penalty and at the ACLU. Also while in law school, she was an editor of
the Texas International Law Journal and was selected to spend 6 months
assisting the prosecutors office at the International War Crimes Tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Holland. She clerked for a federal
judge in New York and gained admission to the New York Bar before going
overseas again to work for the American Refugee Committee in Kosovo, the
United Nations Mission in Kosovo, and for USAID in Cambodia.

She says:

Skills to develop throughout undergraduate and graduate school:
• Writing skills
• People skills
• Management skills
• Law is a great degree, but NOT imperative – you can focus on health issues or public policy issues or more
• Journalism is another great idea – strong writing, reporting and interviewing skills

Strengths to develop:
• Language proficiency
• Subject matter niche (and make sure this IS what you want to do for some years!)
• Regional expertise

*HR has local and international scope.

Want to work overseas?
• You must BE in that country, understand it, immerse yourself in the culture.
• Go overseas as soon as you can! You can do that through a university, the Peace Corps or an NGO – the latter might be the most insightful as it is NOT attached to any government, and might be the most specialized group in the area.
• The longer you stay in a region, the better!

What is your goal, working in a particular region?
• Pick the country you want to work in, understand its situation (post conflict; developing; health-related, etc) and start contacting organizations already working in those countries. Look up internships, fellowships, volunteer organizations. Demonstrate your volatility and innovativeness.
• Post conflict regions will have more NGOs, than more stable developing countries that have more general volunteers.
• Do you want to work for the beneficiary?
• Do you want to work for the donors – ie, in a cushy office in the capital city, away from the villagers who need a well to be built in their community?

2. Priya Lakhi

Priya is currently a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of
New York in its Criminal Defense Division. Prior to moving to New York in
2005, she worked in Georgia at the Dekalb County Public Defender
(Atlanta) handling misdemeanor and felony cases as a litigator. She has
also worked at the Georgia Capital Defender office representing clients
throughout the state of Georgia facing the death penalty in trial and
appellate courts and spent many years doing pro bono work with the Georgia
Resource Center with clients who had been sentenced to death during their
final stages of appeal.

She holds a law degree from The Ohio State University (1999), where she
also completed her BA in Sociology and Dance (1996).


She says:

Understand the time frames involved:
• HR work is the kind that DOES take patience, in terms of getting to where you think you want to go / be.
• Must have your own definition for HR – for which you should keep reading, watching the news, talking to people already in HR – so that you feel most fulfilled by the kind of work you are doing.

Internships!
• Internships are crucial, in undergrad and grad school: start early to make as many contacts as you can, so that you can cement a solid job after grad school.
• You don’t know what any experience is going to lead to, so be open minded!

3. Sara Rakita

Sara is a freelance consultant specializing in human rights and African affairs. She is currently consulting at the Ford Foundation, where
she is helping to establish TrustAfrica, an exciting new African grant
making foundation dedicated to supporting creative solutions to the
continent’s most pressing challenges. In the past, she worked
extensively on human rights, transitional justice! and the rule of law in
the Great Lakes region of Africa. She has worked in numerous African
countries, including two years as the representative of Human Rights Watch
in Rwanda, and has also spent time in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of
Congo, Ethiopia, and Uganda among other places. She holds a law degree
from NYU and a master of international affairs from Columbia University.
She speaks fluent French and proficient Spanish and Russian.

She says:

Internships + volunteer work → connections.
• Conduct informational interviews to find out what you can do with yourself.
• Starting at a small organization is helpful – you experience a steep learning curve that serves you well no matter where you go afterwards.
• Don’t neglect the copying and filing jobs you have at organizations, since these segues and transition points that are more important than they might seem at first.
• Communications is a crucial field: non profits haven’t paid enough attention to communications until now, and it is a strong basis for all jobs.
• Engage local activists and local NGOs. Its good to nurture those contacts, too.

Being overseas
• To understand development and HR work, you need to GO to a region, and talk to people.
• Field experience, in my mind, is more important than what your master’s degree is in (law / journalism / public policy / whatever).
• Do the overseas work when you’re younger and more flexible and have less personal responsibility (to family etc)

4. Zubaida Rasul

Zubaida, a national of Pakistan, has worked with the UN for about 13 years in various capacities including HR Officer with the UN in Angola. She has also served in Bosnia, Liberia, Iraq and Sudan on the political side as Political Affairs Officer and on the development planning side as Program Manager. She is a graduate of Columbia University LSMA program in HR and also has earned a Masters in International Business from the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird). She speaks several languages and has lived in many countries.

Zubaida is currently serving as Program Specialist for Emergencies, Humanitarian Affairs and HR in the Division of Arab States, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, in the UN Population Fund. Last year, she worked as Program Manager for Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Occupied Palestinian Territory for the same organization.

She says:

Education and Experience
• I started out corporate, working at Deutsche Bank in Singapore, but got bored of that, even after doing a community project in Indonesia, so I quit! Spent a year in London, partying – I like to have fun! – and was in NYC for a month – still partying! – when I came across the UNICEF office…and I haven’t looked back since then!
• Being from ‘abroad’, or living abroad does NOT count as the kind of experience that NGOs and UN-type organizations are looking for when they ask for post graduate experience in another region.
• Pick your school carefully for your masters degree; eg: CU’s LSMA

Jobs
• A typical beginning HR job at the UN requires a Bachelors degree and “progressively responsible experience” – they want anyone who’s interested, can express that interest, and can prove that they will convert that interest into something relevant and meaningful.
• If you want research jobs, be prepared to deal with a LOT of data.

5. Bede Sheppard

Bede is currently working in the Asia Division of Human Rights
Watch, as the Leonard H. Sandler Fellow, a fellowship for recent Columbia
Law School graduates. At present, he is working on the issue of forced
evictions and land acquisition in Indonesia, and counter-terrorism
legislation in Australia. During his first summer at law school at
Columbia, Bede completed a three month internship with the Human Rights
Clinic at Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone. This Open Society
Institute-supported project trains student members in human rights
fundamentals and advocacy skills. During law school he also interned
within the legal protection unit of the United Nations’ Refugee
Agency (UNHCR) office in Tehran, Iran. Prior to law school, Bede worked
for 15 months with UNHCR in Croatia as an associate field officer,
conducting field surveys and investigations to monitor and evaluate
repatriation and reconstruction programs. Bede has an undergraduate degree
in Politics from Harvard, and a Masters degree from the Fletcher School of
Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he studied international
migration and refugee studies, and development economics.

He says:

• Many HR jobs have short-term contracts, so be prepared to be on the move, dynamic, pro-active
• Research positions are key, when getting masters degrees → give you access to fellowships and unique experiences through the faculty you work closely with

Check out:
Rockefeller Foundation
Ford Foundation
UNICEF
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
International Rescue Committee

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25 Comments »

  1. Traci McGuire said,

    Do you have an email address for Priya Lakhi? The link above is not active.

  2. Muluken Yirga said,

    Hi there,
    There is also a problem of compensation for the expropriation of immovable properties in ethiopia. Even, it is not that much taken in an expeditious manner. People are yelling against the abuser from time to time. Thus, justice is blinded by the unimplemented law of the copuntry. How do you see this? Is it the same? or difference?

  3. Muluken Yirga said,

    Hi there,
    There is also a problem of compensation for the expropriation of immovable properties in ethiopia. Even, it is not that much taken in an expeditious manner. People are yelling at the abuser from time to time. Thus, justice is blinded by the unimplemented law of the copuntry. How do you see this? Is it the same? or difference?

  4. jehad said,

    i would liketo warkfor united nation

    • javed said,

      i want to do with u r organisation…

      • javed said,

        Dear all i think now days hole system is going to in dept they only want tp suck our blood nothing else…

  5. i want to have a job in Islamabad pakistan
    i did my graduation only and want to do some work

  6. Best wishes of Dusshera to whole of the world……….
    I am interested to serve the world with UN,as if I get a chance.

  7. Muluken Yirga said,

    I want to be a UN volunteer.

  8. umesh kumar maurya said,

    I think the whole world is struggling with so many disorders like terrorism, commuanlism, and are lacking of peace and hormony. so irequest everyone to maintain peace and hormony.

  9. Ntumba Sandrine said,

    I am really interested to work in the field of Human Rigths!i have a master degree inlegal aspects of HIV/AIDS from the university of South Africa,and my dream is to share my knowledge ,experiences and skills to communities affected or infected by this infection through NGO or UN activities.

  10. Md.Ershaduzzamn said,

    I would like to work with un body in anywhere around the world even in the srilanka ,pakistan or africa region .I am an humantarian activist and have much more knowledge in community based approach ,capacity building ,project management ,psychosocial and gender issues .Looking forward to your kind comments and appreciation.

    Thanking you,
    Md.Ershaduzzaman
    Bangladesh

  11. HEMANT SRIVASTAVA said,

    Dear Sir/Madam,
    I did PG in human rights and now working as Sr.Executive in a Retail Co.I am very Keen to join the field of Human Rights.Pls suggest.

    Regards
    Hemant

  12. Gunedhor said,

    Well, everybody aims for the best, working with UN is a great opportunity to serve the mankind because world is one. I am lawyer by profession for the last 12 years of course doing well in my profession, even I aim to work with UN but I cannot get the lead to to do. I am an Indian and hails from Manipur, the State of Manipur is well known for her rich culture, but it has become a killing field and a little paradise of insurgency groups and incompetent local politicians, only civilians are the victims. Only UN can save it.

  13. G.M. Shariful Islam said,

    Dear Sir,
    I am G.M. Shariful islam,son of Md. Rahmat Ali, studying in Computer Science & Engineering (3rd year )at Stamford University Bangladesh. I want to work with you. What can I do? please reply.

    • M. Gunedhor said,

      Dear Shariful,

      We can work together by sharing our thougths and views for a healthy and peaceful world. we can organise together to help the down troddens, if you have any views and projects we can go ahead. Call of the day is humanity first self shall take the backseat.

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  15. Nabiul Ahmed said,

    For the last seven years I have been working in the Guwahati High Court, Assam, India, as an Advocate and possess a vast experience in the field of legal service and human rights as well as I also formed a Non Government organization namely HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND WELFARE ORGANISTION in 2003 and later on, this name changed as Indian Citizen Human Right Commission in 2010 to protect the human rights of human being through the said NGO, I have possessed some practical knowledge in day to day life of my professional life that the cases of violation of human right of weaker section of the Societies are rapidly increasing. Now whatsoever, we derived some knowledge from our organization about this, I would like to mention that which may be help for further advancement and deserving the post .

  16. getting a masters degree is of course necessary if you want a wage increase and improvement in your career :.,

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  18. I love human rights but i also love the medical field. I was wondering if anyone could give me insight into how HR and the medical field can be combined? How can I make sure this is the RIGHT field for me?

  19. imran akbar said,

    i have done mba hrm marketing ihave 5 years unicef exp my project is over looking fof a job

  20. انا مايسه محاميه اتمنى العمل فى المنظمات الخيريه وفى مجال حقوق الانسان او غيرها من المنظمات الخدميه مسخرخه كل مالدى من خبره وجهد لخدمة المستضعفين

  21. izharkhan said,

    hiiplz tell me any bodyy i want to do M.A HUMAN RIGHT whats the scope after doinr human right

  22. KIMBERLY said,

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