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Universal Human Rights: In Practice and in Progress. My First Experiences at Madre

This is the first in a series of ten blog posts about the MADRE intern experience from Elaina, a student at Seton Hall. You can find out more about our intern program here.

In just the first eight hours as Program Intern at MADRE, I have learned so much about this international organization!

I have researched our global partners to learn how they work together with MADRE to advance individual and collective human rights around the world. I learned about the challenges faced by displaced Afro-Colombian women and children due to long-standing armed conflict, and how MADRE and its partners LIMPAL and Taller de Vida provide humanitarian aid and education on their constitutional rights. I also learned how the Women Workers’ Committee meets urgent needs of marginalized neighborhoods in Guatemala, providing dental care and women’s reproductive health care for the community.

My first task was to help complete our partner KOFAVIV’s training manual on “Utilizing Humanitarian Mechanisms to Address Gender-Based Violence in Haiti.” The manual promotes a human rights-based approach (as opposed to a needs-based approach) to humanitarian aid and development to ensure that the fundamental rights of every human being are recognized and protected. Furthermore, it calls for civic participation of the community through mobilization and advocacy at the local, national, and international levels. This gave me a good insight into the tools and strategies that KOFAVIV uses to promote women’s human rights and to help women participate effectively in society.

At my desk!

On my second day, I researched our Nicaraguan partner Wangki Tangni’s Women Waterkeepers. I learned that Indigenous Peoples live on the North Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua without health or sanitation infrastructure, a result of government neglect and marginalization. Despite the fact that access to clean water and sanitation was declared a fundamental human right by the United Nations General Assembly in October 2010, many people still have no access to clean water, which exposes them to fatal, waterborne diseases. This assignment helped teach me how clean water education and community involvement can ensure resources are shared equitably and sustainably.

This is my fourth year studying International Relations and Latin American Studies at Seton Hall University; it was truly rewarding to see how the knowledge I had gained from my coursework correlates directly to the human rights issues addressed by MADRE, in turn applying my educational skills to my tasks in the workplace. Between the hands-on knowledge gained from the tasks on Haiti and Nicaragua, as well as the exposure to the successes of the organization as a whole, I couldn’t be more pleased with my rewarding new internship experience at MADRE!