My work at the Western Cape (WC) providence South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) could not have started any faster. Work at the SAHRC has been fairly hectic so far, causing me significant stress to work quickly and perform at high standards. I couldn’t be happier, though, because I feel that my skills are being fully utilized and challenged. Also, my experiences at the SAHRC have already given me hope that social justice and reconciliation are still happening in South Africa. Furthermore, I am so glad I am working at more than one organization and position. I would not have had as deep of an experience if I had limited myself to only one internship, industry, and organization—no matter which placement it was.
So far, the majority of my work has been in relation to issues within farm dweller communities. In several of the WC’s rural towns, farm workers have recently been conducting strikes to raise awareness of violations of their human and legal rights pertaining to labor, housing, education, policing/justice, social security, and transportation. Unfortunately, many of these strikes have turned violent, often through police-initiated brutality. In relation to farm dweller rights, my work has consisted of:
- Creating a report on my research of historical and current farm dweller issues, relevant regulatory bodies, related stakeholders, and citing of each reference
- Meeting with stakeholders including the Department of Agriculture, Women on Farms, PLAAS, LHR, Cheadle Thompson & Haysom Inc. Attorneys, Western Cape Economic Development Partnership, SPP, Mawubuye LRM, and CSAAWU for a roundtable discussion about the issues surrounding farm dweller communities to map current problems and stakeholder responsibilities.
- Summarizing the stakeholder meeting in a report to SAHRC headquarters in Jo’burg
- Writing and editing the stakeholder meeting minutes and contact details to be sent to each participant
- Visiting de Doorns to assist with complainant interviews
My other responsibilities at the SAHRC include:
- Visiting Parliament to listen to the SAHRC presentation on Water and Sanitation Findings to the Department of Human Settlements
- Meeting regularly with the WC staff and legal officers working on farm dwellers’ rights
- Reading several newspapers daily to identify and file human rights issues for future research
- Training for the filing and input of new complainants
- Assisting administrative duties by answering calls and managing complainant intake
- Logging detailed minutes of my daily work
It is hard to believe that I’ve been working at the SAHRC for less than a month. I am intrigued to see what other issues I will work with later. Thus far, my manager has been very present and communicated openly about the importance of balancing the Commission’s needs with my own personal and professional goals. I am looking forward to see what else I learn through my new placement.