Internship Spotlight: Juliette Chesnel

My name is Juliette Chesnel and I come from Normandy, France. I am a second year Arts student majoring in Political Science and double minoring in International Development studies and Russian Language.

This summer I interned with the Online Spaces Committee at Equitas- International Centre for Human Rights Education. I did not receive academic credit for this internship.

Equitas is a Montreal-based NGO, and a leader in human rights education in Canada. The organisation is committed to advancing equality and social justice through education programs in Canada and around the world. Equitas’ team is working tirelessly toward a world in which meaningful participation, collaboration and equitable partnerships empower individuals and groups, particularly women children and youth, to challenge discrimination, inequality, and exclusion. Equitas follows a five year (2019-2024) strategic plan outlining the organisation’s goals. Combining three pillars – participatory human rights education, a human rights-based approach and gender-based analysis – this strategic plan adopts a holistic plan through, inter alia, the promotion of knowledge & capacity-building. My internship was oriented toward the advancement of this goal. Indeed, the publication of Equitas educational materials on an online database is a significant step promoting knowledge sharing and knowledge management within the organisation.

My responsibilities as an Education Intern were primarily to support the work of the Online Spaces Committee by designing a structure for a database gathering all educational documents for a public of human rights workers. This would help to create a lasting institutional memory and promote knowledge sharing. My daily tasks included conducting interviews with the team to assess their needs, developing terms of references, and analyzing existing Human Rights Education databases. In addition to this main project, I have also been trusted with the bilingual moderation of the human rights online course, Put the World to Rights. This task includes the moderation of discussions forum on a variety of topics related to human rights, the issuance of participation certificates, the supervision of the participants’ progression and the daily monitoring of the online community’s assistance inbox.

Despite the global pandemic and the distance (I worked remotely from France), I was determined to do the internship because it has been an aspiration of mine for a long time to work in Human Rights and to be able to get a truthful insight of the field. My main objective was to understand the development of human rights from a theoretical concept to a métier. How they are applied to a professional setting was obscure to me and I had a great desire to confirm my choice in working in humanitarian and human rights law and advocacy.

During these three months, I had a very rewarding experience filled with personal growth and educational benefits. The presentation that I gave the Education team of the finalized terms of reference about the database was the climax of my internship. The feedback from the Education Director were instructive and I will certainly remember her advice for future projects. Moreover, the moderation of the human rights online courses Put the World to Rights has also been one of the highlights of my internship because I got the opportunity to interact with human rights workers from all over the world and learn about their experience with human rights in their communities.

The internship offered me a forthright insight of the field that can be nebulous to a dilettante audience. Thanks to the monthly check-ins with my internship supervisor, I have been able to truthfully reflect on my future career goals. Open discussions with program officers and the education director led me to see that I am more drawn to human rights law and advocacy rather than education. I am now confident in my choice to study a law degree with a specialisation in international criminal law and human rights law.

One of the challenges that I faced during my internship was the time difference since I was working from France. I was afraid I would be a burden to the team because of that, but I am convinced that communication is key to overcome these obstacles. Being forthright about your needs would be one of the main take-away of this remote experience. Open discussions with my supervisor and the team made me feel welcome and my work valued. Moreover, working remotely modified staggeringly the social interactions, fostering isolation. Virtual coffee breaks and social events (such as a virtual fundraising race) helped promote a positive atmosphere benefiting productivity.

Finally, I would like to thank the Arts Undergraduate Society, the Arts Improvement Fund and the Arts Internship Office for their help and generosity.

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