My name is Lia Rozenbloom Holla and since childhood, I have been fascinated by the process of peacebuilding and demilitarization. Having contextualized war at a young age instilled an immense passion and valuation for peace and an intense curiosity as to what factors facilitate conflict and violence and which facilitate peace. Over the past year, I have been in the process of approval for an ADHOC peace and violence studies so I can center my academic studies around my passion. If it is not approved, I will try and focus my Political Science major on classes focused on peace, conflict and international foreign policy.
This summer I was thrilled to be able to learn from leaders in the field of peace and disarmament academia and policy with Canadian Voice of Women (VOW). VOW is Canada’s oldest feminist organization focused on promoting peace locally, nationally, and internationally. They are non-partisan, non-profit membership-based NGO with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and the United Nations Department of Public Information. VOW was the Canadian lead group for peace at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Members have been active in follow-up activities, including writing the chapter, “Women and Peace” in Take Action for Equality, Development and Peace. They have been attending the Commission on the Status of Women for many years and they played a significant role in the international lobby which succeeded in the adoption in 2000 of the landmark Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. This resolution is noted as a major breakthrough as it is the first official, legally document reaffirming the important role of women in conflict prevention, management, conflict resolution and sustainable peace. Governments are obliged to implement this with plans of action.
Additionally, every year for decades, VOW has taken a delegation of Canadian women from different ages and backgrounds to the United Nations where they meet with local and international advocacy groups from around the world, attend parallel events, lobby diplomats and even host their own conferences and sessions. When I was accepted, I was thrilled at the prospect of gaining first-hand experience working with a feminist peace and security NGO and learning about how NGOs work with and operate with in the United Nations.
As an intern, I assisted the National Coordinator Vanessa Langtinge. My favourite responsibilities included recruiting and managing volunteers, researching and drafting official letters to government officials and other official bodies and coordinating a social media campaign against a multibillion governmental deal. I have been in ongoing communication with a couple of members of parliament on behalf of VOW in regards to the aforementioned fighter jet deal and making revisions to a petition that will soon be presented in the House of Commons. Learning how to go through official government channels to make a policy change has by far been one of the highlights of my internship. Other highlights include learning how to register NGOs for UN status and doing preparatory work for the 2021 UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Other responsibilities included maintaining the membership database, editing, filing communications and coordinating with the organization’s accountant. My internship with VOW allowed me to see the realities and logistical end of change-making and has also allowed me to contextualize the financial limitations of the not-for-profit sector. I was able to familiarize myself with other NGOs and relevant actors in the field of peace and disarmament and made many meaningful connections and contacts.
Over the next semester, I plan to be getting credit through the Political Science Department under the supervision of Prof. Rex Brynen. I plan to research the role of private actors such as businesses and NGOs in arms control policy over the upcoming fall semester. I feel grateful for the opportunity to have my first-hand experience working with an NGO in the security sector to inform my academia and research.
Working online required me some adaptation. Working collaboratively was more challenging then I had expected, as cultivating meaningful relationships is much easier in an office context than purely over Skype and Zoom. I grew to love the freedom of being able to work from different places and outdoor spaces around the city. My tip for future students pursuing online internships would be to try and change environments semi-frequently. Additionally, I would recommend keeping a calendar with daily weekly and monthly goals; having general overarching goals and specific to-do lists goals helped my budget my time and structure my week to maximize efficiency and stay on top of deadlines.
The funds generously awarded to me by the Arts Internship Award were used to pay my rent, groceries, wi-fi bill, and other important expenses. The funds helped me overcome financial barrier to gaining this invaluable experience of this unpaid full-time internship. This internship shaped how I see my future career and ambitions and left me with a practical and meaningful experience that will inform my future of academia and work.