A week with René Cassin

1 Jul, 2024 | Work Experience

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By Aria Nesheim, work experience student, June 2024

As someone who has always been very politically aware, having read the news regularly and been up to date on the latest events in parliament, I was aware of human rights issues within the UK, and I knew I wanted to learn more about the sector in my week of work experience. I encountered René Cassin by recommendation, but little did I know just how much value I would obtain from just a week as a work experience student.

I entered the week excited if apprehensive having never done work experience before and unsure of what to expect, especially since I was only going to be working in-person one day that week, but I was delighted to find that I was immersed and involved from Day 1.

I was astounded by the care and diligence of the René Cassin team for their work as well as their knowledgeability about their campaigns and their friendliness at making a newcomer feel welcome and involved. I did not expect to be as immersed as I was but throughout my time there I was interested, invested, and engrossed. My work felt valued.

During my week with René Cassin, I gained a wealth of knowledge about human rights work within the UK and how human rights organisations campaign. I experienced firsthand how campaigns are planned and the detail in development that is necessary for an effective campaign. I came away from it with deep respect for the dedication of employees in the human rights sector.

Over the week, I worked through three main tasks, starting off with compiling lists of journalists’ contacts, then researching the impact of lowering the voting age on politics and consequently on human rights, before developing my own project plan on the campaign in protest of Uyghur forced labour.

 While an issue which I initially knew little about, my week with René Cassin opened my eyes and educated me about modern slavery in the fashion industry, which was humbling in that it was upsetting to learn about but also empowering in that it taught me that there are ways to make a difference and help people if we educate ourselves and then commit to making a change.

During my project plan, I created a presentation to deliver at school and I developed a social media post to help raise awareness. Both these actions taught me valuable skills in campaigning. Designing a social media post forced me to think creatively about my target audience and how to galvanize people online to take action while developing a presentation and encouraged me to be creative in other ways as I had to balance being informative with being engaging.

Throughout it, I received support from the René Cassin team who gave me valuable advice on how to successfully campaign and the lessons I have been taught will stay with me the rest of my life.

In addition to my tasks, I also attended various meetings throughout this week. From a team meeting in the office about the various tasks each team member was carrying out to an economic, social, and cultural rights coalition meeting about the upcoming election, I received a fascinating and authentic taster of working in the human rights sector. The highlight of my week was most definitely attending the different meetings particularly the OLAM and partners meet-up that discussed the network of Jewish development and humanitarian organisations. It was fascinating to learn about how different organisations work together and support each other and it was inspiring to meet people so passionate about social justice.

Finally, it was thrilling to experience the work of NGOs in the lead-up to a general election because it helped me understand how organisations advocating for legislative change pivot and shape their campaigns around political events. Subconsciously, I was aware of the links between human rights work and politics, but I had not truly considered how intertwined they are, particularly when the goal is to enshrine human rights principles domestic law.

My experience with René Cassin was beneficial not only because it taught me valuable skills but because it inspired me to do more and care more. The passion and hard work displayed opened my eyes to the importance of NGOs and to the employees whose passion drives them to make a difference. I came into René Cassin interested to learn about human rights in the UK and I left determined to stay involved.

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