What to expect from a gender equality internship in Africa
At Roots, we believe that as an intern, you can drive social change while also developing a skill set that is valuable on both a professional and personal level. You can boost your resume while contributing to an important cause. One of these focus areas is female empowerment; a multidimensional cause focused on guiding women on their journey for self-worth and independence. We’re proud to offer several female empowerment internships with Africa-based organizations fighting gender inequality on different levels. Here are the recent stories of three powerful women who joined us in the field.
– By Emilia Simpson
Fighting for gender equality and women’s rights is a difficult task to do on your own. Through our female empowerment internships, you’ll have the opportunity to turn your passion into real social impact by joining an African nonprofit organization dedicated to this cause. You can join an NGO in South Africa that fights gender-based violence, or you can venture to Zambia to support skill-based development programs designed to empower local women. Either way, you’ll be part of an important initiative that gives girls and women the tools they need to thrive.
GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE INITIATIVE IN SOUTH AFRICA
One of the nonprofits you can join as an intern is Kwanele, a South African nonprofit organization that promotes women’s empowerment through innovative technological solutions. They focus on offering vital support to victims of gender-based violence in Cape Town. GBV within South Africa affects over 41,000 women per year, however, during the COVID-19 outbreak, that number has increased by 500 percent. In order to address this issue effectively, Kwanele is developing an app that gives victims psychological and legal support. Their mission is to increase safety as they track the occurrences of violent events and assist women in the search for justice.
FIGHTING GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE DURING AN INTERNSHIP
This start-up nonprofit welcomes interns on board their small team. One of their most recent interns is Chelsey, a student at the University of Liverpool, who mostly focused on communications and fundraising projects. The internship experience —and the personal stories of GBV victims she came across— had a profound impact on her. She tells us about a six-year-old girl, who was sexually abused and then physically assaulted by her stepdad. “I just remember reading the article about how excited she was to go back to school and see her friends. She was counting down the days and just couldn’t wait. But that was just absolutely heartbreaking, especially since I remember being that age and the excitement of going back to school. To think that somebody so young has had their life taken away from them, and especially in such a brutal and underplayed way”.
Because of stories like these, Chelsey fought hard to make a difference during her internship. One of her tasks was to create strategies and campaigns to increase Kwanele’s reach. Through her work she has helped many in need: “through social media and growing our following, and helping to facilitate these discussions about gender-based violence —I’ve created posts supporting survivors and encouraging them to speak up—, I’d like to think in that sense I’ve empowered people”.
AN IN-PERSON INTERNSHIP TO BOOST CAREER DEVELOPMENT
Another intern who joined Kwanele recently is Sara, a Cal State University Northridge graduate with a degree in Public Health. She’s currently in the process of starting a nonprofit in the field of gender-based violence, which led her to the decision to gain some work experience with Kwanele. During Sara’s internship, her work mainly consisted of “assisting with building the database of services that users of the Kwanele App will utilize, as well as many other administrative and operational projects that will help to move the mission of Kwanele forward.”
Sara’s experience has been beneficial both on a personal and professional level. “Honestly, the whole experience has been impactful. With each new task I am building skills, and learning the language of nonprofits, which gives me the confidence I need to achieve what I’ve always wanted to in life —to use my work ethic and professional skills and apply them to purposeful work”.
A huge benefit of working as part of a small team is that you get to work directly with the founders and visionaries of the organization. In Sara’s case, it meant working with Leonora, Kwanele’s founder. “I admire her commitment and passion for helping anyone who has experienced gender-based violence,” says Sara. “Meeting with other organizations and key partners dedicated to the same goal, gives me hope that collectively we are all going to make a difference and make it safer to be a woman in the world”.
WOMEN’S EDUCATION INITIATIVE IN ZAMBIA
Another inspiring internship experience is offered by Baobuyu Learning Center, an education-focused nonprofit in Livingstone, Zambia. Based in a village on the outskirts of Livingstone, Baobuyu offers quality education to kids, and skill development workshops for adults in their community. In addition, they offer female empowerment workshops for girls and women who seek support in their personal and professional development.
PROMOTING WOMEN’S EDUCATION DURING AN INTERNSHIP
This center provides wonderful hands-on internships focused on education, communications, fundraising – and female empowerment. One of Baobuyu’s recent interns is Shelby, who’s doing her masters degree in public administration at University of Southern California to pursue her career. Shelby ventured to Zambia to focus on female empowerment, and ended up playing a vital role in both the development and the running of support groups and workshops for girls and women. “We have had so much fun with different activities like art, dancing, and yoga while also tapping into deeper topics like peer pressure, healthy relationships, and integrity,” she recalls.
A particularly meaningful moment in Shelby’s internship was during her weekly girl-power group meetings. They had been discussing the role of different women throughout history; “women like Frida Khalo, Maya Angelou, Mother Theresa, and Indira Ghandi. In learning about Frida, each of the girls did their own self-portrait. As they expressed who they are and what they want to become, I saw their faces light up, and for a moment I saw the whole world light up. Each girl deserves to know that she has the power to be the change and the light we need in this world. I can’t wait to visit again and see all that they have accomplished and who they have become. I’m already so proud.”
Impact during these internships is two-fold. Obviously, the nonprofit hosts – and consequently their beneficiaries – can thrive from having the extra pair of hands to help develop their programs. But the experience can have an impact on the intern, too – and inspire them to do great things in their future career. “I hope that I have had even a small fraction of the impact on the women here as they have had on me,” says Shelby.
BENEFITS FROM FEMALE EMPOWERMENT INTERNSHIPS
The benefits of female empowerment internships in Africa can be expressed in multiple ways; through the people you meet, how you grow on a personal level, and the professional skills you acquire. These combined allow our interns to get closer to their future aspirations.
In Chelsey’s case, her internship led to a job, as she was offered to stay onboard with Kwanele; “My internship has turned into a part-time job, and hopefully from that I will be able to continue after I graduate. (…) When I joined I had no experience with social media or marketing or anything like that at all, and it’s very much been a learning process. But I do enjoy what I do and it’s very rewarding, especially working for an issue as big and as concerning as this”.
As for Sara, due to her experiences and learnings during her internship, she’s one step closer to fulfilling her life-long dream: “At this stage in my life, and with my previous experience with startups I feel ready to start my own organization. Working alongside Leo (…) and now having some first hand experience working within her organization has given me the confidence to work in this space”.
Lastly, Shelby has gained the experience she needed to expand her resume. On top of that, working with Baobuyu has allowed her to develop valuable personal and professional skills; “This experience has opened a lot of doors for me. (…) As I have found tasks and projects that combine my passion for advocacy and equality in education, I have expanded several skill sets and my network. Through my experience here, I feel more confident as a student and professional; I am eager to keep working in international social development and hopefully be another voice to support the empowering of women all over the world”.