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An intern’s testimony

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

Internships all vary.

Big organization to small organization. Established institutions to underfunded municipalities. Albeit large in differentiations, they all offer something. It might provide you with a good understanding of where you don’t want to work or the opposite. Nonetheless, these different internships offer one in rule always a new sense of one’s purpose and goals. I have done just that.

I am a human rights student doing my internship as a part of a bachelor’s program.

I had the opportunity to hit the mark with my internship at Do Good Now. A small organization with competent people from mixed backgrounds. It could be leading actors from the corporate world, exciting authors, inspiring social workers and thorough institutional stateswomen. So, a small organization, yes, but a very strong one in its capacities and with a will and appreciation of what I, the mere intern, could offer them.

I was put to work researching human rights studies, issues, reports and putting all of that into our social media and upcoming guest lectures at different high schools. I thought of these working fields as a pretty standard delegation in terms of workload for an intern. Going about my business Monday to Friday, September through January, regular hours, and that would be it. This might sound boring, but I enjoy it. I am studying different materials in areas that I love and working with something I can see myself working with in the future! However, it would all change for the better. A weekly Thursday meeting came to an end. I was about to grab the tram to work; student loans only get one so far in Stockholm when our founder Ulrika grabbed hold of me. She asked me if I would be interested in coming with them to Nepal in 3 weeks. Everything came to a halt, especially in the brain department.

So, my brain had what many would describe in the common tongue as “mental breakdown”. It went: “Tram was leaving in 5 minutes, my mental calendar wasn’t available at the moment, would I be able to fund it, when was my girlfriend going to come to visit, my will to go, tram…dates…calendar…”

So, my first response was:” What dates?” Evidently, a major mental breakdown. She replied with the dates, and I realized how unappreciative my first response was, tried in my best effort to recover: “Oh okay, I think I need to check my calendar, I would really love to go, but can I contact you about it?”

What a recovery that was…

Well, my mind managed to reboot, and after I got on the tram, I texted Ulrika telling her there was nothing to think about; she could count me in. So, there we were, a shocked intern suddenly preparing to take part in this voyage to Nepal and how exciting I was. The interviews, the different visits to the projects, all of the new things I would learn and all of that came to be.

Nepal is something very different. A fellow travel companion said: “I’ve been here several times, and I never seize to be amazed”. A feeling I strongly related to. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is like back home. And there was no negative feeling about it or toward Nepal; it was just so fascinating. We live on the same globe, our bodies work the same way, albeit mine is more sensitive to the sun, but our worlds and environments are widely incomparable. How can this be?

The variation in socio-economical standings is vivid to the western eye, to theirs too, and the arguments would place a similar truth to it: that’s just the way things are. From a western perspective, Nepal is just too corrupt, dysfunctional, and unable to achieve social change and development in terms of standard of living. A Nepalese might just simply say: casts determine our lives, and that’s how it is. Nevertheless, attempts for social change feels more like exceptions than norms. It relies on individual people and organizations who strive to make a change.

I learned from a local that a Nepalese who fled human trafficking in the middle east and made it to the embassy was simply offered the cold hand, saying: “well, what did you expect?”

The person eventually got back to Nepal, but the stigma says it all. There is no widespread norm that the officials necessarily see different social challenges and human rights issues for what they are: problems that need to be solved. To achieve social change, there needs to be a top-bottom as much as bottom-top strive to obtain that change.

With that being said, I strongly want to believe that there is a will for a better standard of living, better socio-economical preconditions and safety in person. But, how could I make that argument? I simply build my argument on the previous but also on other things. I said that there is, to me, no feeling of a top-bottom attempt to battle human rights issues such as human trafficking. I also got a sense of “things are what they are”. Well, both yes and no. If there was no sentiment or urge to obtain a better standard of living, why would there be hundreds in line to catch a flight to Dubai? Not just any line, in Katmandu airport, there is a separate line for migrant workers. “A1 – Nepali Migrant Workers”. International airports are a part of national interest, so my feeling of governmental lack of strive for stopping forced labor of Nepali workers could be confirmed in a way. However, Nepali do want to raise their standard of living; they don’t want things to be as they are because they have to be what they are. If they were satisfied, would they jeopardize their life and safety to build some monstrous buildings in Qatar? No, they wouldn’t.

This very separate entrance for Nepali migrant workers dawned something on me. They go abroad to unsafe work conditions because they do want to obtain a higher standard of living. They want change. And that’s where we come in. If we can contribute to grant schools, infrastructure, houses, craftsmanship and empowerment to Nepali people, they can raise the standard of living from within and that on a broader scale.

What if projects were national instead of local? What if there were more top-bottom initiatives? Well, if there is something I’ve learned, states generally tend to drag their feet until the people or corporate opinions force them to make reforms. I strongly feel that this is the situation here as well. We, the global people, need in solidarity with Nepali people to work for a change. It might start local, but it will grow regional and later, when the state sees where the winds are blowing, national.

I am a mere intern, not an expert, but I strongly advocate more significant corporate responsibilities and global solidarity. The general rule of human rights violations, or the root of many, are socio-economical preconditions forcing people into unfavorable standings in society and therefore exploited due to lack of capacity or power to be independent and free. These bottom-up local projects help small groups of people at a time, yes, but when small becomes large, these groups will pave the way for social change. For we live in a global world, with international interests, with global markets and challenges, and they will all benefit from an equal world. Or would the argument be that Sweden was more prosperous with a limited amount of educated people a hundred years ago compared to today’s Sweden? A raised standard of living isn’t a left-right issue; it’s a global one. Let’s act like it.

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