As this is my final blog, I would like to reflect on my expectations versus the reality of parts of my internship. I would say all in all, my internship did not go the way I thought it would, it was even better than I had expected. I thought I was only going to be focusing on tackling the specific social issues that the organization tackles; which are, drug and substance abuse, neglect, homelessness, and other social issues that lead young people to end up being in conflict with the law. However, as it turns out I spent half of my time learning and attempting to tackle the existing political structure.
Swaziland is an absolute monarch and the work of Phumelela Project, and other NGOs, can be quite limited due to the standing laws of what they can and cannot do. I spend a fair amount of my time meeting with our stakeholders such as the Swaziland Children Consortium, Social Welfare and Manzini Youth care. These meetings were a great platform for me to learn and understand the struggles that children and young adults face in Swaziland. Especially those that have been neglected and/or abused by their families. These meetings were set up in such a way that everyone had a clear understanding of the Swaziland child protection and welfare act and the universal human rights. As such we were all able to identify and classify the areas where we needed to advice, and push the government to focus on.
Attending such meetings taught me a lot about the power of collaboration, especially when there are so many human rights violations face by the populous in the hands of their government. Organizations such as Phumelela are tasked with the responsibility to be the voice of the voiceless. To point out the areas in which people’s rights are being violated even when they cannot see it for themselves. Unfortunately, I left without having witnessed any of the meetings with the government. By the time my internship was over. However, I was pleased with the outcome of all our efforts in maneuvering around the country’s impermeable political structure. This was a gratifying experience for me as a political science and sociology major. Especially learning how to advocate and fight for human rights without being seen as a threat to the ruling authority, which at times proves to be extremely difficult.
Lastly, this was a fruitful experience because there is very little written or documented on Swazi politics, law and custom. You just have to witness it in order for you to know and understand the way things operate. As such, it was such a privilege for me to have worked in such an environment. Moreover, because I want a career in the nonprofit world, this opportunity opened up a lot of gates for me. Due to the multiple collaborations which we did, I was able to make connections with people from other organizations. As such, I was able to enhance my networking skills as well.