In March, the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship awarded internship grants to Wesleyan students planning to spend their summers pursuing experiences in diverse fields of social change. Each grant recipient was asked to report back on his/her work with blog posts and photos. Here’s one, a report from Wesley Close ’15, a Latin American Studies major who spent his summer working for Human Rights Advocacy Centre in Accra, Ghana. Read other grant recipient blog posts here.
Every day on my tro tro (Accra’s public transportation system that consists of mini-busses that fit about 20-25 people) ride from The Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) to my homestay in the small town of Nungua, I realized more and more how the law and human rights are one in the same. During my eight week internship working with both Ghanaian and foreign human rights activists/ lawyers, I was able to see social progress from two different perspectives: though human contact and through the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. I got the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life: from government officials to refugees. I learned that human rights is not only about pushing against the pre-established system, but also manipulating that system to promote humanity and justice.
As a human rights intern at HRAC, I was placed on a project called the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). My duty was to research cases of domestic violence in Ghana in correlation to the spread of HIV and AIDs. The purpose of the PEPFAR project was to advocate for free access to Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to decelerate the spread of HIV and AIDS from sexual violence and abuse. My position on the PEPFA team allowed me to attend meetings with members of the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana, and I was given the extraordinary opportunity to meet influential Ghanaian human right activists like Nana Oye Lithur, Ghana’s Minister for Gender, Children, and Social Protection.
Through Minister Oye Lithur, we were able to travel to Northern Ghana to the Gambaga witch camps, and interview Ghanaian women who have need ostracized from mainstream society because of their alleged link to witchcraft. Interning with HRAC helped me realized that human rights is not only about abuse and discrimination, but I realized that human rights is fighting time and thought. To most westerners it seems outrageous and outdated that many Ghanaians still believe in witches, but that is still an active part of the culture.
The Wesleyan Summer Experience Grant was the only reason I was able to work with such influential leaders on these greatly controversial projects. I now understand why international human rights are so important. The world and its nations do not always function on the same playing field, and human rights is trying to get everyone on the same page. My summer in Ghana was truly an experience and I will forever be grateful to Wesleyan for allowing me to explore beyond my abilities and beyond the boarder of my own country.