Fizzah Riaz

I started my internship journey at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in December 2018 as part of AMU3744: Workplace Learning Internship. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan was established in 1987 by one of Pakistan’s most renowned lawyers and social activists and winner of the United Nations Human Rights Prize, Asma Jahangir (late). Since its formation, HRCP has identified itself as a non-governmental, non-political, non-profit organisation committed to monitoring and documenting human rights violations across Pakistan and bringing these violations to justice through public campaigns, lobbying and intervention in courts.

During my two months at HRCP, I was able to participate and plan many community events tackling important topics such as Gender-based Violence, Digital Rights and Pakistan’s ongoing Anti-Encroachment issue. Apart from my day-to-day tasks which involved filing and preparing digital archives of official complaints received by HRCP, translating reports to English, and lastly, writing and compiling reports and meeting minutes, I was given the wonderful opportunity to start an independent research project on the LGBTQI+ community of Pakistan. The need for this research project was also supported by HRCP’s 2017 Annual Report whereby it was noted that more attention and action was required around this community as there are no legal channels and forms of documentation available. The day-to-day tasks along with my independent research project helped strengthen and polish my communication and social skills as well as provide me with the perfect opportunity to apply my research skills.

Having been fortunate to spend two months in HRCP and getting a deeper insight into how the sphere of activism works, my internship experience instilled in me three extremely valuable qualities: taking constructive criticism, strengthening leadership and increasing greater confidence. Being my first time in an NGO setting, my journey at HRCP taught me how to take constructive criticism well and how to maximise my potential while working on my weaknesses. At times, I would proactively seek feedback from my seniors so I could learn and identify my weaknesses. Being an intern with an independent project, I had to take ownership of the project which came with making several important decisions pivotal to the success of the research project. As the project was centred around Pakistan’s sexual minority groups, an area often neglected by policy-makers, I felt a sense of great responsibility which in hindsight, I believe helped strengthen my confidence with regard to projects I would like to take on in future. Lastly, networking and conducting research interviews polished my communication and social skills which, along with many others, is an invaluable trait.

Furthermore, being a student at Monash University's School of Arts and Social Sciences and because of its diverse course selection, I was able to tie together my three main areas of interest: Communications, Global Studies and Gender Studies. Having learned and gained a more theoretical perspective in my first two years, AMU3744 provided me with the opportunity to apply classroom discussions to the complex day-to-day realities involved in activism in Pakistan which is everchanging in our highly globalised environment. Learning outcomes from the units undertaken prior to internship had a significant impact on every step I took during my time at HRCP. This was especially helpful during my independent research project as my courses had equipped and sensitized me to the needs and daily struggles of the sexual minority groups in Pakistan. Through my units from Gender Studies, I gained the confidence to communicate further with members of the community. By viewing the intricacies involved in the NGO circuit through the lens of gender and sexuality, a quality I learned in Gender Studies units, my perspective was further broadened and I was able to make better, more inclusive and well-informed decisions.

My years at Monash University have undoubtedly prepared me to critically analyse and unpack socially constructed ideas prevalent in our society. I have learned how to raise awareness, the right timing and the right techniques to make an impact on a large scale. Moreover, these courses have also broadened my horizon on understanding the struggles faced by sexual minority groups. I feel passionately for this subject and with the hunger to learn and explore this area more, I have realised that I would want to pursue a career in the field which will enable me to positive impact on society by having a more inclusive and diverse workforce.