FMST Undergrad Works for Human Rights in South Africa

Roya Visconti, Feminist Studies and Legal Studies double-major, spent summer 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa for an internship with the Human Rights Commission. She describes her experience below.

November 09, 2018

Sunset over Cape Town

This past summer I was fortunate enough to spend a little over two months working at the South African Human Rights Commission in Cape Town. I lived in a small neighborhood called Observatory, which had two main roads and a stunning view of Table Mountain, which seemed to loom over me everywhere I went. The experience was nothing short of life changing, as I was able to see firsthand the profound effects of colonialism on a country which has a constitution purported to be the most progressive in the entire world. I quickly realized, through my experiences at the Human Rights and just walking down the street in Cape Town, how much dissonance exists between the reality of people who live in South Africa and the way the constitution says people should be living in a country still ardently battling with the legacy of apartheid.

March against gender-based violence in Cape Town, South Africa
March against gender-based violence

At the Human Rights Commission, I was often given the task of taking complaints from people who alleged to have their human rights violated. Speaking with the folks who came into the Commission was humbling in a way I don’t think words can express. Everyday I walked into the office my privilege smacked me in the face, further igniting the fire in my belly to use it to hold those up who do not have the same. The education I’ve received in the past three years from the Feminist and Legal Studies Departments forced me to critically analyze the way the South African government, in the wake of apartheid, has attempted to effectuate large scale social change through legislation, as well as to compare similar efforts to do the same by the government here, in America. I was also incredibly lucky to be in Cape Town during The Open Book Festival, where authors and intellectuals come together to share their work with the public. At the festival, I gained unique perspectives on queer identity specifically in the South African context, which will inform the way I move forward with my coursework in the Feminist Studies Department, which I am so thankful to for assisting me in having this incredible experience!

Roya hiking in South Africa
Roya hiking along the coast of South Africa.

Roya's trip to South Africa was funded in part by the Feminist Studies Department.  Click here to learn more about undergraduate scholarship opportunities!

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