Summer Internship Series: A Summer of Justice

Imaa Nicco-Annan ’18

Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, Washington, D.C.

My name is Imaa Nicco-Annan and I am a senior at Denison University majoring in International Studies with a concentration on human rights and women empowerment, and a minor in French. This summer I had the privilege of working in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Washington, DC.

Human Rights Watch is a renowned, American-founded international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. The organization is known for its neutral reporting, accurate fact-finding, effective use of media, and targeted advocacy. This is often in collaboration with local human rights groups. Human Rights Watch also publishes more than 100 reports and briefings on human rights conditions in some 90 countries, generating extensive coverage in local and international media, some of which we, as interns, had the privilege of drafting.

My responsibilities as the Africa Division Intern were to draft reports and documents regarding issues in Africa while interacting with other US and international organizations, and foreign and domestic government officials.  A typical day of work involved monitoring the media for human rights issues occurring in select countries in West Africa; namely Senegal, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Gambia. My colleagues and I were assigned typical intern tasks such as filing and scanning documents, attending external meetings, flagging and sending emails regarding important press releases. However, we were also given a lot of leeway to work on tasks that were more geared towards our personal interests.

Human Rights Watch organized weekly “Speaker Series” where professionals within the organization would speak on varying issues which helped broaden my knowledge about the gravity of some human rights issues that I initially was not aware of. Through this internship, I gained direct exposure to the working on an international human rights organization. I also had the opportunity to network with several professionals in the legal and non-profit fields at leadership conferences hosted by Google, the French Embassy and Human Rights Watch. I was given the opportunity to draft a report on Guinea’s bauxite mining industry that is due for publication sometime this year. I was also assigned a task to identify locations and numbers of Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps in Mali following clashes in 2012.

Through this internship, I greatly improved upon my research, analytical and critical thinking skills. This summer at Human Rights Watch served as a great avenue to learn about the employed strategies and efforts that are placed in investigations on issues of human rights abuses; and in the exposure of facts that generate extensive media coverage and eventually, changes in policy. It also gave me the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in human rights advocacy field which I plan to pursue as a career, and honed my existent skills while simultaneously acquiring new ones. In addition, this internship helped me build my confidence as I attended various conferences and forums and networked with numerous professionals in the legal field.

My summer at Human Rights Watch has helped me guide my professional path and goals. I am certain that I want to work in an organization that focuses more on legislation of policies to protect human rights and eventually go to law school with the hopes of becoming a defense attorney.

I would like to thank Jim Wormington, Corinne Dufka, Lauren Seibert, and my coworkers-MJ, Charline and Gen for an enriching summer experience in DC.