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Law & Human Rights Internships in South Africa

Project Overview
  • Placement location: Cape Town
  • Role: To participate in social justice programs, present workshops, raise awareness, and provide legal assistance to people unable to afford legal help.
  • Requirements: None
  • Types of Placement: Projects Abroad Human Rights Office
  • Accommodation: Host Family
  • Length of placement: From 2 weeks
  • Start dates: Flexible

With a long, turbulent history of colonialism and apartheid, South Africa is an important country in which get involved with human rights and assist those who lack the resources to help themselves. As a Projects Abroad intern on the Law & Human Rights Project, you will be able to gain practical experience in the legal field while making an impact on local communities and individuals.

Our Law & Human Rights Project is based in Cape Town. Although the city is regularly voted as one of the most beautiful in the world, there is still a noticeable economic disparity among the population. When you arrive at Cape Town International Airport, you will see this for yourself when you fly over the informal settlement of Khayelitsha.

The work you do at the Law & Human Rights Project will depend on your background, legal knowledge, and level of interest in specific areas. However, no matter your level of experience, you will gain direct experience of human rights law in practice, learn about the legal system, and experience more community involvement with people from all walks of life in Cape Town.

This internship is suitable to all who have an interest in human rights and law, and who are willing to dedicate their time, energy, and skills to helping others. We have welcomed interns of all skill levels, from high school and college students to graduates and professionals.

Interning at the Projects Abroad Human Rights Office in Cape Town

All of our interns are based at the Projects Abroad Human Rights Office (also known as PAHRO), which is located in suburb of Wynberg in Cape Town. Your exact role within the project will be determined by your background, legal knowledge, and level of interest in specific areas.

PAHRO offers free and independent legal advice to those who need it most and our clients come from a number of sources. Many of the people we work with are clients who come into our offices after hearing about our organization through word of mouth. Communities here are close and word travels quickly about what we do and how we have helped others. We also conduct free legal clinics in disadvantaged communities for those who are unable to visit us in the office.

There are a variety of case topics we deal with. These include:

  • Domestic violence and matrimonial matters
  • Labor law
  • Housing matters
  • Human rights violation referrals from the South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)
  • Refugee rights

Immigrant and refugee rights is the biggest focus of the work we do. Due to the instability of a number of countries within the region, South Africa has become a central assembly point for refugees.

Our Mission at the Law & Human Rights Project in South Africa

Volunteer offers legal advice to a local South African woman and child during his internship

The collective mission of the Projects Abroad Human Rights Office is to promote respect for human rights and human dignity by providing good quality, independent legal advice to the poor and vulnerable and also to participate in social justice.

In this regard we cover a broad spectrum of topics within our office. If you want to read more about the office and get an idea of the areas of work we cover, as well as details on the current projects, please visit the Projects Abroad Human Rights Office website.

You can read more detailed information about the aims of the project in our South Africa Human Rights Management Plan.

Your Role as a Law & Human Rights Intern in South Africa

All interns at PAHRO need to be flexible, diligent, and be able to communicate well, as our Law & Human Rights internships are demanding and must be taken seriously. You will be representing a professional organization and you may sometimes have deadlines to meet.

Volunteers work through legal cases in the Projects Abroad Human Rights Office in Cape Town, South Africa

Your internship will typically involve several elements. You might be producing information resources, such as research reports or consulting with clients, or handling case work and writing up legal opinions on these cases. At other times you might coordinate and run workshops in the community on specific human rights aspects. There is plenty for you to become involved with and you will definitely be kept busy.

Please note that if you are a student who has not yet entered university, your performance in the social justice aspects of the project will dictate your level of involvement in any legal work. Your experience will determine the level of legal work you can do, and the more important and complex legal work will l be allocated to interns who have legal experience.

The duration of your internship will also determine what you can get involved with.

If you are only able to intern at PAHRO for 2-4 weeks, you will focus on social justice work. This means that you will:

  • Work on cases for children in need of support in township areas
  • Organize and run education, awareness, and life skills workshops for juvenile offenders and at-risk women
  • Plan and capture case work once a week

If you are interning for 4 weeks or more, your focus will be on legal work as you will have more time to resolve cases. You can expect to:

  • Work on legal cases including refugee, labor, family, and criminal law, as well as other issues
  • Participating in legal clinics
  • Assisting walk-in clients
  • Attend court
  • Conduct moot court hearings

Law & Human Rights interns should expect to work from 8.30am to 4.30pm from Monday to Thursday and then 8.30 to 1.00pm on Fridays. All interns need to show a good level of initiative. How much you get out of this experience is related to what you are prepared to put in. If you show initiative and get involved, ask questions, and make an impact on your supervisors, you will gain a great deal out of the experience.

Human Rights volunteers conduct important research to advise local people and communities in South Africa

The Projects Abroad Human Rights Office closes over the Christmas and New Year period, from December 23rd – January 2nd. This is due to the courts, parliament, and our project partners being closed for the vacation.

While interns can join this project from 2 weeks or longer, we recommend that interns join us for as long as possible. Those interning for 2 to 4 weeks sometimes find that it is not long enough to get as involved as they would have wanted to. However, if you show initiative and fully commit yourself to your work then you are able to get a great amount out of whatever length of time you spend here.

While you’re in South Africa, you might also consider joining a 1 week Conservation & Environment Project. For more information, please visit our African Bushveld Conservation & Environment Project in South Africa page. Our Combinations Page explains how you can combine not only projects, but also destinations.

If you have qualifications or experience in this field then we can make use of your skills volunteering abroad as a professional in South Africa. If you are a high school student and first-time traveler you may want to consider our High School Special programs in South Africa.

Volunteer Profile Former volunteer Emily Dennis shares her experience working on the Law & Human Rights project overseas
Emily Dennis
I never expected the incredible opportunities that I would have while working at the Projects Abroad Human Rights Office. I learned more in my month of interning then I ever could have imagined. It was the first time in my life where I felt like I was doing tangible work, and at the same time, I was actually touching the lives of people. Read more...
Monthly Reports South Africa Human Rights Management Plan

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