Placement Feedback

2018

York

Our group undertook a project to identify problems faced by women in York and derive priorities for our project partners, York Women's Forum (YWF) and York Human Rights City Network (YHRCN), to focus on within a rights-based framework. We all shared a strong interest in women's rights and selected this placement because it offered an opportunity to contribute a useful means of furthering productive discussions in York.

Across the two weeks, we used our research on women's international human rights and the city to create a survey that we then conducted across York. Committed to having as representative a sample as possible, we collaborated with community hubs and cafés, as well as local organisations like York Travellers' Trust and Kyra, to conduct the survey with a variety of people. It was an eye-opening experience to see the realities of the city beyond the tourist/student perspective, and particularly rewarding to provide a platform to individuals who are often otherwise marginalised, such as adults with learning disabilities and those caring for relatives with Alzheimer's. This is especially so since we ultimately produced a report that our partners found very beneficial to developing their work and encouraged us to disseminate further, with YWF inviting us to present the findings at one of their events and YHRCN publishing the report on their website.

The placement took hard work and a lot of group determination, but it was a great opportunity to develop and enhance many important skills, including: carrying out desk-based research to inform research approaches, understanding and complying with ethical principles, and adapting communication to different audiences. In addition to the invaluable experience we gained in taking the knowledge and training we had acquired in the classroom to a practical project, it was so enriching to make this small contribution to the ongoing efforts to address gendered issues in local society. As a team, we were immensely proud of what we achieved together and know that this has been a formative experience – both for the rest of our studies and our careers beyond.

Sarah McCloskey, LLM student 2018/19; Abisola Ayo, LLM student 2018/19; Chloe Amies, MA student 2018/19; Claudia Hermida Ramos, MA student 2018/19; Keleisha Robinson, MA student 2018/19

2017

Malaysia

As a part-time student, I was eager to start my second year of the course because of the two-week placement. When we received information on the placements I was spoilt for choice with exciting projects in York and Malaysia. I couldn't resist the unique opportunity to work with an NGO in South-East Asia, an area of the world I had never visited!

I chose to work on the Law of Asylum project with North South Initiative, a small organisation focused on, amongst other issues, advocating for refugees and migrant workers. The aim of the project was to investigate the role of lawyers and the legal system in Malaysia in providing protection to refugees, despite Malaysia not being signatory to international frameworks concerning refugees and an absence of any domestic framework for refugee protection. I worked in a group of 4 students to interview lawyers who either work on refugee cases or wanted to expand their work to include refugees. The experience was eye-opening as lawyers discussed how they operate within Malaysia whilst facing challenges including limited training and poor access to legal aid. I was struck by the citizenship requirement of the majority of the few legal aid schemes in the country. This eligibility criteria detrimentally affects refugees as they are, by definition, not Malaysian citizens and are therefore unable to benefit from these schemes. This demonstrated to me that perhaps access to justice is not, practically, available for refugees.

Having returned to my studies after several years working on refugee issues, I found the placement cemented my interest in the area and allowed me to develop skills in conducting human rights research including: arranging interviews; translating desk-based research to interview questions; navigating a new culture; understanding and complying with ethical principles both my own and those of the university; interviewing and identifying themes arising out of the data gathered from interviews and questionnaires.
    
Although the placement was hard work, there were plenty of opportunities to explore Kuala Lumpur and its exciting culture and amazing food!

Victoria Dunford, LLM student 2016/17-2017/18

The opportunity to do a placement in Malaysia was one of the reasons I chose to do my human rights law degree in York. In this day and age concrete work experience is essential but gaining experience in the field of human rights may not always be easy as the field is competitive and often quite specialist. The placement options the university offers cater to different type of specialist and general interests within human rights which I found absolutely fantastic as there is a good chance that you will get to work on a topic that is close to your heart and matches your career aspirations. Furthermore, Kuala Lumpur is a brilliant destination for a human rights placement as the human rights scene is very vibrant and active and the levels of professionalism and passion are high. It gives you a chance to explore Malaysia not just as a tourist but as someone concretely involved in the society.

I chose the Women's Aid Organisation as my project partner and have been working on creating a policy document on how to improve women's shelters in Malaysia together with my team. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in domestic violence, a field which tends to require existing work experience. My placement has been very rewarding as it has given me the intellectual satisfaction of planning a well-researched policy document on a topic I am passionate about, with the added satisfaction of knowing that the policy brief could potentially help Malaysian women. Interviewing and meeting shelter workers and a member of the government was perhaps my favourite part of the project as it was a great chance to interact with individuals that speak from experience and know the struggles, difficulties and needs of the women on a very intimate level.

I would strongly recommend this programme to anyone with a passion for both understanding human rights from an academic point of view and working in the field. Before the field trip there are lectures and seminars dealing with topics such as ethics, research and team work, topics that are crucial to master in the human rights field but may in many cases not be taught outside of the lecture room. In this programme you get to concretely apply all these topics in practice which makes this program not only unique but extremely useful and rewarding. I would further add that this is a perfect opportunity for LLM students not pursuing a legal career to see how their knowledge of international human rights law could be used in a number of settings, work environments and projects.

Raakel Saarinen, LLM student 2017/2018

York

One of the key components of the LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice is the two-week placement period towards the end of the first semester. Students are given the opportunity to conduct a research project in partnership with an organisation that is currently engaged in human rights work.

All students of the LLM are offered a choice between completing the placement period in York or Malaysia. I made the decision to remain in York and, with three colleagues from both the MA and LLM programmes, undertook a project working with the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN). Our group was tasked with researching good practices in the enablement of refugee leadership and participation across the Asia Pacific region. This research had been designed to feed into APRRN’s ongoing submissions to current dialogues surrounding the Global Compact on Refugees. As a team, we worked primarily over Skype, interviewing people involved with refugee projects in India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand. This was an invaluable opportunity to learn and practice some of the technical skills and competencies required for professional work in the human rights field with the supervision of the Centre's academic staff.

The placement period is challenging, there is no doubt about that. But the Centre for Applied Human Rights offers a strong support network to the students throughout placement process; this encompasses opportunities to foster strong relationships with teammates, guidance from the project supervisors, and the preparatory Defending Human Rights module.

I cannot overestimate the value of the placement; my experiences were immensely rewarding and incredibly interesting. Throughout the entirety of the process, I have continued to expand my understanding of human rights and their practice in a wide variety of contexts. I thoroughly enjoyed the Defending Human Rights module and would recommend the course as a whole to anyone looking to study human rights in practical and applied manner.

Alice Trotter, LLM student 2017/18

The sole motive behind my joining the LLM at the University of York has been its unique feature of placing students for two weeks with different human rights organisations within the UK and abroad. Perhaps no university in the United Kingdom offers this sort of practical opportunity and that's the hallmark of this degree program. Luckily and to my amazement, the list of placement organisations given also included North Yorkshire Police and I opted for it before giving it a second thought. The University of York's Center for Applied Human Rights and North Yorkshire Police are partner organisations in furthering the cause behind the York Human Rights City project. What could be more rewarding for a police officer than to have a placement with another police force abroad known best for upholding professional, democratic and human rights values!

Before the start of this placement, we were prepared academically and equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to work with a public sector organisation. Step by step guidance and supervision by the project supervisor remained the best thing so far to tackle unforeseen challenges in the field. We were encouraged to work in a team under agreed upon code of ethics.

We as a group interviewed front-line police officers and tried to explore how human rights are perceived by these police officers. Throughout this placement, I remained interested in human rights issues regarding BAME people. It was heartening to learn how police officers value human rights in their day to day interactions with the public at large. For me, it was exciting knowing about human rights legislation, training and current trends related to modern slavery, hate crime etc. This two week exposure has stimulated me to appreciate how human rights are embedded into day to day affairs of policing in the UK and enabled me to identify loopholes in our policing system back home.

Kashif Zulfiqar, LLM student and Chevening Scholar 2017/18

2016

Malaysia

I decided to apply for this LLM due to its focus on international human rights law and the placement opportunity. At the time of application, I was not sure if I would like to go to Malaysia because I was there with my family for a while about 20 years ago with an ambiguous bittersweet memory. Given that I am Japanese, I was neither very excited about going to Asia nor expected a lot to learn from the opportunity. However, I was not able to resist my passion to travel as well as intellectual curiosity to see what human rights work is actually like on the ground. I worked in a group of 4 students, including myself, with Asylum Access Malaysia (AAM), an NGO supporting refugee rights. I interviewed Rohingya refugee clients to write referrals to UNHCR Malaysia to help them with the Refugee Status Determination process. Based on the hands-on experiences, we developed an online training programme for new interns and volunteers at AAM.    

It was indeed challenging, and there was so much to learn. I was exposed to the vulnerable for the first time, and it was far beyond my anticipation. I was lost for words when a refugee client repeatedly begged for help at the end of an interview. She told me that she had waited too long. I can still vividly recall her saying 'help' and the silent moment during which I was searching for the right words to respond in a professional yet sympathetic manner. I discovered my own fragility and naïveté. I also saw the reality that I usually see only through the screen.

I felt and still feel helpless, but now whenever I hear and see 'Rohingya', it is not somebody else's story. The helplessness is the driving force in the pursuit of my career. With sense of responsibility and commitment, I aspire to be a cause for a positive impact and change in the field of human rights. It was an extraordinary experience to see the gap between what I know and what is happening in reality from which I learned a lot.

Sayaka Arita, LLM student, 2016/17

The LLM course in International Human Rights Law & Practice sets itself apart from other courses due to the emphasis on practice based learning, and the unique opportunity to complete a placement in Malaysia. I have never had experience of working abroad, and the knowledge and skills I gained will be vital for pursuing a career in human rights. I completed a two week placement with MSRI (Malaysian Social Research Institute), a humanitarian organisation that provides assistance to minority refugee and asylum seeking communities in Malaysia. MSRI has adopted a holistic outlook to ensure the services provided empower and strengthen these marginalised communities, which would otherwise be ignored. Programmes at MSRI focus on are education, livelihoods, health, counselling, social services and legal support, with the aim of looking beyond beneficiaries' immediate concerns, to ensure long term stability, and the preservation of human rights.

Our task was to produce an annual report and to achieve this, our primary focus of the field visit entailed conducting research and evaluating data, which also included a trip to Malaysia's UNHCR office. The experience presented new and different challenges for me, because in addition to the constraints that many non- profit organisations experience, I was also having to be mindful of the political constraints and laws in Malaysia. In contemplating the struggle to resolve complex problems and dilemmas that lie in the 'swampy lowland' of field work, I learnt that sometimes the decisions you have to make as a human rights practioner are not ideal, but in the best interests of ensuring the longevity of the organisation and its beneficiaries. Being able to apply what we had learnt in class and to reconcile ethical and practical challenges was a valuable experience, and I can confidently apply these skills elsewhere.

The relationships made with the staff at MSRI was a great opportunity to learn about the journeys their careers had taken and gain advice. In addition to this, we were also able to enjoy the extensive network the Centre for Applied Human Rights has. We met a former CAHR student who lives and works in Malaysia, and I enjoyed hearing about the work she has been doing since completing the course. Attending a sit in protest and vigil with her was one of the highlights of the trip for me personally.

During our down time, it was great to explore some of Malaysia's attractions and get to know my peers better, of which I feel I have made life-long friendships in the process.

Sara Belhay, LLM student, 2016/17

York

The LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice has a strong emphasis on making students experience some of the real-life challenges human rights professionals encounter. A great component to this objective are the placement opportunities the CAHR offer. They are a unique opportunity to work with NGOs and their partners in a human rights related issue.

While students can choose between placements in York or Malaysia, I decided to stay in York. This decision was heavily influenced by the fact that as a student and lawyer from Mexico, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the human rights challenges York and the United Kingdom are facing.

I had the opportunity to be involved in a project with the York Human Rights City Network (YHRCN), an organisation which advocates, researches, acts as a network, and organises events, all regarding human rights in York. The YHRCN has several partners. One of them is the North Yorkshire Police (NYP). Our team was composed by 4 members, from Bangladesh, Belize, Mexico and the United Kingdom. We worked with both the YHRCN and the NYP. Our aim was to find the extent to which the Human Rights Based Approach is embedded in the NYP. We conducted interviews with 24 police officers of different ranks and departments, to get a better sense of their approach to human rights in their everyday work-related activities.

The preparation, the placement, and the work we did to produce our project output were a unique experience for me. I learnt a lot about what is needed to conduct interviews, which was very stimulating and interesting too, since it was the first time I was interviewing people about human rights. I had the chance to practise team work and project management abilities. I embraced the opportunity to interact with the different personalities and cultural backgrounds of my team mates. The whole process of the placement made me develop skills I had not put into practice before, which will be very valuable in my future work as a human rights lawyer.

The placement was an experience which got me out of my comfort zone, and made me aware of some of the different challenges that entail working with an NGO and a team, in the field of human rights.  

Daniel Aguilar Hernandez, LLM student and Chevening scholar, 2016/17

The opportunity to work on a "real" project with an active charity was a major influence on my decision to study at York. I chose a local charity, Survive, mainly because I had joined its board of trustees a couple of months earlier; it presented an opportunity both to get to know the organisation better, and to engage with a cause that strongly resonates with me. Survive supports adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and survivors of (mainly historical) adult sexual violence. Funding in the charity sector is notoriously precarious; although Survive has strong indicators for improving well-being over the course of their support, the organisation seeks to better understand the extent to which these positive effects are long-lasting or transient. "Measuring Long-term Impacts of Short-term Interventions" was my project.

It would have been ethically untenable to attempt to conduct any long-term follow-up activities with Survive's former clients, as prior permission had not been sought to reconnect. Instead, we set out with several potential directions for the project to evolve, frequently finding that the information we wanted simply did not exist. Resilience and flexibility were vital for us. Over the course of the two weeks, we conducted a mix of focus groups and interviews with several survivor organisations across the UK, and academics from three continents. We also spent considerable time teasing out how this piece of work connected to human rights – the international projects' human rights angles are certainly more easily understood.

As someone geographically constrained in terms of future employment, discovering how much could be achieved in the not-for-profit sector without leaving Yorkshire was hugely reassuring; looking back I am also amazed by how much we achieved in such a short time. For me personally, the module learning was less about the technical skills (project management, risk management, survey design, interviewing skills, etc.) and more the research strategy and making sense of often contradictory qualitative data. The age- and experience-gap within our team (I am twice the age of my two co-projecteers) was very challenging at times, but out of this I have developed new strategies that I believe will enable me to manage people and projects more effectively in future. I loved doing the research itself – literature-hunting on a little-researched topic; reaching out to so many complete strangers, sometimes as a student, and sometimes switching "identity" to use my membership of the organisation as a way in.

Elizabeth Lockey, LLM student, 2016/17


I applied for the LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice at the University of York because I discovered the Centre for Applied Human Rights while researching schools. What caught my eye in particular was the opportunity that the CAHR offers to pursue a two-week placement with its NGO partners in Malaysia or York. It is not a program of theories, but actual "hands-on" participation, which offers a chance to truly see and learn about the impacts of law.

I decided to take the opportunity to work with the York Traveller Trust (YTT) because I wanted to know how the UK NGO sector works. The Trust was established to give the Gypsy & Traveller community the support, guidance and services that they require to develop their independence, so they can maximise their inclusion in society. The trust requested that my team produce a short paper, which, among other things, explored the legal framework for a possible change in the ownership and/or management by a Housing Agency that the City of York Council (CYC) had for the three-site management for G&T in York (James Street, Clifton and Osbaldwick). We were also supposed to research good practices in relation to site management across the UK. During the two weeks, three specific topics covered in both lectures and seminars came to my mind as they highlighted theory learned in classes which were applicable to reality: working effectively in teams, project planning and interviewing.

As a human rights lawyer and a public servant, the two-week field study - taught by academics who are leading experts, - gave me the opportunity to be involved in actual application of law. Bringing together researchers, practitioners, and members of organisations who address human rights provided me with valuable experience and increased my capacity in the legal profession to deliver services that are focused on increasing access to justice and public policies. I am so glad that I participated in developing an advocacy strategy that examines how public policies can be combined for mutual benefits. I believe that sharing the knowledge I have of the Mexican legal system and policies was a plus to the research we conducted.

Miguel Ángel Chin Aguilar, LLM student and Chevening scholar, 2016/17

2015

Malaysia

Having worked with a small development organisation in Uganda for two years between graduating from Leeds and starting this LLM, I wasn’t convinced what a two-week long placement would add to my skill set. I was also uncertain about going abroad again having just landed back on UK soil. But, in the end, I decided to work with the legal aid organisation Asylum Access in Malaysia. And I am so glad I did.

The placement work was both challenging and engaging. I was part of a team of four whose task was to conduct research and write a report on the current situation for processing asylum seekers in Malaysia. With such a short time-frame, you are forced into a highly accelerated learning process. Not only are you trying to navigate new cultural norms in a foreign country, but you are also navigating a new team environment and being asked to undertake a whole range of new tasks.

I learnt so much on the go in those two weeks: the ethics of interviewing vulnerable groups; the complexity of 'independence' and 'objectivity'; and the nature of leadership and of teams.  Above all, I learnt a lot about myself. I have come to better understand my own natural skills and aptitudes, and the importance of recognising others’ strengths and abilities. This was by far one of the best modules on the LLM.

Caitlin White, LLM student, 2015/16

York

There are three main reasons why I chose the York Travellers Trust (YTT) for my placement. Firstly, I eventually want to work with minority groups so I felt this would give me the relevant experience. Secondly, I would be working with a minority community (the Gypsy and Traveller community) that we don’t have in my part of the world (Middle East and North Africa). Thirdly, as a citizen of the Global South I was curious about how human rights NGOs operated in the UK.

The aim of the project was to develop an advocacy strategy that YTT would be able to use to counter the UK government’s proposed changes of the Traveller definition in planning legislation. We examined how the proposed changes will impact Traveller identity, as well as future planning and housing policies. YTT found the advocacy strategy that we produced very useful and have already circulated it. The realization that we were able to help them is incredibly gratifying.

This was also an incredible learning opportunity for me. Despite the fact that I worked in the human rights field, I had never done an advocacy strategy before. My prior experiences were centred around achieving short term solutions for refugees – a form of service delivery. By contrast, this project forced me to focus on a long term goal, and achieving results on a larger scale. This placement has gone a long way in helping me develop these skills. 

Mayada Soliman, MA student, 2015/16

Having graduated with a BA in English Literature and Politics in 2010, I didn't know what direction I wanted to go in, so began teaching English abroad. Over five years I taught in Vietnam, Japan, the UK, and Lebanon and was lucky enough to do some volunteering along the way. Through these experiences, I got interested in the field of human rights and did a three-month internship with the British Institute of Human Rights. I chose York's human rights MA because of the 'applied' ethos that is central to the course. It certainly hasn't disappointed.

A key part of this 'applied' theme is the placement everyone does with organisations working in the field. I chose Survive, a rape and sexual abuse charity, as I had never worked on anything like this before and wanted to push myself outside my comfort zone. Survive do valuable and often undervalued work, and I saw this as an opportunity to do something I wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to do.

On the placement, we were given independence to manage the project ourselves, but received support when needed from our MA supervisors and Survive's service manager. We saw how projects work in the real world and struggled with practical challenges like obtaining the trust of people to interview. We learned how to put what we had been taught in the classroom about interviewing and research ethics to good use and also learned new skills like how to do a SWOT Analysis and use Theories of Change tools. It wasn't always easy, but it taught us all a lot about practicing human rights and about ourselves as individuals.

Jonathan Rebours, MA student, 2015/16

After finishing my law degree, I volunteered for 6 months at an anti-death penalty charity. Having only limited practical experience in the field, York's LLM and especially the placement seemed like an opportunity to enhance my professional skills. Now that I have completed it, there is no doubt it has made me more confident to pursue work in the human rights field.

I had originally intended to go to Malaysia but, due to personal circumstances, I decided to pursue a project in York instead. I chose to work with Unite Community York as it allowed me to further explore my interest in cuts to benefits provisions, which I had researched during my LLB degree.

My group's project was to write a best practice guide to setting up a benefits advice service by Unite Community in York. As we interviewed a variety of people and organisations during the placement, I was surprised by how much I learned in two weeks without travelling to some far off place. Our excursions to Barnsley and Durham to interview Unite Community members there gave me a great insight into Yorkshire’s proud trade union history and the human rights work which is needed on the ground in the region.

The ethical dilemmas and practical skills that we talked about in class were demystified through the placement and through writing up our report. As Unite Community York was a very new organisation, we were sometimes confronted with unforeseen challenges, which it was useful explore in the supportive environment of the Centre. Importantly, the placement also gave me the opportunity to build strong relationships with my team members and activists in the community, which has helped me to enjoy and make the most of my time in York.

Helen McCall, LLM student, 2015/16

2014

Malaysia

My field trip in Malaysia has been an amazing source of learning and inspiration!

I have always had interest in international refugee law, therefore, the possibility to study first-hand the issue in the Malaysian context it was something unique and priceless. Through the interviews I carried out and the daily teamwork in the office, I improved my professional skills; as a consequence, I feel more confident in my abilities. Nevertheless, this was only one part of the experience. People, activists, NGOs, refugees I met enriched my journey in many different ways. The overall result has been much more intense and thoughtful than I could ever imagine.

I undoubtedly had more than I was able to give back, both to the organization I worked with and to the people I met. This is why I would say that my placement outcome has been a unique preparation for my future human rights work in the field.

Federica Schirripa, LLM student, 2014/2015 

York

If you ask the students at the Centre for Applied Human Rights why they chose to study here, you will hear them mention the practical side of the course over and over. This was certainly true in my case. I had spent a year in various unpaid roles from working in Bolivia with the International Citizen Service scheme, to Westminster with my MP, and then as an intern at Amnesty International. It quickly became apparent that a Master's degree and more experience would be required for me to make the step from being a volunteer to being a professional. 

When I finished my undergraduate degree I told myself that I wouldn’t be going back to university -- that education and I were "consciously uncoupling". I was set on becoming a professional in international development, tired of spending hours eternally debating academic theories and answering unanswerable questions. So you can imagine that it was no easy decision for me to commit to a year's course and a bucket of money spent in my return to academia. I had to do it right. If the end goal was employment and preparation for the professional world, then it couldn't just be any course that I would do.

That's when I found the course at the University of York – a seemingly perfect blend of academic qualification and professional development, a.k.a. a no-brainer. As well as spending our lectures and seminars debating with seasoned human rights veterans, we would work on a placement with an NGO and submit a report to complement their work. No other university in the country offers such a combination of theory and application.

I worked for an organisation called International Service, a York-based human rights organisation operating in a number of countries across the globe. I had worked with the organisation during my time in Bolivia, and was intrigued by the prospect of developing a number of global indicators that would show the progress of their development projects in all of the countries where they work. It was an ambitious project to say the least; International Service's projects vary from involving people with disabilities in sport in Burkina Faso, to helping women grow and sell vegetables in Bolivia, to helping Palestinian youths express their feelings and experiences through art and comic strips. How do you come up with an indicator that accounts for the different locations, demographics and focusses within International Service's mandate?

From the word 'go', International Service treated us as fellow professionals (refreshing in itself after a year of voluntary work). After a number of meetings they had made clear what they expected from us in our role as external contractors. They set us up with a desk in their relatively small office, made available many of their resources and set aside time in the diaries of many of their staff. This was all before the official placement period had even started. For me, the most compelling aspect of all of this was that we were being asked to produce something that was clearly necessary. This wasn't an essay doomed to spend eternity in my completely unfiled filing cabinet, but a report with tools and recommendations to be incorporated into the way in which International Service worked. We were having meetings with the CEO, e-mailing country directors, presenting to trustees. By the end of our placement, I had forgotten that I was enrolled at a university and was instead wondering when my pay-cheque might be arriving.

At my next job interview, it won't be the books I've read in the library or the debates we've had in seminars that I'll talk about – it'll be the work that we did with International Service, and how I had taken a step closer to being a professional.

Jack Mudd, LLM student, 2014/15

2013

Malaysia

The LLM fieldtrip to Malaysia offered an incredible opportunity to put theory into practice in a way that I can only describe as exhilarating, challenging and fascinating. The field trip to Kuala Lumpur surpassed all my expectations and was one of the best experiences of my academic career. Thrown in a deep end, our team was able meet challenges head on; it proved to be a crash course in campaign strategy. The fieldtrip equipped us with practical research skills and provided us with a brilliant opportunity to learn directly from leading human rights practitioners. We were inspired by the individuals we spoke to, and grateful for the rich qualitative data we were able to collect.

At first glance, Kuala Lumpur is a thriving economic powerhouse, its skyline is dominated by the iconic Petronus Twin Towers. With its ethnically mixed population of Malay, Chinese and Indian peoples, the country is sometimes portrayed as a model of diversity. Our project , exploring attitudes towards a future equality bill, offered a chance to learn more about an alternative view of Malaysia. During an intensive two week period, we interviewed NGO leaders, activists, lawyers, publicists, filmmakers, academics and religious teachers. We began to build a broad picture of ongoing struggles for equality of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation in Malaysia. Our research project took us right into the Malaysian Parliament to talk to politicians, including a Minister. We sat in on part of a Parliamentary debate about non-discrimination in employment and visited a Government Party Conference. We even got the chance to put a question to the former Foreign Minister on camera. The political nature of the human rights movement was brought vividly to life.

Eleanor Farrow, LLM student, 2013/14


One of the professors here at the CAHR has an anecdote that they often share with the classroom: human rights work is often planned in the highlands and deployed in the lowlands. The highlands are great for seeing the big picture but when the human rights defender gets in the lowlands they are beset with the swamps, mud, and other obstacles that can make a plan useless.

What separates other human rights training that I have had in the past is that the CAHR forces the student to operate in both spheres. The LLM Field Trip to Malaysia represents the type of applied hands-on work in the lowlands that forges a true practitioner rather than one who operates purely in the  theoretical. The build-up to the trip focused on planning the task from afar but with frequent contact with the project partner, the Malaysian Social Research Institute. This meant that the project adhered to a real-world element that made it more than just a university assignment.

Our project was to analyze and report on a refugee school, Sahabat, which was operated by MSRI as an initiative to give access to education to refugees from non-regional sources such as Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Sudan, and Iran. The school operates like most other schools but with the caveat that most students may not have been in school for some time, lack aptitude in English, and lack the funds and resources to attend schools. These students would have no place to study if the Sahabat School did not exist. 

When we got to Malaysia we found that many of our perceptions about the project were quickly outmoded. The field work was on the one hand very taxing and emotional, but also immensely valuable and rewarding. In addition to feeling like we were becoming better as human rights practitioners, we also felt that we could actually make a difference with our project. The willingness for all of the participants: refugee children, their parents, support staff, teachers, and donors, was astounding. We were nearly overwhelmed by how much people went out of their way to help these children get an education just because they thought it was the right thing, rather than any monetary or social gain. 

What struck me most about the work was that the project was incredibly relevant, not just to someone training to be a human rights defender but also to the project partner. This was a project that someone who was actually working in the field would be called on to produce on a frequent basis. This meant that its usefulness to the NGO was immense and it was very profound that our work, as students of the CAHR, was actually making a difference in the lives of these children and the ability of the Sahabat to continue to operate.

Ian Calliou, LLM student, 2013/14

York

The chance to work with a pro bono legal clinic in York during the LLM was an exciting opportunity to experience frontline legal services. People often think that human rights work involves travelling far away from the UK. However, the placement made clear to me how many human rights issues in the UK need to be addressed. Now more than ever, there is a need for quality pro bono services as legal aid continues to be drastically cut and many individuals simply cannot afford to pay lawyer’s fees. Access to justice is fundamental for those who have been wronged.  

I was part of a student team carrying out an impact evaluation of the legal services provided by the York Law School Clinic. During our placement we interacted with those who had used the Clinic and interviewed a range of students and professors. We will be following up with a survey questionnaire and interviews with former clients. In addition, some of us were able to visit the nationally acclaimed Student Law Office at Northumbria University.

I graduated in law, but with little genuine exposure to real life experience in human rights, I looked for an LLM which offered a genuine fusion of theory and practice. The two week placement did not disappoint with real exposure to life in the field of human rights research. I greatly enjoyed my time with the Clinic and found that the placement solidified a lot of what was taught in lectures and seminars during the course of the term. If you are enthusiastic and passionate on placement you really will learn so much!

Scott Halliday, LLM Student, 2013/14

NGO partners

Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

"The students from York brought passion, a diverse range of experiences, and a real focus on the application of human rights principles to the problem of human trafficking. The group that worked with us produced an excellent framework on how local councils can work within the national framework to combat human trafficking in a situation where the Federal Government is vested with enforcement powers and where the Malaysian Anti-Trafficking in Persons law is a Federal Government driven initiative. The group very clearly articulated the importance of the local council in public awareness, training for local licensing law enforcement and also their collaboration with federal law enforcement. Until now, their policy suggestions remain a key document in the formulation of local state and council strategies and in our advocacy with the Federal Government. Besides work, we had a great deal of fun not only in Malaysia but in our continual discussions through emails and Skype discussions."

Daniel Lo, Country Manager (Malaysia)

International Service, York, UK

International Service worked with a team of students from the Centre for Applied Human Rights in 2013. The students conducted desk based research analysing the key security issues in Mali following the coup d’etat in 2012, the ensuing conflict in the North of the country and the restitution of democratic process in 2013. The student team worked from the offices of International Service on a regular basis, making contact with our partners in Mali, as well as a variety of representatives within national and international agencies operating within Mali, including the local Government and diplomatic services. The final research included recommendations which informed the redevelopment of our programme in Mali following our suspension of operations in 2012. The research also supported us in securing $300,000 from USAID which has enabled us to take forward our work in Mali once again, supporting seven local partner organisations providing support to people living with disability across all of Mali, who themselves represent the poorest and most marginalised throughout and following the conflict. It was a pleasure working with them, their professionalism and enthusiasm for the work was excellent. We look forward to identifying further similar opportunities to collaborate with the Centre for Applied Human Rights.

Martin Keat, International Programmes Director

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur LLM fieldtrip 2010

LLM students in Kuala Lumpur (2010)

Malaysia fieldtrip 2012

Spare time in Malaysia (2012)

LLM students at an NGO meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2012)

LLM students at an NGO meeting in Kuala Lumpur (2012)

Kuala Lumpur placement student group 2014

Spare time in Kuala Lumpur (2014)

Kuala Lumpur CAHR student field trip

LLM students in Kuala Lumpur (2016)