And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

by Joshua Singer Johnson

The title of this post is taken from the Talking Heads’ 1980 song Once in A Lifetime. In that song, singer David Byrne finds himself living a life that feels foreign and surprising to him. How did I get here? It is a question I find myself wondering bemusedly on an almost daily basis.

I have now been in Namibia for over two months and I frankly cannot believe how incredible the experience has been so far. This country is beautifully desolate, with otherworldly deserts, exotic animals, and the most incredible sunsets and starry skies I have ever seen.

Windhoek itself is a very small, calm, quiet, and safe city; my life here has been anything but small, calm, quiet, and safe.

I have been staying in a backpacker hostel since my arrival, and I’ve met a motley crew of vagabonds, European interns, energetic dogs, artists, and activists. We’ve had tremendous fun travelling the country, and exploring this city on foot, much to the consternation of my local friends and co-workers.

It is difficult for me to be concerned about my safety in this town though, both because it is very quiet, and because I’ve become something of a local celebrity after a video of me with the caption “The almighty Jesus of Nazareth is on holiday in Namibia for 5 days” went viral. It is not uncommon for me to be stopped on the street and asked to pose for a photo.

 

In the desert, you can’t remember your name…

The sundowner — a classic Namibian experience!

I like elephants!

Sossusvlei is perhaps the most incredible sunrise-watching spot in the world. Climbing a dune for an hour and then running down in 30 seconds is also a highly recommended experience.

The many mountains in this country make for incredible hiking opportunities!

The tweet that made me ekfamous…

In addition to all that, my actual internship – the reason I’m here – is completely bonkers. Everyday I am bombarded with challenging, interesting, and high-profile work! In my role in the Office of the Minister of Justice, I write case briefs, memos, and discussion papers, correspond with the Government Attorney and other Ministers, write speeches for the Minister, review legislation, attend public consultations, advise the Minister. Somehow, I have essentially stumbled my way into being a political staffer.

I still pinch myself sometimes, but it seems that this life full of joy, chaos, laughter, mental stimulation, and love is actually mine.

To quote another brilliant Talking Heads song, “I guess I must be having fun!”

Human Rights and the Importance of Resources Beyond the Law

By Hannah MacLean Reaburn

The views expressed in this blog are my own.

This summer, I worked remotely with Avocats Sans Frontières Canada (ASFC) and with the Ministry of Justice in Namibia. The experience of working with two organizations was incredibly fulfilling, as I was able to practice my legal skills in a technical sense – through completing research projects, writing reports, and running legal analysis – but also because I was able to experience how the law operates in different contexts.

In a number of ways, the internships were very different, with ASFC being a non-governmental international cooperation organization and the Ministry of Justice being a government office; however, there were similarities in how both organizations approached the law as a tool to facilitate and access human rights. At both organizations, there was a recognition that the law was not the sole answer to the issues at stake and that, while the law is crucial as a resource and shapes the lived realities of many people, human rights work requires engaging with fields beyond the law.

At ASFC, I researched sexual and reproductive health rights for women in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Bénin. As a legal intern, my research focused on legal resources; however, the project itself is collaborative between ASFC, le Centre de Coopération Internationale en Santé et Développement, and SOCODEVI. Legal work alone is not enough to bring sexual and reproductive rights into reality: it also takes health, education, and transportation resources – among many others – for international human rights to become tangible. Though the law is a powerful instrument, it does not operate in a vacuum, and it takes multi-sector commitments to move human rights law from the abstract into reality.

At the Ministry of Justice, I reported directly to the Honourable Minister Yvonne Dausab. This internship experience emphasized for me the importance of journalism and publicly available information as means of facilitating human rights. Between working on projects pertaining to genocide reparations, vaccine access, and immigration, Minister Dausab took time to respond thoughtfully to questions posed by the public through newspaper opinion pieces and articles. To ensure meaningful and clear responses, I was assigned to research topics ranging from judicial independence to presidential discretion in appointing members of the National Assembly. Responding to these questions with such deep consideration demonstrated both the Minister’s respect for the thoughts of the public and recognition that people should be able to ask questions of their governments and have their concerns be taken seriously and responded to in an accessible and public manner.

I completed these internships after my first year of law school and after spending eight months focused on case law and legal reasoning, it was refreshing to see how much the law operates outside of itself. It has been with gratitude and humility that I’ve watched resources and ideas be exchanged between organizations with a variety of expertise in the shared pursuit of human rights.

Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.