In the spirit of Human Rights Day, this month we shine the spotlight on careers that focus on protecting and preserving the rights of those who are vulnerable. Studies have shown that choosing a career that involves helping others may lead to increased job satisfaction, so if you are passionate about being of service to others and making a positive difference in peoples’ lives, perhaps one of these career paths could be the one for you.
Human Rights Lawyer
What does a human rights lawyer do?
A human rights lawyer focuses on the protection of the civil and human rights of individuals and often spends time studying human rights laws, examining cases, and creating awareness of human rights laws and the violation of the rights of certain individuals. The areas of focus for human rights lawyers may cover a wide range of issues including immigration, discrimination, and war crimes.
What qualities make a great human rights lawyer?
- Honesty, integrity, and fairness
- Perseverance and patience
- Practical and analytical thinking
- Excellent interviewing, speaking and writing skills
- Advocacy and investigative abilities
- The ability to organise and manage a case and to draft legal documents
How do I become a human rights lawyer?
To become a human rights lawyer, you need to study toward either and LLB or a Bachelor of Arts Law degree at any one of the accredited tertiary institutions in the country. Also, have a look at the following NGO websites for volunteer and internship opportunities:
- Women’s Legal Centre – http://wlce.co.za
- Legal Resources Centre – http://www.lrc.org.za
- Human Rights Institute of South Africa – http://www.hurisa.org.za
- Volunteer Adventure Corps – http://www.vacorps.com
- Volunteer Alliance – http://volunteeralliance.org
- Lawyers for Human Rights – lhr.org.za
- South African Human Rights Commission – http://www.sahrc.org.za
For those who want to make an impact globally, there are opportunities to work for international organisations such as the United Nations, Amnesty International, and UNICEF.
What does a social worker do?
Social workers help to improve the lives of people affected by poverty, unemployment, illness and antisocial behaviour.
The areas of specialisation in social work include:
– Child and family welfare
– Marriage and divorce counselling
– Elderly care
– Medical social work
– Psychiatric social work
– Social work with mentally or physically disabled persons
– Social work with alcoholic or drug dependants
– Social work with offenders
– Social work in the workplace
– School social work.
There are three methods of conducting social work, namely casework, group work and community work:
- Caseworkers establish one-to-one relationships with individuals and visit them to offer assistance and encouragement.
- Group workers offer assistance to groups of people affected by similar problems. For example, a group worker may organise recreational activities for a group of kids affected by substance abuse.
- Community social workers identify specific needs within a community and help to provide healthcare, housing, rehabilitation and other welfare services.
What makes a good social worker?
- You must enjoy working with different kinds of people
- You need to be empathetic because you will mostly be working with people who are in a state of trauma or emotional distress
- It is important to be objective and not to allow your emotions and personal feelings to get in the way of your ability to make good decisions on behalf of your clients
- Patience is key, as you will often be dealing with complex cases that involve many different parties. It may take a while for serious changes to occur or issues to be resolved
- A social worker must be dependable. Your clients need to know that they be open and honest with you, that they can rely on you for advice and guidance, and that you will be there for them in the event of a crisis.
How do I become a social worker?
If you are interested in a career as a social worker, there are a number of Bachelor of Social Work or Bachelor of Arts: Social Work programmes offered at various institutions across South Africa. These include University of Johannesburg, UNISA, University of the Witwatersrand, University of the Free State, North West University, University of the Western Cape, University of Zululand and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
Where could I work?
Social workers can be employed in many different organisations such as NGOs, hospitals, schools, children’s homes as well as certain government departments. Check out the following websites for more information on volunteering opportunities.