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Let's Talk Human Rights

2021 Summer Fellowships: A Look at Counterpart International’s PAR Project Internship

By Steven Shamblen '22

The Promoting Advocacy and Rights program (PAR) created by Counterpart International is working in Bangladesh to strengthen the enabling environment for sustained civil society institutions advancing democratic governance and citizen participation in Bangladesh. This is accomplished by providing tailored technical support to civil society organizations (CSOs), establishing cross-sectoral partnerships to improve government responsiveness to citizen needs, and monitoring changes in the legal operating environment for civil society. Since its creation in 2018, through the local CSOs that we work with, PAR has been able to reach hundreds of thousands of people through various projects and initiatives about priority issues such as drug abuse and gender-based violence (GBV).  

During my time with Counterpart International, I had a variety of tasks and experiences that I feel helped me prepare for my professional future. Focused on a project in Bangladesh, my team worked with five local consortium members to further build social infrastructure, promote gender equality, and combat drug abuse in the area. Therefore a lot of my tasks revolved around these five consortium members and the work they were doing. As English was not their first language, it was generally up to me to edit and review weekly progress reports, fixing grammar mistakes but also providing ideas on how to further clarify/expand the activity explanations given in the reports. Other tasks that I was assigned included researching immigration and violence in the Sahel with a gendered lense in order to support Counterpart’s Kagalo project. This was a very interesting experience as I learned a lot and was able to summarize my findings into something the Kagalo team could then work into their gender analysis report. 

Furthermore, I got to attend training sessions we provided for our five consortium members hosted by Counterpart's WomenLead Institute (WLI). These training sessions covered two main topics, gender equality in the workplace and financial independence. I was able to learn a lot from these training sessions, not only about creating a financially independent organization, but about the best practices to lead an online, international, training session. I was also able to research all manner of countries, NGOs, and businesses that fund projects in Bangladesh for the WLI so that our consortium members could have a list to reach out to. My other tasks included weekly meetings, both with my project team and organization-wide, creating a responsive task tracker for my team to better keep track of their responsibilities and writing a couple of blog posts about different accomplishments our consortium had over this past year. 

One of the blog posts that I wrote for CPI had to do with the Light House Consortium and their creation of two Civil Society Organization-led networks. Light House has organized two CSO-led networks in the Rajshahi and Natore districts. The network is dedicated to raising awareness, sensitizing relevant stakeholders, initiating policy reforms, and assisting in policy implementation. The network is expected to increase funding for combating drug abuse by sensitizing and influencing local governments, including Rajshahi district representatives. In the initial meeting in Rajshahi, a total of 38 people were present representing 32 different NGOs. Another blog post had to do with the Rupantar organization and the founding of four different women brigades at the district level. The Rupantar organization was in charge of the project and the first area they worked in was the district level of Barishal. The objective was to bring together 25 women in order to build a committee that could represent marginalized women and the survivors of GBV. Facilitated by the Project Officer of Barishal, the activity was a huge success and allowed for these women to connect with one another as survivors of GBV. The main goal was to discuss how this brigade can focus on eradicating abuse in ethnic, marginalized, sex workers and other gendered communities. Due to the success of the first brigade, three further women’s brigades were founded in the districts of Jashore, Khulna, and Pirojpur. 

I think the big picture takeaway from this project for me was its ability to prepare me for the real world. I received lots of exposure to reports and report writing. Because Counterpart secures the development projects but also works through local implementers, I was able to see how to interact with both parties. Being able to witness teams get more and less stressed as big report deadlines came and went was a great taste of the real world but also served as a reminder that big deadlines are never going to go away. In attending their weekly, organization-wide, meetings I got to see how an organization should be run. Witnessing the CEO interact with each individual team over the course of their updates gave me wonderful insight into keeping the organization accountable and successful. Most importantly, I think being able to serve on an international team and witness not only how they work together, but around each other's schedules, was an invaluable experience to have.


Steven Shamblen is a senior International Studies major with concentrations in Political Science, Spanish, and Human Rights while also pursuing a graduate certificate in Nonprofit and Community Leadership. He has a passion for international work and was thrilled at the opportunity to work with Counterpart International this summer. Although he has focused his studies primarily on Latin America, he believes getting to have a new experience in Bangladesh was a wonderful opportunity that really opened his eyes to other parts of the world.

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