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Let's Talk Human Rights

2023 Summer Fellowship: PAR and WLI with Counterpart International

By Courtney Stacy '24 & Elyce Aldridge '24

Courtney's Experience

In 2022, Counterpart gave $4.7 million to organizations to achieve their outcomes and goals. Counterpart  creates “resilient food systems, buttress civil society, support climate initiatives, and work towards responsive governance.” There are five values in Counterpart: partnership, excellence, global citizenship, integrity, and opportunity. 

Within Counterpart International, there is a project called Promoting Advocacy and Rights (PAR), this is where I was specially working. In this project, they are working with the Bangladesh government to help implement training and programs that will lead toward a more democratic society and also focuses on the civic society and citizen engagement within Bangladesh.

One of the main problems in Bangladesh is the political violence that is present between parties. The ruling party is the Awami League (AL), with Mohammed Shahabuddin as the president. The main opposition is the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Political violence occurs from both parties, but the AL has much more power and control than the BNP as everything they say goes. The violence increases as political elections get closer, one of the reasons for the violence from the opposition is because of unfair and rigged elections from the AL. One of the reasons for violence from the AL is to scare citizens from voting against them. The next election cycle is in January 2024, because of this election PAR has been working extra hard to ensure there will be a fair and free election.

I had many different goals during my time with Counterpart. Once a week I had to research what was happening in Bangladesh that week, any news that related to PAR, and type up a summary and send it to my supervisor. I really enjoyed this because I was able to learn a lot about Bangladesh each week. I would also attend multiple meetings throughout the week that would be with just interns and each meeting there would be a different topic relating to Counterpart that would help interns get an understanding of different topics of Counterpart. My last goal for the internship is creating a reflection piece for PAR that is about political violence in Bangladesh, three issues with it, and what PAR can do in the future to help decrease this violence.

Elyce's Experience

This summer, I had the opportunity to work with Counterpart International, an incredible nonprofit organization working in the international development space. Counterpart, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a broad organization working in many areas of development work with bases in twenty countries. As an intersectional feminist and someone deeply invested in politics and human rights issues, especially as they pertain to women’s issues, Counterpart’s WomenLead Institute (WLI) was a perfect fit. WLI works to empower women internationally; providing training in leadership, financial literacy, interview skills, and much more while advocating for gender equity and the elimination of barriers which obstruct women at all levels of society.

Prior to my work with WLI, I was surprised to find how little I knew about the work being done in the space of women’s development, and how it differs from other work in the space of gender equity. The first step in understanding this difference is to understand the definition of women’s empowerment. One such definition is provided by FINCA, an international organization committed to this work. Empowerment means to have agency over one’s life and equal opportunity to participate in society. Women’s empowerment, or female empowerment, is the process by which women gain influence and equal opportunity to pursue personal, social and economic endeavors, engaging in all parts of society on the same basis as men.

My work with WLI has consisted mostly of research, on which I will be presenting in a few weeks at the conclusion of my time with Counterpart. During the process of conducting this research, I have worked to familiarize myself with organizations working in women’s development and the important work that they are doing, as well as where the need lies for further efforts. Another important aspect to understand is funding, and how it is acquired. USAID is a significant source of this funding, as well as a point of reference for projets that the federal government seeks to support and where. USAID recently released an evidence summary on advancing women’s economic empowerment, which has been crucial to my research and its relevance to Counterpart’s work in the future.

Courtney Stacy will be going into her second semester as a graduate student in Public Administration. She went to University of Toledo for her undergraduate degree and graduated with a Bachelors in Law and Social Thought, with a minor in Philosophy. Law and Social thought is a unique program that is primarily pre-law that is a mixture between political theory and sociology. 

Elyce Aldrige is a current junior at the University of Dayton studying Political Science with a minor in Human Rights Studies. She is passionate about human rights, women's rights, and political theory.

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