Lauren Butcher (Law, 2nd year)
International work experience bursary winner and Enterprise Rent-A-Car Enterprise Award winner, working as a human rights intern with Projects Abroad / Inherit Your Rights, Tanzania
Lauren beat stiff competition to win the £1,000 Enterprise Award University of Birmingham International Work Experience Bursary, as well as a University of Birmingham Gateway Work Experience Bursary, enabling her to undertake a month’s placement as a human rights intern with Projects Abroad / Inherit Your Rights, in Tanzania.
One of Lauren’s main duties was to conduct legal research online, focusing on the practice of “widow inheritance”, in which widows are forced to marry one of their husband’s relatives, in order to retain their home and sometimes their children. Lauren authored a report on the practice and the stance taken by the Tanzanian legal system. This will be used to advise the “Inherit Your Rights” and provide guidance regarding the steps they may take to support women facing the practice. It is intended that the report will also form the basis for training documents for Maasai women.
Benefits and challenges
Lauren identified that writing the report, “was a lot more difficult than I was expecting, because access to the law and judicial decisions is very limited. Initially I found it very hard to find information on the topic and I had to think more creatively to find the information I was looking for. Therefore, I feel that my research skills have improved a lot through my work here.” However, she enjoyed the challenge and found that the environment in which she was working was extremely productive, stating that, “I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the current situation for human rights in Tanzania with a number of different people, ranging from lawyers, pastors, NGO workers and other volunteers. It was really interesting to get different perspectives on the law and to be able to discuss the differences between the Tanzanian, English and American legal positions. It was also particularly interesting for me to discuss the legal position on property rights, because I will be studying the relationship between property law and human rights in my advanced property law module next year. It has been really useful to understand the legal situation in a developing country, and to consider some of the principles and questions I will be looking at this year.”
Lauren’s experience will contribute immensely to her career goals. She would like to work within a multinational legal organisation and so recognises that, “the fact that I have been able to do legal research in Africa is significant. The continent is currently of large interest to the global legal market for both commercial work and corporate social responsibility programmes. I have been able to highlight areas and issues that the large commercial firms I want to work for could look to work in as part of their CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] programmes.” She also identifies that the opportunity has helped her to identify that she would like to work for an organisation in which CSR is an important component of its activity.
In addition to helping Lauren to clarify her career goals, her experience in Tanzania also helped her to improve key employability skills including research skills, and her ability to communicate clearly and concisely. As well as benefit Lauren, her host organisation, “Inherit Your Rights”, also benefitted from the contribution she made to their cause, identifying in particular her work with regard to education, empowerment and representation for the Maasai women.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car scholarship
Lauren could not have undertaken her placement and benefited from the experience without the kindness and generosity of Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the University of Birmingham alumni and has written the following note of thanks:
“Thank you for being so generous and for investing in the futures of University of Birmingham students. In the current job climate, it is increasingly difficult to set yourself apart as a prospective employee. The support of generous donors such as yourselves has helped me to increase my employability and get the job I desire. Your cooperation with the University of Birmingham has given us the opportunity to push ourselves and show our prospective employers what we have to offer. Thank you for helping us to create the careers we want.”