THE International Human Rights Exchange (IHRE) programme at Wits’ is investing in the future of students by offering them employment opportunities through internships.

The programme offers an average of 50 local and international Wits students internships at prominent non-governmental and other organisations such as the SA Human Rights Commission, Civicus, Helen Suzman Foundation and Sonke Gender Justice.

The initiative by IHRE attempts to deal with the widespread problem of unemployment that South Africa faces by allowing students to work and gain experience in the areas of research and project management to make them more marketable by the time they graduate.

IHRE’s programme assistant and student liaison, Shingirai Taodzera, says the South African job market is “extremely competitive” and “expanding at a slow pace”, making it essential for students to have “networked and gained practical skills of the work environment to limit the hardships of finding a job after completing their degrees”.

 “Because social sciences is mostly non profitable in comparison to other fields such as engineering, networking is important to allow students to know where jobs could be, and if they have the experience of working, it makes it easier for them.

 “IHRE offers internships so that students can learn etiquette, teamwork, leadership and inter-personal skills in a more practical manner because this is vital in the kinds of work they will do when they leave university.”

International relations honours student, Veronica Benham, has been part of IHRE for three years and having done an internship at the South African Human Rights Commission, feels she has “climatised to the work environment”.

“I had good relations with people at the commission and they were willing to have me beyond the duration of the internship,” she said.

Blake Desormeaux is an international student from Wellesley College in Boston, US, who is interning at the Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA).

“Through the IHRE internship I hope to gain more insight as to how better I can help the gay and lesbian support group which I run back at my college,” she said.