National Pro Bono Week – Interning for Gender Equality: UN Women

Helen Taylor - 4th November 2014

The 13th annual National Pro Bono Week (NPBW), sponsored by the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), will take place between 3 – 7 November 2014.  The OxHRH Blog, in conjunction with Oxford Pro Bono Publico will be celebrating NPBW with a series of posts highlighting some of the recent internship experiences of members of our graduate community.  OPBP provides annual grants to support students to undertake unpaid or poorly paid public interest work at organisations and law firms across the globe. In the first post in this series, one of this year’s OPBP grant recipients, Helen Taylor, reflects on her experience working at the UN Women Headquarters in New York:

Established in 2010 through UN General Assembly Resolution 64/289, UN Women is the UN organisation mandated to help Member States and inter-governmental agencies formulate and implement global norms of gender equality, as well as to hold the UN system itself accountable to its own commitments in this regard. UN Women focuses its work on certain priority areas that it has identified as being of particular strategic importance: leadership and political participation, ending violence against women, peace and security, governance and national planning, economic empowerment, and HIV/AIDS.

As part of my internship this summer, I worked in the Leadership and Governance section of the Policy Division at UN Women Headquarters in New York. This is the biggest department in the Policy Division and working in it therefore exposed me to a range of projects that UN Women is currently working on. My main project consisted of reading every single annual report submitted to Headquarters by the UN Women Country Offices between 2011-2013, with a view to assessing what work has been done in relation to LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex) and indigenous peoples. These two vulnerable groups – LGBTI and indigenous peoples – have only recently been identified as focal points relevant to UN Women’s broader mandate.

Although the core of my task was essentially data extraction and analysis– retrieving relevant information from roughly 180 Country Office reports – I was also encouraged to comment on the reporting framework itself. My final report therefore not only included a substantive assessment of the programmes UN Women Country Offices around the world are implementing in relation to LGBTI and indigenous peoples, but also some recommendations for how the reporting methodology can be improved. I was fortunate to host a lunch time seminar for the staff in the Leadership and Governance section where I presented my findings and argued for certain changes to be made in relation to the reporting framework.

Another project with which I became involved was the recently launched HeForShe Campaign, which aims to engage men and boys as active participants in the solidarity movement for gender equality. As part of the working group looking at the implementation of the HeForShe Campaign on student campuses and universities, I gained an insight into what is involved behind the scenes in the launch of a high-profile, global campaign of this nature. My involvement in the planning of the Campaign also opened up valuable opportunities to meet colleagues in other departments and get a better sense of the organisation as a whole.

Through the different projects I contributed to and the stimulating conversations I had with colleagues from a diversity of professional and cultural backgrounds, I benefitted from a deeper insight into the complexity of challenges facing women all over the world and the pressing urgency of the need to empower women as “equal partners and beneficiaries of development, human rights, humanitarian action and peace and security”.

I’m extremely grateful to the OPBP for their encouragement and practical generosity which made this internship possible. The OPBP internship scheme not only enables students to contribute their knowledge and skills to the important work of public interest organisations around the world, but also provides invaluable opportunities for those students to gain the conviction and courage needed to embark on a career in public interest law themselves.

If your organisation would benefit from hosting an intern from the University of Oxford, or you are an individual or organisation wishing to make a donation to OPBP, please click here to find out more about the OPBP Internship Programme or for details on how to support OPBP’s work.

Author profile

Helen Taylor is currently reading for the MPhil in Law at Balliol College, University of Oxford.  She has recently taken up a position on the OPBP Executive Committee.


Helen Taylor “National Pro Bono Week – Interning for Gender Equality: UN Women” (OxHRH, 4 November 2014),<> [date accessed].

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