CARE Bangladesh and CARE Ethiopia have Women Internship Programs to provide professional development opportunities to female graduates who are keen to build a career in the development sector. Aligned with CARE’s commitment to gender equity and women’s empowerment, CARE’s women interns gain knowledge, skills and experiences to become trained professionals pursuing long and successful career paths both at home and abroad.
In 2017, a cross-country internship collaboration began with interns from CARE Ethiopia and CARE Bangladesh through which knowledge and experience sharing happened over Skype video calls.
Two interns, Ms. Esete Kebede (CARE Ethiopia) and Ms. Tasneem Chowdhury (CARE Bangladesh) partnered to share their personal internship experiences. Take a look to know how the CARE internship experience shaped these two young minds.
My First Month at CARE Ethiopia by Esete Kebede
Every graduate is worried about her/his career path. Specially these days, considering the limited employment opportunity in Ethiopia. Hence, I was extremely worried over the fact that I may not be able to find a job related to my field… or worse yet I may not find a job at ALL. After graduating in Sociology I began applying for jobs and internships. Six months searching and I got called for an internship at CARE Ethiopia. I was so excited, most importantly because CARE is known to be a feminist organization, something which I am very passionate about.
Passing through the written exam and interview I was walking on sunshine. There were certain things I’ve heard and have seen in movie scenes about internships. So I was ready to serve coffee, copy, print, clean and be at my colleague’s service on call. However, the moment I started working I realized that’s not the case for interns at CARE Ethiopia.
I started my internship on a cold Tuesday morning on January 2, 2018 at CARE Ethiopia’s Head Office in Addis Ababa. Walking into the offices lobby I was experiencing mixed emotions. Sitting there, I noticed people walking to and fro the reception executing their jobs which seemed like a lot of busy. A few minutes later I was escorted to my office (Program Quality and Learning Unit) where I was welcomed with warm faces guiding me through each step of the way. Settling into the new environment was a piece of cake for me, because of my amazingly kind, professional and friendly colleagues who were ready to help me with whatever I needed.
Remember all the fears I had about being an intern… they were gone. My colleagues in my unit and outside accepted me as nothing less than another young employee with a bright future ahead of her. In the first month I’ve worked at CARE Ethiopia, I have learnt a LOT. I mean I was able to tackle the biggest fear any young person would have… becoming computer savvy. Yes, you heard me right I can now do more than type, print and draw tablesJ. In addition to this I have become more professional, improved my writing skills, and have become a multi tasker. You might be saying all this in just a month?? Yesss…. Believe that.
And for those of you who may be thinking, how did you communicate with people who are way older than you ? How did that span out for you being only 21? Well let me tell you something older people are awesome! I thought I was cool but they are cooler, I thought I was smart but they are way smarter, I thought they were never gonna get me but oh they do. I LOVE waking up every morning (which used to be quite a hustle for me by the way) to come to work and embark upon new experiences each day!
I can’t wait to meet the better, empowered me at the end of this remarkable experience.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done”- Nelson Mandela
My Internship Journey In CARE Bangladesh by Tasneem Mahmood Chowdhury
The last day of 2017. As I was printing out my undergrad thesis at a chaotic photocopy shop, my phone rang displaying an unknown number. The person on the other side gave me the news that I was selected for CARE Bangladesh’s Women Internship Program, informing me about when I should be joining.
Hanging up, it took me a while to believe the call about my selection. The assessment process was hectic. Long. I felt other candidates were better. Most importantly, it’s CARE—one of the biggest organizations in the world - the very organization I wrote my thesis on. In fact, the freshly printed pages churning out of the printer that very moment were about CARE Bangladesh, my thesis subject.
I stood for a while. Numb. The chaos around me suddenly inaudible from nervousness and excitement at the thought of starting a new journey in my career.
The first day in the office was warm, unusual for the wintry 1st of January. I was formally dressed and exuded professionalism with my attire. The warmth of HR, other interns and the entire office staff left no room for catching a cold on that winter morning!
I was in the knowledge management team of the SHOUHARDO III program, one of the largest food security programs in the world. Having little knowledge about knowledge management, I felt a bit lost in the beginning. However, with the constant care and support of my team, I learned quickly.
The best part is I have always wanted to work in an NGO but work in the creative field as well. Placement in the Knowledge Management unit quenched that desire perfectly. Writing case stories, working with publications and conceptualizing documentaries, interviewing people and with many other creative tasks—I was on top of the world! Working first-hand with community members in the field, feeling the difference and internalizing how our little efforts in an air conditioned office make a huge impact in people’s lives - these experiences are inexplicable! Seeing the hard yet simple lives of our program participants, I feel more aware not to fuss about petty things like food, clothes or walking on muddy roads, something the previous Tasneem would do a lot!
Our open office not only has a breathtaking interior with desks decorated with small plants and plenty of natural light, but it also reflects the culture and friendliness among all layers of staff. Nobody feels as if they’re working “under” another and everyone gets to share a strong bond with the colleague in the next seat and cubicles nearby! To be honest, the desks look so much alike that it took almost a month to figure out where I sat. I felt like Alice in Care Bangladesh! One of the best things here is a coffee/tea station at every corner, for which, every day is a celebration for me!
The office culture here is quite unique. I was surprised when I came across the culture of calling colleagues Apa(sister) and Bhai (brother), regardless of age and position! This was unusual for me as the typical office culture in Bangladesh is to call senior colleagues Sir or Madam. I did slip a lot Ma’ams and Sirs for the first few weeks while writing my first professional emails.
Waking up early in the morning, fighting the male gaze and pushing through public transport was never my cup of tea, yet I do them every day. Why? Because in the last 9 months, I have transformed into a person who can travel under any condition, conquering her fears, confidently meeting new people, conceptualizing and presenting my ideas to seniors without hesitation. Struggling in public transport, now I fight back the male gaze with a stronger confident stare, feeling empowered by the orange ribbon of CARE Bangladesh ID hanging around my neck.
That nervous girl on the telephone back in January now deals with vendors over phone and face to face, and talks to high officials. The novice on MS Outlook now seamlessly talks to colleagues halfway across the world in Ethiopia via Skype. From a mere proof reader to a content developer, a blogger to a workshop co-facilitator, leading teams and being a judge at a case story competition—I’ve done so much in just 9 months!
Be it professional or personal—CARE has changed me. I have grown.
All the credit goes to my colleagues. Now each of the staff seem like my long-lost brother and sister who takes care of me like family. I feel at home. I feel CARED for at CARE Bangladesh!