Eka Iakobishvili, an alumna of the OSI Chevening University of Essex Program (2007–2008), has made a professional full circle with her scholarship experience.
After graduating with a BA at Tbilisi State University in her native Georgia, and driven by a passion for human rights and international rule of law, Iakobishvili began her career at Penal Reform International, an international nongovernmental organization working for justice reform through monitoring, advocacy and grant giving activities. After completing her LLM in Human Rights Law at the University of Essex as a grantee of the OSI Chevening Program, she finds herself back at PRI: this time, however, as part of the OSI Human Rights and Governance Grants Internship Program.
The internship program which funds Iakobishvili’s placement, is a collaborative initiative of the Scholarship Programs and the Human Rights and Governance Grants Program (HRGGP). Through targeted internships, the program aims to leverage the talents of former OSI Scholarship holders as well as CEU students in HRGGP-supported NGOs in Europe and Central Asia, an arrangement which provides mutual benefit for both parties.
In London, Iakobishvili is undertaking a yearlong internship with PRI at their offices in Liverpool Street. Focusing on advocacy and research activities, she feels she has benefited from her direct contact with the policy director, Mary Murphy, whom she admired in her previous position at PRI in Georgia.
Iakobishvili’s internship took her on a weeklong study tour to Geneva, where she witnessed how policy work was done by various NGOs. The trip gave her a fresh view on advocacy tools and strategies. In PRI’s effort to involve civil society in the reform of criminal justice, Iakobishvili has also ensured that several advocacy documents are accessible to the general population, work she states is both interesting and challenging at the same time.
Despite the title of "Intern," Iakobishvili is quick to stress that she has done more than an intern typically would. HRGGP interns are highly skilled, early career professionals with the potential to contribute significantly to the hosting organizations. Returning to a company she has worked for in the past has also been a valuable learning curve, and posed an interesting insight into an international office at PRI.
On a personal note, Iakobishvili adjusted well to the cosmopolitan tone of London. She had previously held another internship in the city as a recipient of the OSI Hansard Internship. Open to OSI Chevening Scholars at the end of their studies, the internship combines an intense course of study at the London School of Economics with practical work experience at a political think tank or NGO in London. She endured a triple burden during this time as she was still completing her LLM dissertation entitled “National Human Rights Institutions, Their Role and Future in the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights,” as well as having thoughts of home weigh on her mind as Georgia was at war with Russia.
“I am an NGO person: I grew up in an NGO,” says Iakobishvili, who hails from the Khakheti region of Georgia. “The financial support from OSI helped me in developing my skills in the development and design of the strategies and action for advocacy campaigns. What I really benefited from are new skills and methods and techniques in policy and advocacy actions. Working with PRI required extensive theoretical knowledge of the issues and I tried to combine it with my new skills in direct advocacy and capacity building, advocating through supporting local NGOs and empowering those who knew less about human rights and criminal justice but are neither policy makers or in the position to influence the key decision makers at the policy level," she says.
In the future, Iakobishvili sees a more practical than academic role for herself. With her international spirit, she wishes to make an impact not just within one country. Ideally she would like to expand her knowledge with an additional MA in criminal justice, her dream field. A PhD is not yet in her peripheral vision: “I am so passionate about human rights and criminal justice and I want to do anything and everything in the field: I see human rights as a tool for advocating for change in the justice system. For that reason it doesn’t feel quite right to concentrate on solely one thing but on both in order to make a change in the justice system locally and globally. I would like to take further study at the Masters’ level and hope to have clearer idea what I want.”