By Divya Gajria ’11
This summer I interned with As You Sow, a nonprofit based in San Francisco. Their project “Responsible Sourcing Network” is headed by Thunderbird alumna Patricia Jurewicz ’99. RSN is As You Sow’s first attempt to address human rights issues. At the moment they are working on two campaigns, one on cotton from Uzbekistan, and the other on conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I was given the opportunity to work on the second campaign. The minerals campaign is about promoting responsible mining and transport of minerals from the point of extraction to the manufacturing of products. The conflict in the Congo has been one of the longest in Sub-Saharan African history, claiming at least 6 million lives since 1996.
Rape, torture, forced labor and child soldiers are also used to degrade Congolese people. Armed groups demand taxes and bribes for extracted minerals and then use that income to fund the war. Those same minerals (tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold) end up in consumer products throughout the world. Since these minerals are smuggled into neighboring Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, it gets difficult for electronic companies to trace the minerals back to the origin.
All of that is now changing with new technology and laws that have been initiated by the international community. It was a great opportunity for me to understand the development scope of Sub-Saharan Africa, especially the challenges to development and end of conflict.
Since the internship was unpaid, the ThunderCares Scholarship helped me fund living in San Francisco for 10 weeks. I would encourage students to not completely abandon the idea of unpaid internships. This internship laid the groundwork for my career in international development, something that would have proved difficult had it not been for the alumni network at Thunderbird.