Different experiences in different countries make us grow in diverse ways. I have increasingly become more aware of this motto, and I try to live by it more intensely with each new experience I choose to embark on. Having spent most of my teen years in Portugal, the last few years have been ones of great personal development: my tastes, my skills and even my opinions and ideas. Knowing other cultures always equips us with different perspectives and opportunities, and in doing an internship in Lithuania, and particularly in LGL, I was introduced to a brand-new path.
LGL, as a national organization that fights for LGBTI+ rights, is a fundamental pillar in the support and protection of the LGBTI+ community in Lithuania, and in raising awareness among political decision-makers as well as the civil society. While looking for an internship in a human rights NGO, this experience in Vilnius and with LGL was, from the get-go, a unique opportunity for me. It would unable me to work and learn from those who have been fighting for human rights for several years; who have created, developed and implemented a vast number of projects towards equality. Not only would it allow me to work on ongoing projects and events organized for the LGBTI+ community and general public, both nationally and internationally, but also to give me the chance to apply the knowledge I acquired during my academic training.
As a master‘s degree student of international humanitarian action I wanted, with my internship, to understand how LGBTI+ rights are seen in Lithuania and, taking into account the poorly inclusive context of national law, to see how an organization fights and advocates to change the legislation of its own country. What were the strategies, the projects and the actions taken.
When I arrived, I started working on a project called Rainbow Rights (RR). I had the main responsibility of planning a 2 weeks study visit in Vilnius for members of a Finnish umbrella NGO and to accompany them during their stay. This was an amazing opportunity for me to meet other organizations that work for human rights in Lithuania and to learn a lot about the national situation and the work that was being done to improve it. Apart from that task, I helped organizing a regional seminar that happened in Vilnius which has brought to the capital actors on LGBTI+ issues of the Baltic countries, Finland and Belarus, enabling me to be in constant contact with international stakeholders. Aside from the RR project – that constituted the majority of my working time – I also had the good fortune of going to Latvia to be part of a seminar where I talked about both the Portuguese and the Lithuanian situation of advocacy work through the activist lens.
It has now been almost 3 months since I started working here and I cannot help but compare the expectations I had at the beginning of this journey, to where I stand now. LGL and all its workers have relied on me and my aptitudes since I arrived. I was given real responsibilities and I was shown how much my participation could be useful, both through the tasks they were giving me and through their grateful discourse. Moreover, I can confidently say that this is one of the great qualities of this organization in which I take pride in having worked with – the recognition of the work and effort of all its members. And this characteristic is undoubtedly the reflection of the people who work there and their human ideals and attitudes.
I deeply believe that, in spite of there being a long way to go in terms of LGBTI + issues in Lithuania, both legally and in civil society acceptance, all the battles that have been overdue are the result of a huge amount of work and dedication of each of the people who work in this organization. Both workers and volunteers. This is the beauty of working for human rights, this feeling that we would not have elsewhere, exercising any other job. And that is what motivates us and makes us want to continue fighting. Although the context is adverse, and even though we fall sometimes, we find a way to rise and to keep going. Today I say goodbye to this responsibility, but I take with me the motivation and pride of each one of those with whom I had the pleasure to work with.
In an organization where the beauty of diversity excels, I have no doubt that I will carry these months of great growth throughout my life.