Advocacy and communication

For Palak Rao, it is important that her work can make some meaningful impact. Her master’s program has allowed her to support those who are marginalized and at-risk.

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Palak Rao is employed as a Communication and Advocacy Adviser at the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (photo: private)

Palak Rao works at the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), a Human Rights Organization based in Oslo. She currently works on a project in the Committee called the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief - IPPFoRB, as their Communication and Advocacy Adviser.

– IPPFoRB is a global network of current and former parliamentarians who are committed to advancing freedom of religion and belief for all. I work in a three-person secretariat in NHC, and together with regional partners we support parliamentarians from different parts of the world, she says.

Advocacy and communication

Palak is responsible for managing all external communication, like websites, social media and liaising with journalists and media outlets. She also drafts and writes different types of content such as op-eds, articles, press releases and briefings.

On Advocacy efforts, Palak works closely with regional partners, especially in Southeast Asia and Africa to get a sense of what the issues are on the ground, and together they plan national, regional and international actions and initiatives to align legislations, policies and societal attitudes with human rights norms. 

-  A typical day in the office consists of us figuring out what tasks we have to do that day, she says. – We’re three people in the Oslo team, but we have partners in Southeast Asia and Africa who support regional parliamentarians, and I often work very closely with them. We regularly speak about the priorities of parliamentarians and strategically coordinate on campaigns and initiatives. Large parts of my day also go towards planning communication work, supporting on events, both online and offline and developing our monitoring and evaluation work. It’s a diverse job and as we are a small team, everyone gets to do almost everything.

 Do you get to use your educational background in your job? How?

– Yes definitely. My entire job is about human rights, with some visual communications. This degree has helped me understand and categorize everyday challenges as human rights issues, she laughs.

Prior to doing the masters’ in human rights, Palak interned in organizations that worked on sustainable development, but she felt that often she didn’t have the language to identify certain issues.

– Then I got to the master’s program at UiO, and I started to understand what human rights is and how to identify its violations. The program helped me to develop that language, and how to approach issues theoretically and practically from different angles. The internship aspect of the program is also really helpful, she says.

Palak did her internship in Norway with Forum for Women and Development (FOKUS), a Norwegian non-governmental organization working on women-centered development cooperation and tells about how it was very fulfilling and motivating to understand how human rights is practiced in real life.

– One thing is that you read books and you study, the other thing is that you apply your knowledge practically on the ground to support and improve livelihoods of those who are marginalized and are at-risk. My internship and my job have helped me, in some ways, to do this. For me, it is really important that my work can make some meaningful impact, even in the smallest ways and that I’m able to use my master’s program for doing so, she says.


The most important thing Palak learned from the master’s program, was the multi-disciplinary approach.

– As someone who is a sociologist and not a lawyer, I realized that the beauty of studying this program was that you weren’t constrained in your approach, there was a lot of space to grow as a scholar and practitioner within human rights. For example, my thesis was a socio-anthropological study of freedom of religion or belief in India. Most of my classmates wrote a legal thesis, but I felt confident in doing this, and I knew that the Center would also appreciate this very much. Human rights need to be approached by different fields of study and not only law, she says.

How did you get your current job?

– We had a Facebook group in my master’s class, and someone posted this position and said to me: “this is the only English-speaking position I’ve found, and you should apply!” I didn’t speak much Norwegian at the time, so the job was perfect for me. At the time I was writing my thesis, and the topic I wrote about also matched with what the project I was applying for. Then I had 2-3 interviews with them, and finally I got the job, she says.

Language and networking

When asked if she has any advice for other international students that wish to work in her field, she says that amongst other things, language and networking helped her.

– Language is one of those things I failed to work on myself. I was very slow to learn Norwegian opposed to many of my classmates who started language courses right away. If you want to work in Norway, speaking Norwegian helps since there are not that many English speaking jobs. Knowing the language also helps when you’re having lunch at work and everyone speaks and jokes in Norwegian, she says.

The NGO world in Norway, is quite small and everyone tends to know each other, according to Palak. Therefor it’s very important to go out and meet people, to network.

– Go out and speak to relevant people, and in some cases, they will help you get in touch with others. This can be challenging, especially as a young student. But try to go to different events, interact with professors, those working inorganizations, get to know other students and learn about what do they want to do. Find like-minded people to work with, to be in touch with, this also helps to make more friends. My second supervisor was someone I met by networking, she confirms.

– What are your further career plans and wishes?

– My near future dream is to go back to the university to do a PhD. I miss the university as a place where I will get the opportunity to grow as a scholar. I would like to research religion and climate change in South Asia, Palak says.

Name: Palak Rao

Age: 29

Studies: Sociology (BA), Human rights law, UiO, (finished in 2020)

Workplace: Communication and Advocacy Adviser at The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (since 2018)

Published Mar. 7, 2022 11:11 AM - Last modified Mar. 7, 2022 12:55 PM