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Supporting democracy in South Africa

An Amer­ican who grew up on a NATO base in Bel­gium has expanded her global reach by doing a co-​​op on a dif­ferent continent.

Audra Richards — a third-​​year com­bined major in crim­inal jus­tice and inter­na­tional affairs at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity — has been on co-​​op since Jan­uary for the Insti­tute for Democ­racy in Africa, a Cape Town-​​based inde­pen­dent public interest orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to building sus­tain­able demo­c­ratic societies.

In her role, Richards attends high-​​level meet­ings of the organization’s Par­lia­men­tary Mon­i­toring Group and then pre­pares detailed out­come reports for its website. The prac­tice, she said, is uncommon among young democracies.

“It’s a very impor­tant orga­ni­za­tion because South Africa doesn’t have any­thing that over­sees what goes on in their Par­lia­ment except for the PMG,” Richards said.

Richards — who is cur­rently writing a research paper on the nation of South Sudan —also works for a broad range of pro­grams for which she studies the cost of cor­rup­tion in the elec­tricity sector, mon­i­tors elec­tion pro­ce­dures in Zim­babwe and Mada­gascar and con­ducts back­ground research for mem­bers of an ad hoc com­mittee drafting South Africa’s Pro­tec­tion of Infor­ma­tion Bill.

“I love the oppor­tu­ni­ties that I’ve been given,” said Richards, noting that her expe­ri­ence com­ple­ments her inter­na­tional affairs major.

“I’ve learned about not only South African pol­i­tics, issues and his­tory but also broader pan-​​African issues, too.”

Richards com­pleted her first co-​​op for the Home­land Secu­rity Unit in the Boston Police Department’s Regional Intel­li­gence Center. At North­eastern, she is part of the Crim­inal Jus­tice Stu­dent Advi­sory Council and the campus Circle K chapter, a com­mu­nity ser­vice orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to improving the greater Boston community.

Richards blogs about her co-​​op in South Africa at http://​audssouthafricanad​ven​tures​.tumblr​.com/.

– by Matt Collette

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