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Sarah Cooke, IBEI Alumni 2009-10

Name and Last Name: Sarah Cooke O'Dowd

Nationality: Belgian

Master studied at IBEI: Master's in International Relations

Class: 2009-2010

Current working company, position and city:  Communication Officer at Equinet, European Network of Equality Bodies in Brussels (Belgium)

Linkedin: https://be.linkedin.com/in/sarahcookeodowd

I finished the full -time bilingual Master in International Relations at IBEI in 2010. Over the past five years, I have developed my knowledge of EU policies, particularly in the fields of migration, education and anti -discrimination. I have worked with experts from various European networks and honed my project management and communication skills. I am hap py to say that I am still in close contact with many of my IBEI classmates, who have become an extraordinary source of support, encouragement and entertainment over the years.

I hope this overview will serve to inform IBEI students about the opportuniti es available after the Master , particularly those interested in working at European level and for those of you who feel strongly about the rights of those less -advantaged than you.

During my year in IBEI, I followed the pathway in political economy of devel opment, with a further specialisation in European policies and institutions. My thesis focused on official development assistance, and I clearly enjoyed making the links between European institutions and development policies. Apart from getting to know a w onderful group of people from all over the world, I also gained practical experience in comparative analysis, research methods, multicultural team work and efficient time management. I was very pleased to be chosen to speak on behalf of my fellow students at our graduation ceremony, which took place in the middle of a war also known as the FIFA World Cup.

From October 2010 to December 2011, I worked at CIDOB, Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (thanks to the internship programme at IBEI), focusing predominantly on two European funded projects. One of these was the European Website on Integration, where I worked as the Spanish Country Coordinator , communicating with practitioners and policy makers on migrant integration in Spain. The other was the EU 4Seas project - an analysis of sub -regional multilateralism in the Baltic, B lack, Caspian and Mediterranean Seas . I spent 2012 coordinat ing the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Immigration (GRITIM -UPF) at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona.

At the end of 2012, I moved to Brussels to work with the Migration Policy Group (MPG) as the content manager of the European Website on Integration. As such, I work ed closely with the European Commission as well as experts from around Europe to share informat ion and integration practices for migrants across Europe. Originally planning to work there for only nine months, I ended up staying with MPG for two years . During this time, I had the opportunity to lead a pilot project on immigrant citizenship campaigns. I also work ed as the communication manager for the SIRIUS European Policy Network which focuses on improving the education of children and young people with a migrant background.

In January 2015 I started work as the Communication Officer for the secretariat of Equinet, European network of equality bodies. This is a membership organisation bringing together 42 equality bodies from 32 European countries including all EU Member States. National equality bodies are public organisations that assist victims of discrimination, monitor and report on discrimination issues, and promot e equality for all . They are legally required to do so in relation to one, some, or all of the grounds of discrimination covered by European Union law – gender, race and ethnicity, age , sexual orientation, religion or belief, and disability. Equinet promotes equality in Europe by supporting and enabling the work of national equality bodies. It supports equality bodies to be independent and effective as valuable catalysts for more equa l societies. More concretely, it aims to enhance the strategic capacity of its members and to develop the skills and competences of their staff by connecting them through working groups and training events.

Equinet contributes to the European equality agenda by conveying an expert contribution from the experience of equality bodies, primarily through publications and events. Equinet serves as a knowledge and communication hub on equal treatment, while also aiming to enhance the recognition and strategic pos itioning of equality bodies at European level.

As Communication Officer, I am responsible for the development, implementation and monitoring of an overall Equinet communication strategy . This aims to rais e the visibility of the network and its members, en sur e effective external com munication with EU institutions and key stakeholders and support internal network communication. More particularly, my responsibilities include managing the production and dissemination of Equinet communication tools (e.g. public ations, website, e - newsletters, and promotional material ), coordinating the Equinet Working Group on Communication Strategies and Practices, as well as supporting the policy team with their communication needs.

The Equinet secretariat has six full time s taff members, which allows us to work on many different aspects of equality and anti -discrimination . IBEI students and alumni might be interested to know that there are paid internships within the secretariat, generally from February/March or September/Oct ober for five months at a time. These internships are usually either policy and communication or administration and finance focused. While we do calls for applications, we also accept spontaneous applications throughout the year. Many other Brussels -based organisations and networks have similar internship opportunities.

This is the first time that I have held a full time, permanent job since I left IBEI, but the professional experience that I have gained along the way has been very useful and has built upo n the knowledge that I gained during the M aster in a logical and complementary way. I really enjoy working on the European level regarding equality and anti -discrimination issues, and I feel that there is still plenty of work to do to raise awareness about people’s rights and to achieve equality for all.

Warm regards to all IBEI students past and present, as well as the supportive IBEI staff and teachers and the wider IBEI community.