This post was written by guest blogger and UNC-Chapel Hill student Danielle Allyn.
In the Kiswahili language, spoken by many in eastern Congo, methali (proverbs) play an important role in society. One such proverb reads Penye nia pana njia or, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
When I first learned about the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative, I was inspired by the power of student activism to educate university students about the current conflict in eastern DRC and to advocate for consumer policy change on a university level. My second reaction was one of surprise at the fact that UNC-Chapel Hill, an institution that by many accounts prides itself on a rich legacy of student mobilization, had yet to embrace this initiative. Thankfully, Carolina is privileged with an extraordinary set of faculty, several of whom happen to be Congolese- and two of whom happened to be my professors. I had a will, and I was beginning to see a way.
Over the next several months, I began developing a loose network of student and faculty advocates-a coalition of sorts- committed to ending Carolina’s complicity in the conflict minerals trade. Together, Zach Ferguson, CFCI co-chair and Carolina law student, slowly built this coalition to include our university’s center for social justice (the UNC Campus Y), faculty, Student Congress, and Yole!Africa U.S., a student group promoting musical and cultural exchange between youth in the DR Congo and students here in Chapel Hill. Our reach currently extends beyond the university, as we continue to work with Ten Thousand Villages Chapel Hill and MamAfrica Designs, a non-profit run by UNC Ph.D. student Ashely Nemiro selling handmade Congolese clothing.
Early in the fall, Zach and I drafted a petition and made plans to draft a resolution, which we introduced to our Student Congress in January. UNC Student Congress adopted our Resolution in Support of a Conflict-Free Campus at the end of that month, and the NC Association of Student Governments (comprised of representatives from all universities in the NC system) adopted a similar resolution in February.
UNC-Chapel Hill is in a unique situation, given that our electronics procurement policy is set by the state legislature. This presents an obstacle to change, as our administration is powerless to change the policy in the absence of an amendment to state legislation. Since the fall, Zach and I have been in communication with local legislators on this issue, and we are optimistic about future collaborative efforts in concert with the upcoming North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) session this May. Penye nia pana njia. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Looking to learn more about CFCI at UNC or to support our efforts?
- “Like” Carolina CFCI on Facebook
- Join us for an Electronics Blackout on Wednesday, March 26. We will wear black and abstain from electronic devices for 12 hours (7a.m.-7p.m.) in solidarity with victims of violence in the DRC. You can sign on here to our Thunderclap, which will release a Facebook status for you automatically at 7:00 a.m. on the 26th.
- Sign our petition via change.org