Why I’ll be at the End Genocide Action Summit
By Communications Task Force Blogger Zoya Waliany
The End Genocide Action Summit 2011 on October 22-24 is quickly approaching us and I’m counting down the days. This will be the first time I will attend the summit, let alone a STAND conference, so I’m excited to see what I will learn and discover this year. An obvious reason for my excitement: having a legitimate excuse to miss class for a day and spend the weekend with friends in the great city of Washington D.C.? Don’t mind if I do, ayooo! Beyond this highly substantial reason, however, I also claim more meaningful reasons, partially to satisfy my parents and partially to satisfy my inner activist.
The reason why I had never attended a conference before, despite being involved with my university’s STAND chapter for the last three years, is because I didn’t think I had it in me. I’ve held leadership positions in UT’s STAND chapter, including president, and yet I still felt disconnected from the greater STAND organization. Out here, all the way in Texas, I always felt proud of the work we did, but figured it paled in comparison to what students around the country were doing. The same students who attend the annual conferences and boot camps in DC—a long way away from home for me!
Because of this disconnection and distance I felt, I didn’t think attending conferences was important, or even beneficial. However, this year my sentiment has changed. From learning about the new STAND campaigns for Libya and Sudan to reading testimonials describing other students’ accounts of past conferences, I’m beginning to see the benefit of attending this conference. At the Summit, I will be surrounded by hundreds of like-minded students who work toward a common goal and share my passions. Together, we will undergo workshops that explain to us the conflicts in South Kordofan, Abyei, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and other complex regions. Together, we will create campaign strategies and develop tactics to increase genocide prevention awareness at our campuses. While these are things I could do by myself, in my room, using my laptop, to work with other students, in addition to experts, applying hands-on methods to learning will be exponentially more effective. I will come away from this weekend with increased knowledge and a greater confidence of my ability to spread and apply this knowledge.
The last day of the conference is Lobby Day. Lobbying on Capital Hill? One could not possibly be more legit than an activist who lobbies in the heart of the country. The conference will provide training for people like myself without lobbying experience and will subsequently thrust us into the hotbed of lobbying the very next day. Though a daunting and even anxiety-causing task, Lobby Day will not only give us real life experience, but it will also prepare us to bring our skills back to our campuses to teach our peers. If you’re a politics nerd like me, the prospect of lobbying with real life Congress members is a huge incentive to attend the Summit.
So, despite my lack of prior experience and the many miles between D.C. and me, I have decided that this year I will attend the End Genocide Action Summit 2011. I will finally make the transition from working on the sidelines to being a significant and substantial part of the genocide prevention movement.