by Ruthfirst Eva Ayande
What MCC15 Meant to Me.
The Millennium campus conference (MCC) from my observation and experience, is one of the largest international platforms that students, student leaders and just anyone interested in making an impact whatever way they can, can meet and interact with each other and learn new things. For me as a master's student from a low-middle income country interested in equality, education and environmental sustainability, the 7th edition of this conference, MCC15, was an initiation into a lifetime career in advocacy in the three (3) areas mentioned above. This was especially because the conference's themes revolved around the Seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were recently adopted by all member states of the United Nations and are yet to be launched in the months to come. Issues of poverty and malnutrition, inequality, pollution among others which are highlighted so
strongly in the SDGs are real to me and although I may not directly or immediately suffer their consequences as many others do and eventually will in my country, I have a passion help push the agenda of solving them using education and advocacy as a tool.
Lessons That I learnt At MCC15.
One too many times we are faced with situations in our communities that make us feel like we are fighting strong battles on our own until we interact with others like us, who remind us that there is always that thin thread that links us all.
In my tenure as National Vice President of the Graduate Student's Association of Ghana (GRASAG), a wing of the National Union of Ghana students (NUGS), I observed a disconnect between these two organizations that made it difficult for us to converge our ideas even for good causes. Reasons being that graduate students felt they were generally more mature, knowledgeable and focused than the bulk of undergraduate students who made up NUGs who, invariably had the numbers but hardly looked to GRASAG for guidance. I was awakened to the fact that this was not peculiar to my country during the conference while interacting with some students from the Columbia University who indicated a similar disconnect between the Black student's Union and the African student's union. Something I learnt from the conference was the phenomenon of "themicaction"; a "them" versus "us" syndrome that we all somehow consciously or unconsciously tune into as we deal with the social, racial, gender or whatever differences that existed between us, be they natural or man-made. So the lesson that I learnt in summary?...For everything that divided us, there were many more that united us, and the realization of this "same difference" was something that rung true in my mind throughout the conference as speaker upon speaker either stated or subtly re-emphasized this.
I also learnt that I didn't have to have all the answers before trying.... "We are here to unite but not as heroes saving the world". We often view change makers as people who had it all figured out, people with superhuman abilities who knew just what to do, when and how. This is however not the case all the time. For many who actually made an impact, it was the will to first of all board the train of change and the ability to work either as the driver who steered the wheel, the conductor who managed affairs on the ride or just the "mere" passenger who gave purpose to the train as it made its journey to wherever its destination was.
For some this was an awakening, for others a reminder. For me it was reassurance that I was not in this alone and that whatever spark I could start in the environment I found myself in, no matter what oppositions I felt existed, would in the long run contribute to a huge fire that'll burn in the hearts of many and inspire change.
"In partnerships there are no heroes, only sidekicks". Beyond MCC 15, I plan to reassess themethods I have used so far to try to drive social change in my country, Ghana.Through workshops and debates, I have been provided with insights on how to form partnerships, raise funds to run campaigns and have a more humanistic approach to the way I perceive and try to solve problems in the communities I wish to work in. I plan to apply these in real life situations.
I have also become part of a large network of amazing people from all over the world with a common agenda of global development. Regardless of how different the approaches of other members of this network are from mine, I plan to tap into this large human resource and form meaningful partnerships.
I am gingered to at least try. And who knows? If I somehow find myself in Washington DC next year participating, this time not as a student but as a post-clinical intern, in MCC16 I may have a good story to tell about how deciding to work as and with other sidekicks helped in the accomplishment of heroic feats that I would otherwise never have dreamed of achieving.