Beyond Policy – Presentation on COP21 Turns into a Call to Action

As world leaders gathered in Paris for COP21, so do did these students gather to learn about what commitments the Unites States made to help reduce our reliance on carbon. (US Embassy photo)
Woré Ndiaye, Executive Director of Sunu Capital Humain speaks with students about how their daily actions affect the environment (US Embassy photo)
Woré Ndiaye, Executive Director of Sunu Capital Humain speaks with students about how their daily actions affect the environment (US Embassy photo)

The 21 Conference of Parties (COP21) provided an opportunity to speak with Senegalese students about the significance of the conference and what the students, as individuals and as a community, can do to help their environment.  The U.S. Embassy Green Team, working together with partner Sunu Human Capital, met with four schools and one NGO in Dakar during the 11-day COP21 environmental conference.  Working with Lycée Martin Luther King, Lycée Mixte Maurice de la Fosse, Lycée John F Kennedy, and Lycée Moderne de Dakar, the partners spoke with over 350 students about environmentalism.

Sunu Capital Executive Director Woré Ndiaye explained how we can all make small changes to create a big impact.  “When you go to the market, you don’t just take your money. You can also bring a reusable bag so you don’t have to take a plastic bag,” Ndiaye said.  By make small adjustments, like refusing plastic bags or taking a coffee with a reusable cup instead of a disposable one, Ndiaye encouraged the students to make informed decisions in their day to day lives.

To that end, the Public Affairs section provided each of the students with a reusable water bottle, which can replace the one-time use plastic bottles or bags they normally drink from. “This started out as a way to help explain the U.S. stance on COP21,” said Green Team chair Craig Gerard. “However, this turned into a much bigger opportunity to help engage Senegalese youth to be part of the solution.”

By teaming with a local NGO, it also allowed the Embassy to break cultural barriers. The Sunu Capital director was able to joke with the students in Wolof and explain to them why, as Muslims, they should not let their home become unclean. The message resonated with the students.

Showing these students trash-filled scenes of Dakar, Ms. Ndiaye was able to stir up nationalist pride, encouraging the students to take civic responsibility for their actions.  “We all have a chance to make our city better,” she informed the students.