By Allison Rose
When four freshman girls from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill approached Or Mars, the executive director of North Carolina Hillel, their plans for a safety whistle distribution were simply a heartfelt response to their concern for the increasing danger of women on college campuses.
Nearly three months later, their hearts are in the same places, but their efforts have evolved into a full-scale women's safety and empowerment campaign.
Hannah Gutterman, Alyssa Kaye, Allison Rose, and Samantha Stiles -- joined by Emily Dunn and Stephanie Berman and Kaplan Steinhardt Senior JCSC Fellow Jenn Lande -- dubbed their program Project Dinah, after the daughter of Jacob and Leah whose rape story is told in the Book of Genesis. Project Dinah strives to equip women with the knowledge and tools necessary to increase awareness of past and present women's issues at UNC-CH and at large.
"I'm excited that our plan has been realized," Dunn said. "We're doing what we wanted. We're helping women."
November 17-19 marked Project Dinah's kick-off week, which included a campus-wide distribution of red safety whistles and palm cards printed with local safety numbers. The whistles and palm cards were purchased with some of the $1,500 from the Hillel Student Initiatives Grant that Project Dinah received in late September.
"I'm extremely proud of Project Dinah and our start-up success," Stiles said.
The students distributed more than 850 whistles in just three days. Additionally, nearly 400 individuals signed up for more information about and to get involved with Project Dinah. Many students at UNC-CH are talking about the impact of their school's newest initiative.
"There was overwhelming interest from the student body and incredible support from the other groups on campus," said Gutterman.
Project Dinah recently received co-sponsorships from Alpha Epsilon Pi and Sigma Rho Lamda's UNC-CH chapters and the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, but organizers are still actively searching for support because the fight for women's safety and empowerment is far from over -- especially for Project Dinah.
The students behind Project Dinah have many upcoming events planned, including self-defense classes, a book discussion of The Red Tent, a lecture series and small group discussions with several prominent women speakers and possibly an "Em-power Walk" at the end of the year.
"I'm proud to be doing something that might make the world a little bit safer for even just one person," Berman said.
Allison Rose is a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.