When most people think of Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting, they think of young girls in matching uniforms, of camping, hiking and Girl Guide biscuits. But Guiding is so much more then this; it’s a global movement of girls and young women, developing essential life skills including for leadership, service and advocacy.
Sarah Boyd with Hannah Woodward outside the negotiating room for the Agreed Conclusions
By Hannah Woodward, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS) Delegate from Girl Guides Australia
Walking around the United Nations, meeting all sorts of fantastic people from NGO’s, civil society and Government Delegations, you often get asked “who are you here with?”
Often to some people’s surprise, my response is “I’m an Australian Girl Guide here with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.”
I can see why it might be surprising. When most people think of Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting, they think of young girls in matching uniforms, of camping, hiking and Girl Guide biscuits. But Guiding is so much more then this; it’s a global movement of girls and young women, developing essential life skills including for leadership, service and advocacy.
Over the years, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (affectionately referred to as WAGGGS) have developed a strong role as an advocate for the voices of girls and young women. While essentially a non-formal education movement focused on character development, citizenship and service, WAGGGS can hardly teach 10 million girls about the importance of active citizenship, while ignoring the powerful voice it can have as the world’s largest voluntary organisation for girls and young women. This is so significant because, throughout the world, girls and young women face double discrimination on the basis of both their gender and their age.
Besides, we have a strong history of being advocates: the very beginning of the Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting Movement came about when some young girls dressed up as Boy Scouts and went to a Boy Scout rally to say that girls needed to be able to be involved too!
So while it might at first seem out of place that a group of 10 young women sporting matching scarves and various national Girl Guiding & Girl Scouting uniforms have descended on the United Nations this week, we recognise that we have an important role to speak out for the 10 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world that we represent; not only for their rights to empowerment, inclusion, participation, a life free from violence and with full equitable access to their human rights, but also for the other issues that our Girl Guides and Girl Scouts tell us they care about, including peace, the environment and sustainable development which leaves no one behind.
Additionally, what has been amazing to discover is just how powerful we can be as advocates in this space. With excellent preparation from our WAGGGS World Team, support from past WAGGGS delegates, a clearly identifiable presence in our WAGGGS uniform scarves and 10 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts behind us, we can have a genuine impact and ensure that decisions made here will improve our lives and the lives of others.
Our Key Priorities:
- Recognise the rights and needs of girls alongside those of women
- Recognise the contribution of youth- and girl-led organisations alongside women’s organisations
- Acknowledge the impact of discriminatory social norms and attitudes on women and girls opportunities
- Recognise the transformative impact of non-formal education
- Promote the participation of civil society in decision making
- Avoid creating opportunities for States to weaken their commitments or shirk their obligations
Read the WAGGS Reaction Statement to the Agreed Conclusions (25 March 2016)
By Hannah Woodward, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS) Delegate from Girl Guides Australi