What these first-time voters want you to know about the election

On October 21, people across Canada will head to the polls to cast their vote in the federal election. The youth vote can make a big difference: in this election, millennials are the biggest bloc of eligible voters at 37%.

But Abacus Data research commissioned by Girl Guides of Canada and nine other youth-serving organizations found that in the past 12 months, almost half of Canada’s youth have not had a conversation about politics or political issues.

Getting youth engaged with the election can have a huge impact. To get inspired, we talked to three Girl Guides of Canada members who are engaged and excited to be voting in a federal election for the first time. Sarah Harrison, 21, is voting in the Halifax riding. Carly Russell, 21, is voting in Banff-Airdrie. And Amy Topshee, 18, is voting in Vancouver.

Why are you excited to vote in a federal election for the first time?

“I’m excited to vote in this election because I feel like my voice is going to be heard. For the first time, I am no longer sitting on the sidelines of these conversations that matter.” – Carly

“I was just a couple of months away from turning 18 during the last federal election. So, I have been waiting for a while for the opportunity to vote for the first time! I am excited to be able to have my say in who I want to represent my riding and, indirectly, lead the country.” – Sarah

What do you think the most important issue should be in the federal election?

“I believe that climate change is the most important issue of the federal election. Science has been telling us that we are facing a climate crisis, and if we do not take action now then we will face disastrous effects including but not limited to more frequent natural disasters, a rise in health problems, and economic disruption. I think that Canada could and should be a climate leader.” – Amy

“Honestly, the most important issue of this election in my opinion is the federal government’s relationship with the provincial governments! This might be my inner Albertan answering this part; however, we need to look at how we are helping each other! Canada and its provinces needs each other in order to thrive, and so we need to make sure our relationships are stronger.” – Carly

Why do you think it’s important for girls and young women to be engaged with and informed about the election?

“Girls and young women need to vote in this election because it is 2019 and our voices matter! Equality is something that we as a country can work towards but change first starts with young women getting out and voting this year.” – Carly

“The young adult voter turnout has historically been significantly lower than the voter turnout overall. As young people, we have the ability to make our votes heard in this election, but in order to do that we need to get informed and then actually vote!” – Sarah

“I think it’s important for all people to get engaged and informed about politics, even if they can’t vote yet! Even those who are too young to vote should voice their opinions.” – Amy

Do you have a message for other young people who are eligible to vote for the first time?

“Do not take our right to vote for guaranteed! Many people around the world do not have the right to vote and influence the politics of their county. I am only able to vote thanks to the trailblazing women who came before me. To show my appreciation for all of their hard work I must exercise my democratic rights.” – Amy

“My message would be to go and vote! Don’t think that just because there are a lot of voters your vote doesn’t matter. It does! Take some time to research the issues that are important to you and check the Elections Canada website for your voting options.” – Sarah

“Politics isn’t just the ‘old boys club’! Form your own opinions and be ready to change the world. Change starts with girls!” – Carly

Election day is October 21. To find information about your riding, candidates, and when and where to vote, visit Elections Canada.

Sarah Harrison is a Brownie Guider and a student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS.

Carly Russell is a Brownie and Ranger Guider in Calgary, AB who is passionate about all things politics.

Amy Topshee is currently a bridging member in Vancouver, BC. Throughout her 13 years in Guiding, she has travelled to Switzerland, Scotland, and Iceland, and served on the National Travel Committee.

Sarah, Carly, and Amy are all members of Wave Makers, GGC’s new youth spokesperson team.

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The power of mentoring girls IRL (in real life)

By Jill Zelmanovits, CEO and Chief Listening Officer, Girl Guides of Canada

Remember that priceless piece of career advice a friend or mentor gave you? Chances are, they leaned in with that bit of wisdom in person and not in a text, DM or social media post. In an era of infinite ways to connect digitally, in-person connections still reign supreme – in terms of benefit and impact. At Girl Guides of Canada, we’ve been helping girls build their network of peers and women mentors since long before words like ‘networking’ and ‘mentoring’ were corporate catchphrases. On International Day of the Girl (October 11), our new report In Real Life (IRL) Matters reveals why it’s essential to support girls in building real-life connections.

In the first study of its kind on the social capital of Canadian youth, Girl Guides asked girls about their sense of belonging and whether they feel supported and connected to the communities where they live. What we discovered is that not only how girls are interacting is changing significantly – girls report having 3.3 in real life (IRL) close friends on average and 13.5 online-only friends – but that it’s a shift we need to pay attention to. The study reveals that girls with more in-person connections are more likely to feel like they are listened to, accepted and cared about and report they have a greater sense of belonging. Those who rely more on online connections don’t share the same level of optimism about the future or sense of having a network of friends or family that can support them.

So why do these findings matter? Well, we all have a role to play in helping create spaces for girls to have in-person relationships with peers and the adults in their lives. Teenage girls in particular are at a critical time in their lives – they have leadership roles to explore, careers to consider, choices to make. Mentoring and supporting these budding trailblazers as they start their career journey can have an immeasurable impact in propelling girls towards amazing opportunities with all the top skills and confidence, they’ll need to achieve their goals.  

At Girl Guides, we see first-hand the powerful benefits of giving girls the opportunity to connect with women mentors of all backgrounds. Our volunteers come from all walks of life, from every imaginable career field. They listen to what matters to girls and create a collaborative team environment where everyone’s voice is valued. They inspire girls to not only see women as leaders, but also to see themselves as leaders – one mentoring moment at a time. Basically, the kind of mentoring program that career gurus recommend is exactly what girls find for themselves in Guiding – and what they need more of in this world.

Of course, it’s not just adult mentors that matter to girls. Building a solid peer network is important, too. When girls connect in real life, they build a solid foundation to support one another in immeasurable ways. We see this at Girl Guides all the time. It’s a 6-year-old Spark learning to tie her shoe and using her confidence to help another girl. It’s a 13-year-old Pathfinder discussing mental health with her unit and then reaching out to support a friend. Girls have pretty much nailed the secret formula for cheering each other on and empowering one another in moments big and small. What they need is adults to support and encourage them to make these real-life connections. (Bonus: when girls have the opportunity to support one another, they’ll carry these mentoring traits into their adult lives. It’s a ripple effect that goes on and on.)

It’s unlikely any of us got where we are without a mentor’s help and guidance. We don’t need to wait until girls are in career mode to give them the same mentoring opportunities. Helping them create those mentoring and peer networking moments now will make a real difference in creating a world where girls empower girls – and in turn go on to achieve extraordinary things.

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Top 5 reasons a Girl Guide trip is the ULTIMATE

Kenya. Paris. The Amazon. The Yukon. These are just some of the destinations you can explore when you go on a Girl Guides Nationally-Sponsored Trip. Wondering why you should apply? The reasons are endless – but we’re breaking it down for you in a top five list. (Pssst! You have until October 9 to apply for our current round of travel experiences.)

  1. There’s a trip for every kind of explorer. Whether you want to get your adrenaline pumping white water rafting or exploring one of the world’s greatest cities is more your style, there’s a trip that’s right for you.

2. You can start scratching destinations off your bucket list. Whether you’re visiting somewhere new in Canada or heading off to another country on another continent, you can scratch your dream destinations off one amazing view at a time!

3. Make epic memories – and take epic photos. Travelling isn’t just about taking Instagram-worthy pics. (Although, obviously, you’ll be able to snap some amazing photos.) It’s about opening your eyes and seeing amazing places and stunning sights that make you see the world – and yourself – in a whole new way.

4. You’ll add new Guiding sisters to your squad. Whether you’re sharing a high-five after an amazing hike, digging into amazing new food or just seeing a new city together for the first time, you’ll make new friends who you’ll always feel connected with.

5. There’s a crest for that. Empowering. Challenging. Inspiring. And just plain awesome. Travelling with Girl Guides has it all that and more – including a crest. Every time someone asks you where you got your crest, you can tell them all about your out-of-this-world Nationally-Sponsored Trip experience with Guiding.

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How my Girl Guide trip to Ecuador changed me

Wondering what it’s like to go on a Girl Guide trip? It’s E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Gabriella shares her recent experience in the Andes. Just in time for our Nationally-Sponsored Trip applications – closing October 9, 2019.

I got back from my Girl Guide trip to Ecuador a few weeks ago and my mind is still processing everything I experienced. From the moment I stepped off the plane, I could tell this would be different than any other school or family trip I could ever go on. Even though few of the girls on the trip had never met before, I could feel the almost immediate bond we all had.   

The trip itself was absolutely incredible. Every activity we did from the volunteer work and cultural experiences to making our own chocolate and going on early-morning hikes in the Amazon was unique, inspiring, fun and even challenging. But what made this trip truly special to me was the people. One of my favourite moments was after a long day of working up in the Andes we were surprised with a campfire! Being in a place that is so new to me and doing something so familiar really makes you feel at home. Campfires are such a special time, especially for anyone who’s been in Girls Guides and it was really cool to learn some new songs to bring back to my unit as well as share some old favourites.

It wasn’t just the girls on this trip that impacted me, but our trip leaders, and the local people. We went to visit a women’s artisan group sponsored by WE while in the Andes. They taught us about how to make and spin wool and we had the chance to hear stories about how things had changed in their community since WE had started working with them. They told us about how they could make a living and help support their children, and how, unlike themselves, their daughters could now finish high school and be independent. It was beyond inspiring, and for me it made me realize what I might like to do with my life is work for an NGO or something where I can help people. 

Every place we went I felt immediately welcomed by the locals. One day I will always hold particularly dear to my heart was while working in the Amazon. It was incredibly hot. During our lunch break in an unfinished classroom, we noticed a group of children. They had been watching us all morning slowly getting closer and closer. When we brought out the soccer ball we had brought, they quickly showed us to the field to play a game.  I’ve never considered myself a coordinated person and have actually never really liked soccer, but something about playing it on a muddy field while wearing knee high rubber boots in 40° C weather made it extremely fun, even if we were absolutely destroyed by the competition.  

Ecuador. Kenya. The Yukon. Switzerland – and more! Check out our next group of AMAZING Nationally-Sponsored Trips destinations. Applications for our 2020 travel experiences close October 9, 2019

Meet our guest contributor: “Hi! I’m Gabriella, I’ve been a Girl Guide for 12 out of the 16 years of my life. I’ve had the privilege of literally growing up with wonderful leaders and a great unit. Even when my life gets busy, as I also swim, row and have school, Girl Guides has always been a place I can come to relax, have fun and be truly myself.”

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Putting girls on the fast track with Guiding

Girl Guides is all about getting girls revved up for the limitless possibilities ahead of them. Find out how Emma and Mary hopped into the driver’s seat to test drive career options at the Toronto Honda Indy.

This past weekend we went to the Toronto Honda Indy with our mom and another Girl Guide Trex unit. As someone who LOVES cars (that’s me, Mary!), there is no better place to visit than the Indy. Since we’ve never been, this sounded like a lot of fun. We both loved the roar of the engines and all the action trackside!

What was really cool about this opportunity is that Girl Guides worked with FIA Women in Motorsport to put this amazing day together.  We got to go behind the scenes and see that there are so many women involved in every aspect of the Indy. We met the assistant team manager for team Carlin, Silvia, who knew a lot about motorsport. Who knew there were so many opportunities for women in this sport, from the engineers to mechanics to marketing to being a driver. Silvia taught us about the different parts of the cars, the different flags used at the race and introduced us to members of team Carlin. We then left the paddock area where all of the teams were and went outside to the track.

We watched the cars in action from trackside as they raced the qualifying races for the Indy. It was AMAZING! It was so cool to see how quick the team could change tires and check the cars and send it back out onto the track to continue racing.  After the races we went back inside and had the opportunity to visit team Carlin again. This time we met one of the drivers, Charlie Kimball. He knew so much! He let us hold the steering wheel (which was crazy expensive) and check out all of the different parts of the car.  

This day was just so unbelievable. Thank you Girl Guides for giving us this opportunity, we will never forget it!

Guest post by Emma and Mary. They’re from Toronto and have been involved in Guiding in various branches for as long as they can remember. Their favourite thing about Guiding is all of the different opportunities they’ve been able to do, from camping, to being part of photo shoots, to going to the air show, and now the Toronto Indy – all with their mom.

Thank you to Women in Motorsport Canada for inviting members of GGC to the Honda Indy! Girls learned first-hand the careers and opportunities open to them in motorsport, and met amazing women role models who provided lots of inspiration.

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At Girl Guides, we’ve got pride in being inclusive

At Girl Guides, we love a good parade. Even better – when the parade is all about positivity and inclusivity. From the Yukon to Saskatchewan and beyond, Girl Guides are participating in Pride month celebrations big and small across the country. Our goal – to be loud and proud in showcasing Guiding as a safe and welcoming space for the 2S-LGBTQI+ community.

Here’s a look at how Girl Guides are celebrating and what some of our members have to say about what it means to see Guiding at Pride events:

“Having Girl Guides at Pride makes us feel included and helps Guiding be an inclusive space for all us!”

“Seeing Girl Guides at Pride feels like home. Girl Guides are family!” 

“I grew up in Guides. It wasn’t queer friendly. To see GGC here now brings me Pride.” 

“I am so happy my daughters and I are a part of this great organization.” 

“More than 40 years ago I started in Guiding as a Brownie. This was in the 1970’s when being gay meant you could be beaten, persecuted, and at the very least shunned. I was a Brownie, Guide, and a Sparks/Brownie/Guide leader, all the while keeping who I really was a secret. It brings me to tears to see how much things have changed and how inclusive guiding has become.”

“It is so heartwarming to see a pillar that is Girl Guides for so many young women at an event as powerful as the Toronto Pride Festival.” 

“Seeing GGC at Pride is so amazing. Really shows how much they care.”   

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I am an Indigenous girl in Guiding

For Indigenous girls in Canada, it can be hard to make their voices heard. At Girl Guides, we believe that every girl should be valued for exactly who she is. From Nunavut to Alberta and Nova Scotia and beyond, 13 Indigenous Girl Guides recently came together in Ottawa to share their experiences and offer ideas for how Guiding can better support girls in their communities. As Girl Guides celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21), Alice shares her story on the power of connecting with other Indigenous girls in Guiding:

I am Alice Lightning Earle. I am Cree from Treaty 6 and a member of the 1st Leduc Pathfinders in Alberta. I don’t think I would trade this Indigenous girls’ event for any other Girl Guide trip. It was just so enriching and fun. I had thought that there were barely any Indigenous girls in Guiding but it was awesome getting to meet other Indigenous girls from across Canada. We got to learn so much and had time to connect with each other.

While we were there we shared lots of history. We shared our opinions on how we were represented as Indigenous girls in Guiding, and that we should have a bit more representation. Myself and the other girls connected a lot through our beliefs and culture and just meeting other people. Lots of the history shared was about Girl Guides’ past and all of the Indigenous girls that were involved in Guiding, even in Northern Canada.

Some of the other things we learned were stuff about our own cultures and cultures of others, too. We also got to go in our own councils by a council choosing ceremony. In our councils, we discussed our opinions and outlooks for the future of Girl Guides. There were lots of amazing things taught and shared in the councils, because each specific council was unique and did their own thing.

When we were sharing our opinions we talked about how we could change some things to represent Indigenous people little bit. And we talked about how we would like a little more representation. All of us talking and sharing truly connected us. Connecting with each other was really good for all of us as a group and was meaningful to me.

Something else we did were smudge ceremonies which I really think showed us who we really are. We also did different projects, like a slideshow Snapchat, which was really awesome. We took lots of pictures with each other wearing our ribbon skirts or showing our regalia or cultural objects that represented us. It was lots of fun.

I honestly really think that we should have one of these events every year to connect and talk about progress. And while we were all there, all the organizers were amazing. Kudos to Yara, Sahar, Pytor, Saimaniq and Kim for helping out with this whole thing. They really made it fun and meaningful to do. Honestly if we do have another one they should be organizing it again. I really did have an amazing time there with all the other girls – plus it really helped me go out of my comfort zone and actually talk to other people and actually socialize. I am proud to be an Indigenous girl in Girl Guides.

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Digging in and planting real leadership skills

Leadership skills aren’t something that sprout up overnight. They take a lot of nurturing. That’s where Girl Guides comes in. As our final girl-driven story contest winner, Guider Kelly shares how a community planting project was the perfect talent and leadership incubator for girls as they engaged their community.

When the Pathfinders and Rangers applied for a tree planting grant, they lovingly named their project ‘Love is a four-legged word.’ That’s because their chosen location was Bark Park in Blackfalds, a popular spot for local dogs and their owners. The girls applied for a tree planting grant in partnership with their sister units in Blackfalds, taking the lead to meet their programming requirements.    

The local radio station caught wind of the girls’ intentions and the rest, as they say, is history! Everything changed with a meeting with the Town of Blackfalds. Hoping they would support the girls’ vision of planting 10 trees, the town was prepared with a counter offer – they wanted to contribute to the project and work in partnership with the girls.  The town provided planting equipment and supplies and connected the girls with the town horticulturist.    

The horticulturist supplied the girls with topographical maps as they planned the landscape design and arranged for a private tour of a nursery, giving thems a behind the scenes look at the tricks of the trade. Girls learned about planting zones, soil conditions, and details about which trees and shrubs could handle the high levels of alkaline caused from the dogs who use the park for their bathroom breaks.  

On the day of the ‘Big Plant’, the town dug the holes and prepared the site and siblings came out to help, too. We even met a few happy puppies who joyfully ran around testing out their new digs.

One of the best things that came out of this event was the strengthened partnership with the Town of Blackfalds and our community members. The project was an amazing opportunity for our Guiding units to show the community just what our girls are capable of. Girls in Guiding  give back to the community in ways most do not see and the project allowed girls to contribute back to the town that supports them.  All of the girls’ hard work was validated for them by the amazing and supportive feedback they received from the residents of Blackfalds.

Thank you to Kelly Thiessen from Alberta for sharing this story. She receives a prize pack for her winning story.

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How to help teen girls navigate the ups and downs of their first job

By Jill Zelmanovits, CEO and Keynote Listener, Girl Guides of Canada

Whether they’re life guarding, scooping ice cream or babysitting, a job can seem like a pretty great way for a teenage girl to spend her summer. Meeting friends, building up her resume and adding to her bank account – what could be better? Well it turns out that a girl’s summer job can also come with workplace hazards like harassment and getting paid less than the boys she works with.

As our new report Girls on the Job reveals, 13% of girls ages 12-18 experience sexual harassment or assault during their summer jobs – whether it’s cat-calls or being subjected to sexual jokes or unwanted touching. We also discovered a nearly $3.00 per hour gender wage gap in full-time summer jobs between girls and boys. Yes, the wage gap starts young.

When my own daughter started babysitting as a teenager, I didn’t pay too much attention to her workplace experience. (And yes, babysitting is a real job.) But after she told me what she was getting paid – which seemed kind of low to me – I wondered if I was inadvertently setting her up for a working life of lowballing her own pay expectations. As parents there’s plenty we can do to boost our daughters as they jump into the world of work:

Encourage her to negotiate
Whether it’s for her allowance or how many friends she can have for a sleepover, be open to hearing your daughter negotiate and advocate for herself. If your daughter is starting to work, help her role play conversations with potential employers. Encourage her to ask questions about pay and job expectations and help her make it a habit to advocate for herself.

Talk about money and pay
Summer jobs are the perfect opening for talking with your daughter about the value of money and what her time and skills are worth. Before she starts a job, take time to discuss how pay rates are set and help her figure out the going rate for the kind of work she’s doing. If she’s in Girl Guides, look for the Money Sense activities in our Girls First program for ideas on talking about money.

Connect her with role models
At Girl Guides, we know the powerful benefits of giving girls opportunities to connect with women mentors from all backgrounds. Your daughter might already have big ideas and dreams about her future. Work together to identify women you already know who’ve done amazing things or work in a field your daughter is interested in.

Empower her to jump in
Your daughter may already have big ideas for her future or she might still be thinking about dozens of different options. The summer is a great time for her to explore what’s open to her. Perhaps she’s interested in landscaping instead of retail, or more curious about working at a soccer camp instead of babysitting. Encourage her to jump into whatever sector she’s interested in. Be there to support her if she needs it.

Learn more about what girls in Canada have to say about the issues impacting them with our girl-driven research and insights. #LetGirlsLead

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Here’s to the girls taking positive action in their world

Our Vision at GGC is a better world, by girls. And it makes sense since the core of the Guiding movement has always been active citizenship. As girls learn who they are and what they can do, their motivation to take positive action in the world is inevitable.

In May, we are exploring the fifth and final pillar of girl-driven Guiding: engage community. Girls in Guiding are supported in identifying local issues that matter to them, engaging in their communities through service, and learning about their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Through these experiences, girls in Guiding are primed to become the compassionate leaders of tomorrow.

Megan Gilchrist, a committed Guider from Ontario shares an inspiring story of girls speaking up:

“Our meeting place is in the centre of a large parkland area managed by Parks Canada. Two years ago, our Brownie unit was outside doing some geocaching, and were horrified at the number of little plastic baggies full of dog poop that the dog walkers had left behind. When we came back inside, the girls were still upset, so we talked about what we could do to help solve the problem. The girls brainstormed some longer-term solutions: go back another week and clean up, make signs to put along the trail, talk to town council, and so on. But they wanted to do something NOW! We talked about how we could help educate people and they eventually came up with writing a letter to the editor of our little town newspaper, which we did as a group. The girls were thrilled to see their letter published and in print, and they felt empowered to speak up about something that was important to them.”

There’s no doubt our world is facing some big challenges. Supporting girl leadership at GGC means they’ll have the confidence and know-how to meet these challenges head-on.

Guider storytelling contest – enter to win…one last time!
This year, we’re celebrating the critical role Guiders play in girls’ lives! From January to May, we’re inviting Guiders to share their stories of girl-driven Guiding.

In May, we’d love to hear your stories of the fifth girl-driven pillar: engage community. How have you supported girls in community engagement or service? How have girls thrived? What have you learned?

Contest details:

  • Send your stories of community engagement in Guiding to delivery@girlguides.ca by Tuesday, May 28 for a chance to win a Guider self-care package – and a limited-edition girl-driven crest!
  • Please include your name, mailing address, iMIS#, Provincial Council and the branch level of your unit
  • Images encouraged (please ensure we have permission to share!)
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This way to adventure and leadership

Girl Guides is the ultimate leadership incubator for girls. In every activity, event and outdoor adventure a girl experiences through Guiding, she can develop her own personal leadership style. It’s not about being the boss – it’s about empowering girls to discover the kinds of leaders they want to be. As the winner of our girl-driven story telling contest focused on shared leadership, B.C. Trex Guider Nycki shares what happens when girls take the lead in planning their own adventures.

I am the Guider of a very small Trex unit in British Columbia. I have watched these girls grow from Sparks to amazing young women. There’s rarely a project, camp or event that they don’t plan, build and execute, however, Nite Trek has got to be their favourite.  Along with a unit from a nearby town the girls take the lead on this huge co-ed multi unit-event.  It has turned into something huge. 

We have participants from the U.S. and Alberta join us every year. Watching these girls plan, participate and build upon this every year is truly inspiring. While these girls are truly active outdoor enthusiasts they understand the need to include and accommodate everyone, including first-time campers. They offer help and expertise, including helping other patrols put up their tents if they are struggling.  They help lay trail and plan stations, give menu plans and basically run the weekend of hundreds of youth.  Each year they strive to build this better and improve upon the year before.  They also get to participate in the event themselves and the mentorship we have had feedback on from the trail is amazing. 

These girls cheer on those who struggle and encourage them to keep on going.  Some days I wonder if these capable young women even need me and that’s when I know I have done my job.  These girls are the future of Guiding and will be amazing leaders. I can’t wait to watch it unfold.

Thank you to Nycki Wannamaker from Fernie, B.C. for sharing this story. She receives a prize pack for her winning story. Look for this month’s girl-driven storytelling contest – focused on community engagement – to launch later this week.

Want to learn more about supporting girls in leadership roles in Guiding? Check out our resources for volunteers and girls.

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10 reasons being a volunteer Guider is the BEST

Imagine a place where you can spark extraordinary moments for girls in your community – and for yourself, too. That’s what being a Guider is all about. On National Volunteer Week, here are 10 reasons why our adult members say being a Guider is the ULTIMATE in all that is fun and inspiring:

  1. You get a ‘code name.’
    It can get a bit awkward when you bump into a parent on the street and they only know your Guider name: “This is… Sparkles.”

2. Kids say some funny and adorable stuff.
“Does it taste like rainbows? But what if I don’t like the taste of rainbows?”

Copy of IMG_3898

3. You gain some pretty lit skills and experience for your resume.
Teamwork. Check. Leadership. Check. Responsibility for budgets. Check. Communications skills. Check, check and check.

4. You know some serious life hacks.
When the apocalypse hits, you won’t be fazed with all of those life hacks you’ve developed. “Let me just build a shelter in the snow, start a fire and cook a delicious meal from nothing but the contents of my small backpack and the forest

Girl with camp burner cooking

5. You’ll always have a reason to pull out your passport.
Whether you’re travelling to an international Girl Guide camp or taking a group of girls on a trip to Europe or South America

girl guides in ireland

6. And you’ll always have a place to crash, at home and abroad.
Guiding can be found all over the world, and with all that travelling you’re bound to have made a few friends around Canada and the globe.

girl guides at japan event

7. Energy is way more contagious than germs.
At the end of a end of a long hard workday, the girls bring so much joy and enthusiasm it’s often the perfect antidote to a bad day. And when they start laughing, just try not to join in.

8. It’s like a pair of hot, new glasses.
Guiding will have you seeing the world in new ways. From self-esteem and self-acceptance to eco-awareness hunger, programming stretches your own thinking just as much as the girls’.

Girls with sunglasses

9. You’re always in the cookie know.

10. Best of all – ultimate squad goals.
Nothing beats the friendships and support network you build at Guiding. Your fellow Guiders will always have your back and the fun and mischief you get up to together is priceless.

Two leaders

Are you interested in volunteering with Girl Guides? Get started on our website.

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Girl Guides: The ultimate leadership incubator for girls

Girl Guides is all about building leadership skills and amplifying girls’ voices. All of our programs are designed to put every girl in the driver’s seat allowing her to choose what she gets out of Guiding.

In April, we are exploring the fourth pillar of girl-driven Guiding: shared leadership. Shared leadership means girls get to make decisions, help plan unit meetings, advocate for their interests and even lead activities! Shared leadership is also about working as a team and sharing responsibilities with the other girls and Guiders in their units.

Helping girls find and use their voices early on is critical. As girls move into their teenage years, self-esteem, confidence and independence can waver just as they are discovering who they are and what they hope to contribute to the world. Societal expectations and the desire to fit in with peers can make girls hesitant to use their voices or take the lead. That’s where strong women role models (a.k.a. Guiders) come in!

So how do Guiders inspire girls to step into their leadership potential? Every week, Guiders listen to girls’ interests, provide opportunities for leadership and decision-making, and support a collaborative team environment where everyone’s voice is valued.

Rachel Collins, a Guider in southern Ontario, has found a great way to let girls lead:

“This year, with Girls First in mind, I have tried to take a page from the world of improv by exercising that tried and true “YES, AND…” style of collaboration in my Brownie unit. That has meant being willing to go with the flow, step back, and abandon a plan. When a girl says, “I know an extra verse to that song,” our answer becomes “YES, AND why don’t you teach it.” When a girl starts leading a game without any prompting from us, our answer is “YES, AND the rest of our meeting can wait.” Looking for these “YES, AND” moments has been a real and tangible way to give the girls more voice in determining the activities our unit participates in and has given individual girls a chance to step up and take the lead.”

Christa Morhart from Saskatchewan Council respects the different personalities in her unit and helps girls work together as a team:

“One activity they recently did was drawing a picture together. Each patrol had 5-10 mins to make a plan for their group drawing. They then proceeded (in silence) to pass the paper around the table letting each girl spend 45 seconds drawing a portion of the picture. They went a few rounds then at the end they had to present the drawing to the rest of the unit and identify their original plan, the end result, and how their planning could be improved. They also made other comments about the activity and how they could apply it to other aspects of their life.”

Every girl has a unique voice and leadership style. Guiding is a great place for girls to be heard, exercise their leadership muscles and build a better world!

Guider storytelling contest – enter to win!
This year, we’re celebrating the critical role Guiders play in girls’ lives! From January to May, we’re inviting Guiders to share their stories of girl-driven Guiding.

In April, we’d love to hear your stories of the fourth girl-driven pillar: shared leadership. How do you help girls find their voice? How have girls thrived? What have you learned?

Contest details:

  • Send your stories of shared leadership in Guiding to delivery@girlguides.ca by April 26 for a chance to win a Guider self-care package…and a limited-edition girl-driven badge!
  • Please include your name, mailing address, iMIS#, Provincial Council and the branch level of your unit
  • Images encouraged (please ensure we have permission to share!)
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The power of carrying a canoe solo

Photo: Paula Hilborn

Grit. Determination. Self-reliance. Those are just some of the skills girls unleash when they hoist a canoe and do their first solo carry. Along the way, they demonstrate to themselves and each other the limitless possibilities of what girls can achieve in Guiding – all with the support of their Guiders. As the winner of our girl-driven storytelling contest focused on positive identity, Ranger and Trex Guider Shannon C. shares how outdoor experiences are the perfect place for girls to forge their own pathway and empower each other along the way.

“At my summer camp, the guy always carries the canoe.” We were on the Poker Lakes in Haliburton in October 2017. It was my first canoe trip as a newly minted Ranger Guider. I was talking with one of our newly minted Rangers, and I was floored.

The Poker Lakes are ideal for learning portaging as they are a series of small lakes joined by short portages, offering multiple opportunities to carry a canoe. At the first portage, Margaret Harper and Liz Allard, our amazing trip lead and trip assist, demonstrated how to safely lift a canoe, alone and with a partner. The approach emphasized technique over strength, using a rolling motion rather than straight lift. We then gave the girls a choice on whether they wanted to carry canoes or gear. Some girls will take a canoe solo immediately and head off over the portage. Others work up to it, starting with two or more girls under each canoe in the multi-legged canoe bug approach. The remaining girls grab gear or compare the weight of the canoes against the packs and barrels before deciding which to take. On this particular trip, the leaders carried the canoes on the first portage and then the girls took over, together on the next portage and then solo.  

After the trip, as we reflected on the weekend, our new Ranger mentioned that the best part of the trip for her was the solo carry. Having learned the proper technique, she was no longer intimidated by it, even if she was carrying a leader’s personal canoe. She was eager to get back to her summer camp and put her new skill to use.

My co-Guiders and I now make sure every girl has the opportunity to solo carry on canoe trips with our unit. By the end of each trip, generally every girl decides to try a solo canoe portage. We don’t need to push. The girls are encouraged by their friends and by seeing their friends succeed. A smiling Pathfinder or Ranger on the trail with a canoe on her shoulders is one of the most empowering images of adventure camping in Guiding. It evokes thoughts of self-reliance, determination and an adventurous spirit. I look forward to seeing the girls’ faces on each trip as they lift their canoes and realize they can do it. And then watching as they set off down the trail.

Thank you to Shannon for sharing this story. She receives this prize pack for her winning story. Look for this month’s girl-driven storytelling contest – focused on shared leadership – to launch later this week.

contest prizes
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From gym class and beyond: how girls are building solutions to gender inequality

We know that gender inequality is something girls experience early and often. That’s why it’s so important for teenagers to have space to speak out about these issues. As a facilitator for a Youth for Gender Equality Dialogue, I got to make space for other youth to do just that! I spent an evening with a group of Pathfinders, Rangers, and other youth from the Saskatoon community talking about how we can create a more gender equal world.

What’s Youth for Gender Equality (YGE)? It’s a three-year initiative that Girl Guides is part of, and it’s co-led by Plan International Canada and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. Youth for Gender Equality engages youth across Canada to talk about how we can lead progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality.

A big part of the dialogue was for us to share our experiences of inequality. Everyone wrote down their experiences with gender inequality on a sticky note. To get them started, I wrote down two words: “gym class.” I’ve heard from others that gym class is a common place where young people notice inequality – and this held true with our group. Many of the other participants shared stories of feeling unequal in gym class.

After everyone shared and discussed their own issues, the issues were organized into categories like gender roles and responsibilities, health, access to education, and so on. Everyone voted on the categories they thought were most important, and then we broke into small groups to dive into the most pressing topics.

As groups, we worked on creating solutions for the root causes of the issues at an individual, community, and government level. Each group had the chance to present their recommendations to everyone and explain how they related to the root causes. Afterwards, everyone voted on which recommendation would cause the biggest impact and which recommendation was most pressing.

The best part? The recommendations will all be part of the first-ever youth-led SDG 5 Implementation Plan. This plan will be presented to leaders and decision-makers, including elected officials of the Government of Canada and used for program development and planning.

By being part of Youth for Gender Equality, I feel empowered that I can make a difference despite my age. It’s important for youth to have their say in creating solutions like this because inequality impacts our lives from an early age. Youth want to see change – but they need the space and the platform to make it happen. I was proud to be a part of this experience and that Girl Guides can create a safe space for youth to share their voices.

Guest post by Kaylee Dodds. Kaylee is currently a student at the University of Saskatchewan. She has been a girl member and Junior Leader in Lumsden’s multi-branch unit in Long Lake District, SK.

Youth for Gender Equality unites young people from coast-to-coast-to-coast, ages 14 to 24 of all gender identities in conversations about how to create an equitable society for people of all genders, abilities and races. A ground-breaking initiative based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Youth for Gender Equality project will launch the first-ever youth-led SDG 5 Implementation Plan on gender equality in the world. Girl Guides of Canada is a YGE partner organization.

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Fortnite – Girl Guide style

Mental health awareness: it’s a huge focus in our Girl Guide unit. We have several girls with severe anxiety issues and many girls with exceptionalities and sensitivities that we always take into consideration in all we do and in how the girls interact with each other. We spend many meetings a year fostering understanding, empathy, inclusion – and stress management. We have done many fun nights surrounding mental health over the years, but Fortnite Girl Guide style was by far one of the biggest hits! 

Before I continue, kudos where it’s due: this incredible night was planned entirely by our Junior Leader, Alex. I firmly believe that our teen members have some of the best ideas in how to connect with the younger girls.

The night started out with a quick chat about safe spaces and stress and ways to manage it. We then set the girls free on an incredible “choose-your-own-adventure” night that had them giggling, working cooperatively and feeling safe all night long. Here’s how the night went down:

  1. We asked all the girls / parents to send in blankets and pillows and cozy things for the girls to build forts with. Leaders also brought extras. I would advise lots of extras – the more cuddly stuff the better!

  2. Once all the girls were assembled, we introduced the night. There were a few options for the girls. They could make stress balls out of flour and balloons, make their own salt-dough and sculpt with it, decorate sea shells with sharpies, find their unicorn name and make a poster, write a story about what makes you feel safe and happy, talk about something amazing that you’ve tried or want to try, and last (but certainly not least) fort building. All the options were written on a huge Bristol board and posted for all to see. Stations were pointed out for the girls to navigate to and off they went.

There was not one girl in the unit who did not enjoy this entire night, which I count as a huge success. Since this night was all about doing whatever was in each girl’s comfort zone and creating a physically safe space for each girl individually, they all felt heard and safe and free to be themselves. We have a few girls who made individual forts and a few that we expected to build on their own that opted to join a group; not something they usually do without assistance. In those cases I learned that they felt 100% in control of their physical space so were excited to jump into the action with their peers.

After 35 years in Guiding the one thing I have learned is that you never stop learning. That night taught us some great stuff about what all out girls need to be successful this year, in ways that other meetings were not able to. It was amazing to see the smiles on all their faces throughout the night as the girls were learning about safe spaces while engaging in a timeless childhood activity: fort building!

Guest post by Theressa Audette, a Guider with the 3rd Bowmanville Guides in Ontario. She’s also a Girls First Champion.

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How Guiding helps girls tip the balance of equality

by Jill Zelmanovits
Girl Guides of Canada – CEO – Keynote Listener

When it comes to creating a more equitable world for girls and women, lately it feels like we’re always taking one step forward, and two giant steps back. As equality has our attention on International Women’s Day, I’m incredibly proud as the CEO of Girl Guides of Canada to belong to an organization that has always put girls first. At Girl Guides, we believe in a gender-balanced world and creating #BalanceforBetter. We’ve seen firsthand that when girls have an all-access pass to opportunity and leadership roles, it can propel them to amazing things and make a real difference as they navigate a world that puts plenty of barriers in their way.

Helping girls see themselves as leaders – and anything else they want to be

Girls have told us all about the ways that inequality is holding them back. As our GGC Women in the Workforce report reveals, one in four girls aged 15-17 in Canada report that they don’t know any female role models who have their dream job. And one in four don’t feel motivated to pursue their chosen career because they are concerned they’ll be compensated less than their male counterparts. As one girl told us: “It’s hard to strive for excellence if you know that no matter how much work and effort you put in and how great you are, a man will always be paid more.” That’s exactly why at Girl Guides, we know how important it is to empower girls to strive to be everything they want to be.

One of the most powerful benefits of Guiding is the opportunity for girls to connect with women mentors from all backgrounds. Our volunteers come from all walks of life, from every imaginable career field. Every week, they help girls unleash their potential and see that girls can and SHOULD make a difference in the world. They inspire girls to not only see women as leaders, but also to see themselves as leaders. Of course, our volunteers often tell us they get just as much from these connections as girls do – they become change catalysts , one girl at a time.

How Guiding is helping re-shape the talent pipeline

We know that girls of influence become women of influence – community members and global citizens who go on to be innovators and leaders in their fields. Guiding empowers girls to be builders of their own future – in whatever career trajectory they choose. In a world that constantly whisper shouts at girls to dial it back and tone it down when it comes to expressing their ideas and aspirations, Guiding is that place where girls know they don’t have to hold back. Where there are no limits and where every leadership opportunity is open to them. It’s like their own personal talent and leadership incubator – where they can test out who they want to be and how they want to make their mark on the world.

Of course, #BalanceforBetter isn’t “just” a women’s issue – it affects everyone. In fact, gender inequality is bad for business and the economy. We know that women are currently underrepresented in many industries and at every level of corporate Canada – and that the gender pay gap is a persistent reminder of economic inequality. But while women and girls are inordinately impacted by unequal representation and unequal pay, industry is missing out, too. Workplaces stagnate when it’s the same old ideas, perspectives and experiences brought to the table. When half the population isn’t represented, there really isn’t any representation at all and it’s impossible to have real innovation or progress.

Ultimately, it can’t be just up to girls and women to crack and shatter the glass ceiling of inequality. We all need to step it up and start chipping away at gender inequality. We need to expose girls to diverse, amazing leaders and give them a chance to test-drive their budding leadership skills. To encourage them to turn up the volume on what they have to say and crank up their personal ambition dial. That’s what will create a better balance that we’ll all benefit from.

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How girls in Guiding are busting stereotypes about girls

The Girl Guides origin story is a story of girl empowerment. It all began in 1909 when a group of courageous girls gate-crashed a Boy Scout rally in London, demanding they be included. More than 100 years later, girls are still showing the world what they can do. In 150 countries around the world, Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are an unstoppable powerhouse – busting stereotypes and making a difference in the world.

Since the start of the year, we’ve been inviting conversations about each of the five girl-driven pillars (check out our earlier stories about safe space and growth mindset).  In March, we’re diving into the third girl-driven pillar: positive identity. This core principle of Guiding is all about challenging stereotypes of what girls and young women can and can’t do. Guiders play a critical role in helping girls explore their interests and overcome barriers the world sometimes puts in their way. They introduce girls to inspiring women role models from all walks of life in order to help them find their own unique voices.

Emma Fisher-Cobb, a Guider in Hamilton, ON, shares her experience supporting positive identity:

“A few years ago, I took my Guides to Mohawk college and did a women-driven careers day. We took apart and built an engine – the activity was led by a woman professor. Many girls hadn’t considered that they could do that before. It was hugely positive and got them talking about the trades.”

Diamond Isinger, a Guider in Vancouver, B.C., shared this inspiring story:

“I organized the Parliament Hill launch event for Mighty Minds a few years ago. Among the elected officials they met, girls got to meet Minister Bardish Chagger (a former Girl Guide!) and share ideas about mental health. One of the girls turned to me after speaking to her and said ‘Did you see? I just met the government!’”

The Girl Guides of Canada Mission is to be a catalyst for girls empowering girls. As catalysts, mentors and advocates for girls, Guiders support positive identity development every day. When a girl looks into the mirror, we want her to see a strong, confident person with loads of potential…someone proud to forge her own pathway into the future.

Guider storytelling contest – enter to win!
This year, we’re celebrating the critical role Guiders play in girls’ lives! From January to May, we’re inviting Guiders to share their stories of girl-driven Guiding.

In March, we’d love to hear your stories of the third girl-driven pillar: positive identity. How do you help girls challenge stereotypes? How have girls thrived in your unit? What have you learned?

Contest details:

  • Send your stories of positive identity in Guiding to delivery@girlguides.ca by March 26 for a chance to win a Guider self-care package
  • Please include your name, mailing address, iMIS#, Provincial Council and the branch level of your unit
  • Images encouraged (please ensure we have permission to share!)
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How a simple sleepover can be a chance for girls to step up and lead together

In a judgement-free zone like Girl Guides, it’s a whole lot easier for girls to step up, speak up and take the lead. It’s the perfect place for girls to lead the agenda for what they want to do – and experience a whole lot of confidence-building moments along the way. As the winner of our girl-driven storytelling contest focused on growth mindset, Guider Jenn shares how the girls in her unit transformed a simple sleepover into a leadership gold.

A recent experience where our girls and Guiders experienced a growth mindset happened last weekend at our Sparks and Brownies Midnight Madness Sleepover.

As Guiders, we’d made a conscious effort to make this sleepover less structured than our normal events, and just have supplies and fun things laying around for the girls to access as they wanted. There was no official agenda. In the spirit of a growth mindset, this was quite a jump for us as we are usually pretty detailed planners. Some girls played board games, some girls worked on creating a marble run, some girls built a fort, some had a dance party. It was chaotic and loud but it was also amazing.

It was a powerful moment for us to step back and see what the girls can do.

One of the standout experiences for me was witnessing one girl take the lead and teach the others to finger knit. I never would have imagined the popularity of this activity, and next time I will know to bring more yarn. One Brownie took the lead and before long she was teaching a group of seven or eight other girls how to finger knit their own scarves. It was a powerful moment for us, to step back and see what the girls can do when we don’t plan every moment for them. What a lesson! The girls spent hours finger knitting (some right until sleep time at midnight).

In the morning, the finger knitting popularity still hadn’t subsided. I was tasked with detangling massive yarn knots while I attempted to eat my breakfast. At one point I just had to say, “Girls, I need a cup of coffee before I can detangle more yarn!” I was so proud of the girls for working together to learn a new skill, and of the girl who took the lead and taught them all, patiently and without being asked to do so. 

Moments like these make me proud to be a Guider!

Jenn B. – 1st Dutton Sparks/Brownies – Dutton, ON

Thank you to Jenn for sharing this story. She wins this prize pack for her winning story. Look for this month’s girl-driven storytelling contest – focused on positive identity  – to launch later this week.

contest prizes

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Meet the Girl Guides who celebrate Black history all year long

February is Black History Month, a month dedicated to honouring the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present. We got in touch with Gabrielle Grant, a Guider with a unit in a predominantly Black community in Nova Scotia,  to ask how they celebrate Black History Month. Her answer was beautiful and highlighted a great learning for us all – Black history is something their unit celebrates throughout the year and not just in February. We were able to find out a little bit more about the unit’s unique history, how girls celebrate their culture and heritage, and how this helps the girls discover themselves and be everything they want to be.

Can you tell us a little bit about your unit?   

Our unit is the East Preston Multibranch unit. We meet in a community centre in East Preston in Nova Scotia. My co-Guider, Miss Brenda Brooks, started the unit over 35 years ago, and I grew up in this unit starting as a Spark. Right now, our unit consists of mainly Sparks and Brownies, with a Ranger assistant, but we have had all branches in the past. The girls in our unit love to go on outings, play active games and sell Girl Guide cookies. Last year they got to go on a STEM trip to the galaxy dome, and they loved it.

Your unit celebrates the culture of the girls in your unit throughout the year – why and how do you do that?

We bring people from our community to our unit as guest speakers. This way the girls get to see role models and women who they can identify with and who reflect their experiences. We do different activities with the girls that connect them with their African ancestry, such as basket weaving. One of our elders, who is a craftswoman, came to teach the girls in our unit how to weave a basket, which is a traditional trade that our elders still practice today.

Growing up in this unit, I always knew that our toadstool was different than that of other units. I explained to the girls that our toadstool is a basket which was woven by another Elder in our community, and we still use that same toadstool today.

“With the negative stereotypes the girls are exposed to about themselves because they are girls and because they are Black, they benefit greatly from Guiding.”

How does this type of programming benefit the girls?

The girls love learning new skills, especially ones that highlight their culture. I have found that these activities help the girls feel a sense of pride in their community and raise their confidence. I remember during one of our unit meetings, I asked the girls to sing a song while I got the materials ready for another activity, and they started to sing “Lift every voice and sing” which is recognized as the Black national anthem. I didn’t think they knew this song, so they surprised me with their knowledge of our community’s history; this is how their pride in themselves and our community comes through.

With the negative stereotypes the girls are exposed to about themselves because they are girls and because they are Black, they benefit greatly from Guiding. Being part of Girl Guides gives us an opportunity to engage in activities like this and help the girls explore who they are and celebrate them.

We learned so much from the East Preston Multibranch unit about celebrating Black history in Guiding and we invite you to take the opportunity Black History Month provides to learn more about these histories and heritages throughout the year.

How does your unit celebrate the culture of its girl members? We want to hear your stories! Email us at: inclusivity@girlguides.ca

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Everything I learned about leadership from Girl Guides

Photo: Diamond Isinger

As a teen I remember hearing that leadership was a skill to be developed for adulthood – that youth are in training to be leaders tomorrow. My years of experience with Girl Guides of Canada has proven this wrong: leadership is a skill that girls have today. Every day, girls stand up as a leader in their own lives, in their classrooms and in their communities. As we mark World Thinking Day (February 22), 10 million girls and women in Guiding and Girl Scouting are showing that the #TimeToLead is now.

Girls have been in the lead since the beginning of the Guiding Movement: 110 years ago, girls gate-crashed a Boy Scout rally at the Crystal Palace in London, UK, to demand equal opportunities for girls. Today, Guiding offers a safe space for girls to explore different types of leadership, build skills, and meet awesome new women role models. One of the most important things I’ve learned from working with girls is that leadership doesn’t always mean being the person at the front of the room, or the loudest voice in a group.

Girls could give a master class in leadership – here are five quick lessons:   

Leadership means being a friend. As a young professional, it’s really easy to get trapped in feeling competitive with the people around me. Being a friend and a leader means lifting each other up, celebrating each other’s accomplishments, and realizing that everything’s better when we all shine.

Life happens, and a strong leader pays attention to the team they work with. I know we all have other things going on in our lives and in our communities, and it’s impossible to separate every situation. Working with teenage girls in Rangers taught me to say, “I had a rough day,” and to ask for patience from my team.

Sometimes you’ve got to step back to step up. It definitely shows real leadership to say you don’t have the answer. Harder still is to say when you’ve made a mistake and need to change tactics. But that’s just what girls in Guiding do when their new plan for marketing cookie sales doesn’t go as planned: “Well, that didn’t work – let’s try something else!’

You’ve also got to speak up to step up. While girls have been demanding equal opportunities for over a century, they also recognize that some things are still unfair. Many girls show their leadership stripes by having the courage to speak up about the inequalities they see (a shout-out to the girls calling out sexist dress codes!). When a girl speaks up against inequality, she makes it easier for every girl around her to be a leader.

Open up the circle and invite others to be leaders, too. The media often likes to portray us as ‘mean girls’ and overly ‘bossy’ anytime women and girls are assertive. Yet, the girls in Guiding teaching me to lead have an uncanny ability to recognize when others are unintentionally left out, and asking them to join the circle. Welcoming others and listening to those who aren’t always heard is an essential leadership skill.

A safe space where girls can try out different leadership styles with different groups of girls or women allows them to become the flexible leaders we’re all looking for. I know Guiding is a real incubator for these kinds of incredible relationships where girls can empower the girls around them by using a variety of leadership skills.

We ALL have to admit that girls can already be leaders, whether they know it or not. Girls are leaders today. No further discussion required.

Guest post by Krysta Coyle. Krysta is Girl Guides of Canada’s Guiding Ambassador and a member of our Board of Directors. Krysta is a cancer biologist at Simon Fraser University researching the genetics of lymphoma.  

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How Guiding can be an incubator for girls exploring STEM

Scientific innovation – it’s  what propels the world forward and leads to the discoveries that make our lives healthier and better. On International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11), ideas for how to balance the gender equation in the scientific world will be under the microscope. Here’s how one Guider and engineer inspires girls to be innovators and STEM explorers.

The fact is, companies, post-secondary educational institutions and nonprofits have researched gender inequity within STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields for years. A quick Google search with the keywords “women” and “STEM” will return plenty of research studies, statistical reports and opinion-pieces. Amidst all of this information, how can we – as advocates for women and girls – help drive the change required to achieve gender equity in STEM fields? Based on my experience, I propose implementing a tried-and-true problem-solving process: ideate, implement, and iterate, with girls in the lead every step of the way.

First, ideate with a girl-driven approach mindset. Identify the challenges faced by women in STEM fields and the skills required to overcome them, then brainstorm ways to learn those skills as a unit. Interview a local science teacher, professor, or parent at your unit meeting, or consult some current literature – I recommend the Harvard Business Review for Pathfinders and Rangers, and National Geographic for Sparks, Brownies and Guides. Plan activities, projects and field trips that build girls’ confidence, teamwork and problem-solving skills. Ideating as a unit requires proactivity, goal setting and prioritizing, and sets the stage for effective unit meetings.

Second, implement with a curious mindset. As a Guider, I have observed that girls engage the most with STEM activities that challenge their assumptions about the world. For example, I once gave a group of girls a temperature gun and told them I discovered that my cat’s paws are colder than its belly. Ten minutes later, the Guides were still completely immersed in measuring the surfaces temperatures around them. Another time, I demonstrated a typical Newtonian mechanics problem by dropping balls with different masses on top of each other. I will never forget the girls’ expressions when they discovered that a basketball can transfer enough momentum to a tennis ball to send it rocketing across the room. These moments of excitement and discovery are powerful, and learning to harness them equips girls with an invaluable motivational tool. Implementing as a unit requires synergy and teaches girls valuable communication and collaboration skills.

Third, iterate with a continuous improvement mindset. Debrief after your unit meeting and determine what worked, what didn’t, and how you can improve. Were you prepared for your activities? Did your experiments surprise you? Did you prefer building circuits or writing code? Did working together speed up your progress or cause conflict? Did your unit accomplish its goals? Iterating is analogous to analyzing your unexpected experimental results and developing a new procedure, or observing your malfunctioning prototype and taking it back to the shop for an adjustment. Iterating as a unit requires focus and creativity, and kick-starts the entire process all over again.

As sisters in Guiding we have the ability to help drive the change required to achieve equity in STEM fields. We are also mentors and friends, with countless opportunities to offer encouragement and support to girls who absolutely need it. When a girl tell you she’s “bad” at math, tell her that math can be tricky but it gets easier with practice. When a girl becomes frustrated or begins to lose focus during a problem solving activity, find a way to keep her engaged. Research has told us about the challenges women and girls face in the pursuit of STEM careers. Let Guiding be an environment where girls learn to overcome them.

Erica Glatt (BESc, MESc, EIT) is an Improvement Engineer with Dow Chemical Canada ULC and a Sparks unit Guider in Parkland Area, AB.

Girl Guides of Canada’s new Girls First program is exploding with opportunities for girls to innovate, experiment, design and create, including our Engineering Instant Meetings.

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Giving girls a space to try, fail, try again – and succeed

There’s a lot of judgment in today’s world but Guiding is a different kind of place for girls. In an accepting and judgement-free zone like Girl Guides, girls can seek challenges, try new things even if they might fail, learn from their set-backs and feel confident to dust themselves off and try again. Through this kind of growth mindset, girls learn that they really can do anything they set their minds to. Talk about a skill that will translate into the rest of their life.

Following up on last month’s exploration of safe space, in February we’re looking at the second pillar of girl-driven Guiding –  growth mindset. When girls have a growth mindset, they believe their abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication. They embrace challenges and are totally up for learning new things. Talent is just a starting point for these girls – they know it’s their effort and focus that leads to success in the end. True Guiding values!

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, girls can learn to judge themselves and some may become ultra-sensitive to the judgment of others. This leads to a fixed mindset. Girls with a fixed mindset believe they are what they are – good or bad, winning or failing, cool or uncool.

In a fixed mindset, girls believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are fixed and cannot change. They spend their time demonstrating and proving their abilities instead of developing them. These girls avoid challenges and dream small, so their weaknesses aren’t exposed. Out of a fear of failure, they become afraid of taking chances and stretching their boundaries.

Yet, we were all born to learn. When we first tried to climb a tree, we probably didn’t make it to the top. We might have been scared of falling. We may have even suffered a few scrapes and bruises. But with effort and practice, our muscles got stronger, our approach got smarter, and we figured out how to move to the higher branches.

Guiders promote growth mindset by helping girls step out of their comfort zone, explore new skills and focus on process versus achievement. In girl-driven Guiding, positive feedback focuses on each girl’s effort, choices and strategies rather than her abilities and talents. Instead of praising girls for their personal attributes (like how good at math or singing they are), Guiders praise their passion, grit, determination and hard work. Because Guiding is a safe space, Guiders can also offer constructive feedback to help girls grow and improve in ways that matter to them.

Growth mindset supports girls as they navigate their world and grab hold of every opportunity that comes their way. As catalysts for girls empowering girls, Guiders who model a growth mindset help girls learn to sustain their own confidence throughout life.

Guider storytelling contest – enter to win!

This year, we’re celebrating the critical role Guiders play in girls’ lives! From January to May, we’re inviting Guiders to share their stories of girl-driven Guiding.

In February, we’d love to hear your stories of the second girl-driven pillar: growth mindset. How did you support growth mindset in your unit? How have girls thrived? What have you learned?

Contest details:

  • Send your stories of growth mindset in Guiding to delivery@girlguides.ca by February 25 for a chance to win a Guider self-care package
  • Please include your name, mailing address, iMIS#, Provincial Council and the branch level of your unit
  • Images encouraged (please ensure we have permission to share!)
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How one girl found her voice through Guiding

Girls need a safe space where they feel supported, respected and valued for exactly who they are. A safe space where they can use their voice. Fortunately, Guiding offers just such a space. And our volunteer Guiders play a huge role in creating the ultimate supportive and safe space for girls. As the winner of this month’s girl-driven storytelling contest, Guider Mandy from Burlington, ON shares how one Pathfinder found her voice in Guiding. We dare you not to be inspired by her story.

A girl came to us four years ago as a first year Pathfinder. She apologized profusely at our first meeting – for everything. Sorry for bumping into you. Sorry for being in your way. Sorry for having done nothing at all. She also struggles with anxiety. When asked to speak or share in front of the group, she freezes, stutters and clams up. You always want to give her an opportunity to share, but you often want to pass over her to spare her the embarrassment of freezing up. The silence is piercing in the room when it is her turn to speak.

She comes to everything. Camps. Parades. Every meeting. Her attendance is perfect. But we as a volunteer team wondered if her parents just signed her up for everything. She never indicated that she was happy at any of our events because she never spoke.  One of our Guiders was making strides in building a special connection with her. But we still didn’t know…  was she happy in Girl Guides?

We got our answer in her final year of Pathfinders. There was a talent contest being held at our meeting place. We put a call out to our girls to share their talents – guitar, dance, musical theatre. She said she wanted to participate in the contest. Now, we knew she was a talented artist – she doodled all the time while we were talking and the images were magnificent. But she did not want to share her art work… She said she wanted to sing.

We couldn’t have been more surprised. We had never heard her utter a word. We were worried for her – that she was setting herself up to fail, to feel embarrassed in front of her peers, who by this point were very used to the awkward pause when it was her turn to share. But as you do in a safe space, we of course encouraged her to sign up. Dress rehearsal day came and everyone was on edge as it approached her turn to sing. Would she freeze again?

A cell phone tucked into a coffee mug to amplify the sound played her background music. The song started quietly and she opened her mouth to sing. She seemed comfortable in her own world of music –  seemingly unaware that she had an audience in front of her. And her voice was beautiful! More words than we had ever heard her speak in three years were shared in that song, in that meeting place, at that rehearsal. No one quite knew what to do. There were tears from her leaders and even some of her peers for what that moment represented for her and for us.

Guiding created a safe place for this young woman to find her voice. It took years, and consistent work and connection from our Guiders. But she speaks often now as a Ranger, after discovering that Guiding is a safe space. She will raise her hand and contribute to discussions. And everyone is so happy to hear her beautiful voice!

Thank you to Mandy for sharing this story. She wins this prize pack for her winning story. Look for this month’s girl-driven storytelling contest – focused on growth mindset – to launch later this week.

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Confidence + independence: How Guiding sparked success for these Sparks alumni

“Sparks made me feel confident and independent. I loved that it gave me a chance to be the silliest, truest version of myself with a group of other girls.” Yes! For 30 totally amazing years, our Sparks program has sparked amazing experiences for younger girls in Guiding. We catch up with two alumni who share how Guiding sparked amazing things in their lives. 

Alyssa Newell – Sales Manager, Avid Apparel (who makes our Sparks 30th anniversary T-shirt)


What was your favourite thing about Sparks?

I loved everything about my time in Sparks so it’s hard to narrow down just one thing! I really enjoyed getting to go away to my first weekend camp (I still love camping to this day!). I loved the sense of independence it gave me – being away from home for the first time can be a bit scary when you’re young, but knowing I was with my Spark unit made it the easiest experience.  Plus, sharing bunk beds with your best friends is always a blast!

How did you feel attending Sparks?

Sparks made me feel confident and independent. I loved that it gave me a chance to be the silliest, truest version of myself in front of a group of other girls. It helped me learn how to make new friends, how to be confident enough to speak in front of large groups, and how to set goals and achieve them (earning badges was the MOST fun!).

IMG_6222Can you share a favourite memory or experience from Sparks?

My favourite memories from Sparks definitely revolves around cookie selling (and cookie eating – they’re still my favourite!). I loved getting to go to the local mall with my Sparks unit to sell cookies and talk to everyone about all the fun we had in Girl Guides. I still love sales and have been in a professional sales role for over eight years. 

Would you encourage young girls to join Sparks? If so, why?

Absolutely! I can honestly say that my time in Sparks (and then Brownies, Guides, and Pathfinders) shaped me into the woman I am today. Girl Guides helped me learn to be comfortable in my own skin, taught me that it’s okay to be a girl and be a leader, and gave me the confidence to meet new people and try new things. 

Courtney Wong – Store Director, J.Crew  

DSC_4259_1_editedWhat was your favourite thing about Sparks?

My favourite thing about Sparks was meeting new friends both from my elementary school, as well as neighbouring schools. Most importantly, I met my best friend Natalie in Sparks and we have been friends for over 25 years!

How did you feel attending Sparks?

I was super shy growing up, so naturally at first I was a bit nervous! Once I realized many of the other Sparks went to the same elementary school, as well as lived in the same neighbourhood as myself, we would countdown the number of sleeps to our next meet-up!

Can you share a favourite memory or experience from Sparks?

My favourite memory from Sparks is wearing my pink Sparks T-shirt with my childhood best friends and singing our favourite camp songs at the top of our lungs. I am the oldest sister in my family and my pink Sparks T-shirt was passed down to each of my sisters. To this day, we still know all the words to our favourite songs from Girl Guides!

Sparks-2.jpgWould you encourage young girls to join Sparks?

Totally! Everyone, especially young girls need a safe and inclusive space to explore. By joining Sparks and continuing on with Girl Guides, I learned the importance of female relationships, feeling empowered to learn and explore new things, and to gain the confidence to use my voice. There is something really special about watching young girls grow into strong, powerful leaders and building positive relationships with one another. One of the most rewarding things about my job, is to guide my team and to watch them grow from associates into strong, fearless leaders!

Be part of the Sparks 30th anniversary celebration – get your classic Sparks T-shirt and join in our promise to ‘share and be a friend.’

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Six Important Things I Learned from Six-Year Olds

Sparks-glitter.jpgThere are so many reasons to volunteer with Girl Guides of Canada. As Sparks marks its 30th anniversary, I thought I’d share a list of what I’ve learned from a group of five- and six-year olds:

Lesson 1: Little Girls Walk the Walk

Don’t underestimate younger girls. Our Sparks start every meeting by reciting the  Promise: “I promise to share and be a friend.” This year I learned that our young Sparks understand that the Promise is more than a fancy phrase, but a way to live. Over the past year our Sparks demonstrated their understanding of their Promise by filling a Birthday Box for a young girl in Canada’s North, spreading cheer with Valentines for Veterans, and learning to take care of their friends with their very own first aid kits.

Lesson 2:  Engineers are not just for trains!

We celebrated National Engineering Month with a visit from two engineers from Engspire. At first the girls were slightly disappointed that they were not engineers from trains, but they soon learned that these engineers could teach them some really fantastic things like building flashlights and catapults on their own.

Lesson 3: There Is No Such Thing As Too Much Glitter

If you turn your back on a Spark with a jar of glitter, your Spark will be much more sparkly.

Also glitter is hard to clean up.

Also Girl Guide cookies make great gifts for school caretakers who help clean up said glitter.

Lesson 4: Glue

See Comments re: Glitter

Lesson 5: Cookies Have Magic Powers

It is undeniable that Girl Guide cookies are delicious. This year I also discovered that Girl Guide cookies are more than delicious snacks – they have the magic power to turn quiet little girls into a supercharged group crushing cookies sales. I brought a group of girls to sell cookies at our local subway station. At the beginning of the day they were shy and quiet – but by the end they were confidently selling their cookies, coming up with creative marketing ideas and having a blast.

Lesson 6: Things don’t always go according to plan – and that’s totally OK

Sometimes carefully planned meetings don’t go quite according to plan. Sometimes the girls want to play and giggle (and play with glitter). Lesson learned – sometimes you just have to go with the flow!

Okay, I couldn’t stop at just six things – here’s one more thing I learned this year:

Lesson 7: Volunteering with Girl Guides of Canada was a great choice!

In my past two years as a Guider I’ve slept in a science centre, been to camp, discovered the recipe for a campfire treat called a ‘hairy beast,’ learned to Hug a Tree, made new friends and figured out just how long glitter stays stuck to a Guider’s uniform. Life experiences learned from six year olds!

Guest post by Angela Comella, a Guider with the 314th Spark/Brownie/Guide/Pathfinder Guiding Unit. In her non-Guiding life, she spends her days amongst books and briefs as a lawyer.

Be part of the Sparks 30th anniversary celebration with a classic Sparks T-shirt and join in our promise to ‘share and be a friend.’


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Here’s what happens when girls feel safe to spread their wings

Girls are under a lot of social pressure these days. They’re asked to be everything at once: smart, pretty, nice, athletic, ambitious and successful. And when they don’t meet the world’s expectations (because they’re impossible!), the judgments are often swift and harsh.

Girls need a safe space where they feel supported, respected and valued for being just who they are. Fortunately, Guiding offers just such a space.

Safe space is hard to define but we all know what it feels like. It’s the feeling you get when you can relax and share your most authentic self with the people around you. Safe space allows you to be silly without feeling self-conscious and share personal stories without being judged. And it encourages you to try new things, make mistakes and take risks knowing there’s a soft place to land.

Take for example the super confidence-boost that volunteer Guider Theressa’s own daughter Alex gets from Girl Guides:

“Reading my 11-year old daughter’s report card. One area for improvement was that she needed to get better at speaking up in class. She said it’s hard for her to speak in front of people. I reminded her that she loved being an MC for our huge community awards ceremony, standing in front of about 300 people and speaking for a couple of hours. Her response: ‘That’s different Mommy. It’s Girl Guides. I’m safe. People don’t judge you there.” – Theressa A., Ontario

One of the most amazing things our Guiders do is creating a safe space for the girls in their units. As mentors, Guiders model authenticity, acceptance and positive social relationships. Their leadership, dedication and warm presence helps girls listen to their inner voices, explore new interests and practice new skills, all while having fun.

In the end, safe space is about trustworthy relationships. By creating an atmosphere of inclusion and openness, Guiders create a unique sanctuary where girls can spread their wings and become everything they want to be. Guiders truly are the catalysts for girls empowering girls.

Girl-driven storytelling contest   enter to win!

This year, we’re celebrating the critical role Guiders play in girls’ lives! From January to May, we’re inviting Guiders to share their stories of girl-driven Guiding.

This month, we’d love to hear your stories of the first girl-driven pillar: safe space. How did you create safe space in your unit? How have girls thrived? What have you learned?

Contest details:

  • Send your stories of safe space in Guiding to delivery@girlguides.ca by January 25 for a chance to win a Guider self-care package
  • Please include your name, iMIS#, Provincial Council and the branch level of your unit
  • Stories should be maximum 200 words
  • Images welcome (please ensure we have permission to share!)
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How these women in policing busted stereotypes for girls

When one of our Sparks dressed as a police officer for our Halloween party, another girl told her ‘That’s a boy’s job.’ Our response? We invited six local women police officers to our meeting the following week to show what girls CAN do. Here’s how it all went down:

After our Spark was told that policing was a boy’s job, she took her costume off before leaving for home. She didn’t even want to wear it anymore for Halloween. My heart broke.

My co-Guider, Jellybean (aka Melissa Hedges), and I were concerned to say the least and simultaneously came up with the idea to see if we could invite some women in policing  to come to a meeting to turn this into an empowering opportunity for our unit. With a little help from my best friend in New Brunswick with policing connections, I was soon in contact with so many officers wanting to participate that I lost count.  In the end we were able to have six members of the Ottawa Police attend our next meeting. It was simply amazing!

One brought a story, another brought pins and activities, and three were in full uniform.  We invited one Brownie from another unit – she’d worn a police officer’s costume for Halloween as that is what she wants to be when she grows up. (Even my daughter in another Guiding unit wanted to come because she ‘knows a police officer.’) Our own Spark and the Brownie both wore their police costumes, and the Brownie even wore a T-shirt underneath that had pictures of women in non-traditional roles with the words “She can do it” underneath.  Seeing girls choosing to be a police officer for Halloween gives hope. It wasn’t a pretend costume; this is something they can do.

Melissa and I were amazed and so happy this all worked out, especially to see how many police officers WANTED to come to our Girl Guide meeting. Part of Guiding is showing girls they can be what they want and how they can help bust stereotypes. We were able to show our Sparks and Brownie that girls and women CAN be in positions of power and that even within the police force there are many different types of roles.  I felt their sisterhood just like I feel the Girl Guide sisterhood when I go to events with fellow Guiders.

For me this was overwhelming, but in a good way.  I recently lost my dear friend Robb Costello, a member of the Fredericton Police Force who was shot in the line of duty. Seeing these girls took my breath away, because it reminded me there are others to take up the mantle.  Being able to have these extraordinary role models attend our little meeting left Melissa and I with a great sense of accomplishment and hopefully with an evening the girls won’t soon forget.

Guest post by Andrea Cook, a Sparks Guider in Kanata, ON.

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I volunteer to give girls their light bulb moment

My favourite part of volunteering with Guiding is that light bulb moment – when you see a girl’s face light up with understanding, pride, or a feeling of accomplishment. One such moment happened early this Guiding year with a Brownie named Callie. It was just one of those moments that made me stop, smile to myself, and think, “This is why I do this.”

As the Guiding year was getting started, we asked the girls to choose their own circle leaders.  The parameters we gave them were simple: their circle leader needed to be a second-year girl; they could use any method to choose their leader; any second-year girl not chosen as a circle leader would be a circle second; and most importantly, they all had to come to an agreement.

One group did rock paper scissors, and one group just instantly came to an agreement. But one group had a lot of trouble choosing and they just could not agree. Finally, the two second-year girls agreed to let the two first-year girls choose their leader. After a very serious conversation, the girls announced they had chosen Callie. And Callie’s face immediately lit up in a huge smile. Really!?” she said. “That’s so nice! Thank you! I never get chosen as leader for anything!”


“Callie was so excited to be circle leader and the whole walk home all she talked about was how she got chosen and how the other girls picked her,” Callie’s mother Janice told me later. “I think being chosen circle leader by her fellow Brownies will definitely help boost her confidence and drive to do better.”

I love watching each girl come into her own, finding empowerment in her own way.  It might be a girl who’s struggling with a certain skill, but finally getting it. Sometimes it’s the look on a girl’s face when she does an experiment and proves her hypothesis right, or the look of pride when a girl overcomes her homesickness to stay the night at camp. Sometimes it’s a shy girl coming out of her shell and making new Guiding friends.

I also love watching the girls learn to work together to accomplish a team task. You can almost feel the confidence growing, and the message soaking in that girls can do great things when they work together.

I’ll keep volunteering to keep giving girls those moments of awesomeness, knowing that I’m doing my part to empower these amazing girls to be anything they want to be.

Guest post by Jennifer Pierce, Brownie Guider and Deputy District Commissioner in Eastern Passage, NS.


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These Girl Guides show you’re never too young to stand up for human rights

girl guide at museum of human rights
No matter who you are or where you live, we’re all entitled to human rights. That’s what Girl Guides in Winnipeg would tell you on Human Rights Day (December 10) and every day. With a trip to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, they discovered the very real power they have to stand up for everyone’s rights. Unit Guider Jennifer explains:

As the evening began, a buzz of excitement filled the air. Our first stop was the What are Human Rights gallery. As Guiders, we stood back and let the girls take the lead in how they wanted to explore. We watched with pride as each girl was drawn into a different exhibit, reading stories on what people in history viewed as ‘human rights’. We fielded so many thoughtful questions from the Guides. Some examples were, why was it like that? Or, how could they have treated people like that?

girl guides at museum of human rights As the evening progressed, we explored spaces devoted to the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and their views on human rights. Here the girls took in the sights of beautiful hand-beaded tapestries along the walls and stories of a peoples treated unjustly for many years. In the Canadian Journeys gallery, we reflected on both the freedoms and the discrimination people faced within our own Canadian heritage.

We closed our evening in the Inspiring Change gallery, where the girls took their own thoughts and feelings about love, beliefs and change and left empowering messages on the walls to share with visitors from around the world. Their messages were so moving and honest. Some chose to write about ending discrimination and fighting for equality while others added messages of love and hope…visions of a brighter, stronger, united future… together.

I believe that each girl gained so much from this outing and that it changed them in some way, both broadening their views on the world around them and strengthening their knowledge that they each have the power to bring about positivity and change in the world. It’s through Girl Guide outings like this that girls can discover that they have the power to change the world’s thinking. Girls can truly do anything – we just need to let girls guide the way. The CMHR has not seen the last of the Winnipeg 99th Girl Guides. We will be back.

Guest post by Jennifer Franzin, a Guider with the 99th Winnipeg Girl Guides. Do you have a story of a unique unit activity you’d like to share?  Email us: ggcblog@girlguides.ca 

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Space scientist? It’s now on these girls’ dream job list

girls with bethany downer
What happens when girls meet women with awe-inspiring career trajectories? Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how inspiring women role models can help girls reach for the stars. That’s what happened when Girl Guides in Paradise, NL, met Bethany Downer, the first scientist-astronaut candidate from Newfoundland and Labrador.

When she isn’t training for a potential future space journey, Bethany works in the international space sector, speaking on behalf of space organizations, planning astronomy events and more. She’s also a big time believer in girls setting big time dreams for themselves – that anything is possible and they too can be absolutely everything they want to be.

Hearing how Bethany blazed her own career path was an out-of-this-world experience for girls – a chance to see what they too might achieve one day. It was all systems go as Bethany described the endless opportunities available in the space industry, highlighted her educational journey in science (geography) and space studies, and spoke about her recent weightlessness training. She was even more excited to hear from the girls. (After all, Guiding is that girl-friendly place where girls know they can raise their hands in confidence.) Bethany fielded queries about her favourite planet, whether she believes in aliens and how she will sleep in space.

Only two Canadian women know what our planet looks like from space – Dr. Roberta Bondar, a neurologist and former Girl Guide, and current Governor General Julie Payette. As for who’s next, perhaps it’s one of the Brownies, Guides or Pathfinders who heard Bethany speak. Who knows, one of these girls might take a mission to Mars, or maybe they’ll invent a new career path for themselves. When girls have the chance to build their confidence through the kinds of activities Guiding offers, it’s a whole lot easier for them to stretch their limits. After all, a little inspiration from an aspiring female astronaut can go a long way in sparking a girl’s interest.

Guest post by Leslie Earle, a Pathfinder Guider in Paradise, NL. She is a former girl member and has also volunteered with Sparks, Brownies and Guides.

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Canada’s new $10 bill – this is for all the girls breaking barriers

Daring. Courageous. Risk-taker. These are all words that describe Viola Desmond, who’s featured on a the new Canadian $10 bank note. In 1946, the Nova Scotia business woman refused to leave a whites-only area of a movie theater. When it would’ve been easier to sit down and stay quiet, Desmond stood up and spoke out for equality –facing arrest and conviction as a result. Viola is the first Canadian woman to appear on a bank note.

A trailblazer in her time, Desmond is an icon today – and her sister Wanda Robson, who’s mentored countless girls as a longtime member of Girl Guides of Canada, is proudly keeping her legacy alive. Robson joined Guiding when her daughter came home from school asking to be a Brownie. She refers to the day she was asked to join Girl Guides as “my lucky day.” Guiding became such a part of her life that her family refers to it as “one of my other homes.”

Viola Desmond and Wanda Robson

Wanda and Viola at the Hi-Hat Club, Boston, ca. 1950. (via Bank of Canada)

When asked what drew her to join and remain in Guiding, Wanda talks about finding a place that she felt comfortable and accepted. She loves the interaction with the girls, watching them come out of their shells and their sense of achievement when they accomplish something. Reminiscing about her time in Guiding she talks about the way girls throw their arms around each other when they complete a challenge and how the older girls are such role models for younger girls.

“Once you are a member, you are always a member,” Wanda says of her unwavering commitment to Guiding. The value of Guiding to today’s girls is very real, she emphasizes. “The Guiding Movement makes young girls realize who they are, their potential, that they aren’t just in the background. It gives them a foundation of knowing who they are and that ‘I can do that’… I marvel at what Guiding has to offer girls. It gives them such confidence.”

Wanda Robson making the very first purchase with Canada’s new $10 bill, featuring her sister Viola Desmond. (Bank of Canada image)

Guest post by Catherine Miller-Mort, who works in the archives at Girl Guides of Canada’s national office.   

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The torch of remembrance and the desire for peace burns bright for girls in Canada

Remembrance of wars past. Fear of conflict today. These simple but powerful concepts are on the minds of girls across Canada as we mark Remembrance Day 2018. Somehow, we often forget that war and violent conflict – whether 100 years ago or today – affects and involves young people. Yet teens aren’t often asked about their opinions on these topics.

At Girl Guides of Canada, we believe it’s important to understand the issues facing girls and to amplify their voices. This fall, we commissioned a nationwide survey that involved talking to more than 500 girls in Canada aged 14-17 about their feelings on Remembrance Day, war, and peace. What girls told us is that to them, Remembrance Day is about reflecting on the past while thinking about the very real impact of the global conflicts happening today.

Shining a light on the fear of war and the hope for peace

In this research, girls shared that they see Remembrance Day as an important time to honour the sacrifices of those who’ve served their country, whether as soldiers or on the home front. They also believe Remembrance Day is about honouring peace builders and thinking of those currently affected by war around the world. After all, girls today often have a personal connection to the impact of war beyond the lessons of their history classroom. Many girls in Canada have welcomed those fleeing global conflicts to their communities, classrooms, and Girl Guide units – or may even themselves have experienced conflict firsthand. Some have neighbours or family members who’ve been deployed overseas.

How girls are fostering peace in their daily lives

Teen girls are also telling us that a majority (63%) are concerned that they might experience war in their lifetime. Concern is significantly higher among girls who’ve met someone with firsthand experience of war, such as those who have met a refugee or a veteran.  How we can we support girls who have these concerns?  We start by providing a safe space for girls to discuss what matters to them and how, together, we can build a better world by girls. Through actions big and small every day, girls themselves are fostering peace through their own leadership, community service and building connections with their peers.

During the First and Second World Wars, Canadian Girl Guides supported the nation’s war effort and helped children affected by war. They made surgical dressings, knitted socks for soldiers, and sewed clothing for children who were victims of bombings. Today, Girl Guides continue to connect with members of Canada’s military as well as welcome newcomers and refugees in their communities.

On November 11, many Girl Guides will proudly participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies. They will honour those who have served and acknowledge their responsibility to work for the peace they fought to accomplish.

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Our new Girls First Guiding program calls for a BIG celebration

The launch of Guiding’s brand new Girls First program is a pretty big deal. Innovative science and tech activities. Outdoor adventures. The chance for girls to talk about what really matters to them. And. So. Much. More. The new Girl Guide program was totally designed to fit with what girls really want. That’s why we  had to celebrate our new program in a really big way – and did we ever.

Across the country, girls led the way in planning and running Girls First Launch Parties. Pathfinders and Rangers served as Launch Leaders, designing events that allowed girls in Guiding to test drive activities in the new program and discover their favourites. Along the way, our launch leaders picked up some resume-ready skills like event planning, public speaking, and more.

“Girls got to discover new things about themselves and try exciting activities,” said Caitriona, a Girl Guide Launch Leader and member of our National Youth Council. “It was cool to be part of a group of people and make new friends while feeling the welcoming sisterhood of Guiding! This is such an important and positive change in the program and it is important to spread the word and get girls talking about it and sharing it with their units. The option to bring a friend got everyone involved and learning about how positive Guiding is in young girls’ lives.”



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How girls in Guiding are going full STEAM ahead as they experiment, design and create

Guiding has always been a place where girls can experiment, design, create and imagine as they explore the infinite possibilities of science and technology. (After all, Aeronautics was one of the first badges ever in Canadian Guiding.) Now, Guiding’s new Girls First program takes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) exploration to a whole new level.

As a civil design technologist by day and Girl Guide volunteer by night, I’m a huge fan of Guiding’s new Experiment and Create program area that’s part of the new Girls First program. It really lets girls explore not only science, technology, engineering and math, but also the world of design. This pulls the program in alignment with the new acronym of STEAM – an acronym that integrates the importance of art and design in STEM careers, whether in the form of prototyping, modelling, programming, and conceptual sketching. It can also involve using 3D printers, laser cutters, computer coding like Sketch, or plain-old paper and pencils to learn how to create new inventions or improve existing ones.

Through activities in the Science Lab and Design Space themes, girls will discover how engineering can now be so much more than marshmallow bridges, and math can be so much more than a Pi day party. Instead, units might explore robotics or digital arts at local makerspaces. They might tour local science-based employers like technology companies, composting facilities, research institutions, smelters, pulp mills or farming operations, and do related experiments and activities in the unit. Or, they might use Skype a Scientist to learn about something they’ve never imagined. It’s totally open to girls to explore what the Design Space and Science Lab themes mean to them.

Not every Girl Guide exposed to STEAM will pursue a related career, but that exposure can be invaluable to members who discover the STEAM career that is perfect for them. I was in Grade 11 when I googled “who builds bridges” and discovered civil engineering. Even then, I struggled with self-doubt and a lack of confidence that, as a woman, I could pursue such a career. The Girls First program’s exposure to STEAM at every age will help girls discover and hone their interests, and help them see that they can be biologists, mathematicians, geoscientists, or get a job in a field that may not even exist yet (lunar engineer, anyone?). Regardless of a girl’s chosen path, a solid introduction to STEAM will give her a foundation to solve world problems and make a difference in shaping her world.

Guest post by Anne Simonen, a Guider with the 1st Nelson Guides in B.C. and Kootenay Area PR Adviser.

Do you have a story about how your unit is enjoying the new Girls First program? Share it on the blog! Email us: ggcblog@girlguides.ca 

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Meet the Girl Guide who’s unstoppable when it comes to inclusion of all girls

Oct 17 Alexis Holmgren
Alexis Holmgren is a Girl Guide who’s a total goal-getter when it comes to advocating for what she believes in. And what she believes in is making sure all girls and women feel welcome in Guiding. As someone who lives with multiple rare medical conditions, Alexis has been a strong voice in speaking up for inclusion. She’s a total powerhouse with big ideas who’s taken on many leadership roles in Guiding, including running a diversity and inclusion session for Girl Guides in Alberta. She also recently joined the Girl Guides national Diversity and Inclusivity action team, providing input on how Guiding can attract and retain diverse members from communities and populations who are currently not well-represented in Guiding. Looking ahead to her future, Alexis aspires to go into the field of genetics so she can help others suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

This year, Alexis was awarded a Fortitude Award from Girl Guides of Canada in recognition of her perseverance, dedication and unstoppable passion for Guiding and inclusion. As her award commendation notes, Alexis has the ‘bright spirit of a unicorn and the courage of a lioness’. Here’s what Alexis has to say about how Guiding helped her turn her ambition into positive action:

“When I think of the 11 years I have been a member of Girl Guides, the words that come to mind are friendship, advocacy, leadership, opportunity, growth, skills, and of course fun. Guiding has truly shaped the person I am today, enabling me to become a better leader, build confidence, and discover what I am passionate about.

“From starting as a Brownie at the age of 8 to serving on the Alberta Council Youth Forum, and becoming a Link member this fall, Guiding has always been there to help me grow. Through Girl Guides, I found my inspiration to seek change and advocate for diversity and inclusion after I was diagnosed with a rare, genetic heart condition called Long QT Syndrome at the age of 12. By continuing my involvement in Guiding after my diagnosis, I was able to prove to myself and others that there are many things I am still capable of doing as a person with differences. Guiding also taught me to emphasize and use my strengths.

“While I might not be able to run, I have discovered my talents for organization, planning, and earning badges. Now that I’ve ‘graduated’ as a girl member, I am excited to continue my involvement as an adult Link member to give back after all that I have been given in Guiding. Guiding is still that place where I can continue to participate in opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise be able to have. Guiding is how I want to continue my advocacy efforts. I can’t imagine my life without being a Girl Guide.”



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Why Girl Guide cookies are the ULTIMATE Canadian treat

We’re interrupting your day to bring you this important announcement: Girl Guide cookies are here. And they are the ULTIMATE in everything.

Girl Guides sell some 6 million boxes of cookies every year. That’s a lot of tasty goodness. And this weekend Girl Guides will be in your neighbourhood with cookies at the ready for Cookie Days in Canada.

But our cookies are more than just a cookie. So. Much. More. Find out why Girl Guide cookies are the ULTIMATE treat.

Girl Guide cookies power amazing experiences for girls – which we’re putting front and centre on our brand new box designs. Whether it’s going on her first canoe trip, conquering a rock wall or participating in a science and engineering workshop, Girl Guide cookie sales help fund life-changing experiences for girls in your community. This fall, you can buy one of eight new chocolotey mint cookie boxes showcasing the range of activities and friendships that are part of the Guiding experience.



Be sure to get a box or two or five before they’re all gobbled up…

Cookies are a passport to adventure.
From Quebec City to the Yukon, India to Peru and everywhere in between, Girl Guide cookie sales raise funds for travel experiences that help girls see the world – and themselves – in a brand new way.

cookies mountainscape

Girls also develop some pretty sweet skills through cookie sales. 
Goal setting. Project planning. Money management. Teamwork. Cookie selling gives girls an edge with the kinds of marketable skills that pay off when they’re applying for their first job, an internship or a post-secondary opportunity.

Forget Dragons’ Den – Girl Guides could give a master class in entrepreneurism.
  In 1927, Girl Guides in Regina baked and sold cookies to raise funds for a camping trip. And so our iconic fundraiser was born.

historic cookie box

(1957, from Girl Guides of Canada National Archives)

Girl Guide cookies are an out-of-this-world sensation. 
As a Girl Guide, Roberta Bondar earned her Astronomy badge. As Canada’s first female astronaut, neurologist Roberta Bondar made sure to pack her favourite treat – Girl Guide cookies.

roberta bondar


When you need your cookie connection, there’s a map for that. Cookie Days in Canada is this weekend (October 13 and 14) – and our members will be bringing cookies right to your door, to your local mall and beyond. Our cookie finder map helps you find the cookies you want no matter where you are in Canada.


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How gender inequality impacts girls – as early as age 10

Every girl should have an equal start.  The chance at a fair race in whatever path she chooses. The opportunity to thrive. This is what we’re all about at Girl Guides – but it’s also what today, International Day of the Girl, is about, too!

We live in an awesome time: girls are taking the lead, eager to make change, and creating a more inclusive world. We see this every day in Guiding – a place where girls cheer each other on as they set their own goals and make their mark in the world around them. At the same time, it’s important to remember that too many girls are still held back by unequal treatment and unfair expectations about what it means to be a girl.

To learn more about young people’s experiences with inequality, GGC partnered with Ipsos this fall to commission a nationwide survey of teens. Here’s what teens, ages 12-17, told us:

  • Two in three (65%) teens agree there is currently an inequality between girls and boys in Canada – in terms of social, economic and/or political rights.
  • For girls who say they have been personally impacted by gender inequality, more than half (54%) say they first noticed gender inequality in their lives between the ages of 10 and 13.

Clearly, young people are seeing inequality in action – and this inequality is impacting girls sooner than you might think.

Girls, in their own words
It can be hard for adults to imagine how girls as young as 10 would face gender inequality in society – so we asked girls about it. In their own words, girls in our survey said:

They feel dismissed or overshadowed.

  • “I have felt that my opinions aren’t often taken as seriously because I am not a boy.”
  • “In sports and sometimes in mixed groups… the guys are louder so it is harder to express yourself.”

They face negative stereotypes that limit their potential.

  • “I had people pre-judge me when I walked into a woodshop class. They thought I wouldn’t be able to do any of the work.”
  • “Many boys in my school have said they can do sports better than girls and they challenge us to do athletic activities and always say they will obviously win because they are boys and we are girls.” 

They’re held to different rules.  

  • “My brothers are allowed to stay out later than me because, ‘You’re a girl. It’s not safe to be out after dark.’”
  • “I got in trouble for pushing a boy to the ground after he’d pinned me to a wall to kiss me. The teacher said he was just being my friend and I needed to be nicer.”
  • “Dress codes in school make me feel like I am a problem.”

Not nice enough. Not strong enough. Not loud enough to be heard. Not smart enough to be taken seriously. Given that these are the messages girls hear, it’s more important than ever to make sure they have safe spaces where they can be valued for who they are and take their lead as the experts on their own needs and experiences. Girls agree: 81% of girls told us that it is important for them to have access to spaces dedicated to girls and women. When girls can support and empower each other in a safe space, they are better equipped to take on the challenges facing them, head on.

What’s really amazing is this: even though girls deal with these challenges, they’re still resistant and resilient, carving their own paths. In fact, we’ve found that most girls are still motivated to pursue their aspirations – even if it defies stereotypes.

That’s why at Girl Guides, we think every day is Day of the Girl. Because being a girl should always be celebrated.

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Girl Guides is starting, Girl Guides is starting! Why girls are THIS excited

Another year of Girl Guides is starting up in units all across Canada. And yes, girls and volunteer Guiders are just a little bit excited. And why wouldn’t they be? Guiding really is an all-access pass for girls to explore, experiment, design and create their own adventures – and the ultimate place where every girl knows she belongs. 


Science and technology. Outdoor adventures. Planning their own community service project. Learning about healthy relationships. Guiding really is that place where girls can try it all. This year, girls are diving into our brand new program, Girls First. It’s totally girl-driven and all about girls taking the lead as they jump into empowering activities and explore what matters to them. 



Friendship goals. Squad goals. Sisterhood goals. Guiding is 100% that  place where girls can connect and form a totally empowering, totally supportive peer network that will help them soar. 

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#girlguidesofcanada# Girltime#Mommyleader#lovemygirls

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#twins #girlguidesofcanada

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Of course, our volunteers are just a little bit excited for the start of the Guiding year, too.


Sisterhood. Empowerment. Making friends. It’s all a part of the Guiding adventure. But so is all the fun that girls have together in Guiding – sometimes it’s just that simple. 



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Reality check: What girls are saying about gender inequality

“I think it was early elementary [school] when I was told that I could not be as good at math as the boys.” – Emily, Girl Guide National Youth Council member

Whether they’re in elementary school or high school, gender inequality is definitely a very real part of girls’ lives. How do we know? We went to the ultimate experts – girls themselves. What girls told us was revealing, but maybe not all that surprising. The uncomfortable truth is that lagging gender equality might just be fencing girls in.

As Canada marks its first ever Gender Equality Week , we’re taking a look at how the equality equation is working out for Canadian girls. After all, listening to what’s happening in girls’ lives is something we do every day at Girl Guides of Canada. 


While young people have unique experiences with gender inequality – in the classroom, on the sports field, in their part-time jobs and beyond – we know girls’ voices often go unheard. That’s why we recently partnered with Ipsos in commissioning a nationwide survey to ask young people about gender equality and uncover the reality.  Here’s what girls ages 12-17 told us:

  • 64% of girls are concerned about gender inequality today
  • Looking ahead to when they’re 25 years old, girls are worried about how they’ll be treated as adults – because of their gender:
    • 55% of girls are concerned they’ll be treated unequally or unfairly at work because of their gender
    • 47% of girls are concerned that they’ll be treated unequally or unfairly in the interests or activities they pursue because of their gender
    • 42% of girls are concerned that they’ll be treated unequally or unfairly by the public in general because of their gender

Overall, the survey showed that girls are more concerned than boys about gender equality – both now and in the future.

But how is gender equality really working out for girls?

Beyond the disheartening reality of what the numbers reveal, members of our National Youth Council shared some of their own personal experiences:
“I observe inequality between men/boys and women/girls in society daily. Whether it is in the media or at school, etc., I feel that the inequality barriers facing girls and women are affecting their abilities to live up to their full potential and achieve their dreams.” – Sophie, National Youth Council member

“The fight for more female representation in different career fields, school, politics, and home is not nearly over. Men still hold more power and make more money. There is especially an issue in inequality between men and POC [people of colour], LGTBQ+, and non-able bodied people.” – Anonymous, National Youth Council member

It’s clear girls not only feel the impact of inequity in their daily lives but are also discouraged about the inequities they’ll face in their futures. Let’s consider the consequences of what this means. Girls’ aspirations might change, they might dial back their ambitions – simply because of what they’ll face because of their gender.

Girls empowering girls – it’s a powerful thing

All of this reinforces the importance for girl-driven spaces – for the kind of gender-specific programming that addresses girls’ needs, facilitated by women mentors in an all-girls space like Guiding where every leadership opportunity is open to girls. Girls in Guiding cheer each other on as they work towards their goals. They listen to each other, inspire and empower each other – knowing they won’t be judged and don’t have to hold back.

“I stand for gender equality and believe women’s rights are important.” – Caitriona, National Youth Council member

The good news is there’s resilience and resistance among girls today. They’re pursuing their interests and still dreaming about their future. They’re fierce and engaged in standing up for what they believe in – a world where simply being a girl won’t hold them back.

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Girl Guides taught me how to be a girl in charge of my own life

I never used to be the person to speak up in class. To randomly talk to someone I didn’t know very well in the school hallway. I feel I’ve come a long way in the past few years – thanks to Guiding. Girl Guides of Canada has taught me not only what it means to be a girl in  this world, but what it means to be a girl in charge of her own life. Through Guiding, I have a place to express my thoughts and ideas. As a member of the National Youth Council, I can help shape the organization that I love just as it has helped to shape me.

Over the past year or so, I’ve put myself out there like I never would have in the past. When I applied and was accepted to attend the national Ignite. Inspire. Innovate. Conference, I thought ‘What have I done?’ But that Guiding event was life changing for me.  I met so many girls that were open and welcoming that I just knew I wanted to be that person who brought people together. I loved the feeling of the power of change when we discussed topics like mental health and feminism, and I knew I wanted to continue with that feeling in my life.

When I applied for National and Provincial Youth Councils I never thought that I would be successful. I didn’t think they would want just a small-town girl. I thought, ‘Would I really be able to contribute?’ But, now I find myself making connections with girls from across the country. I have found things that I am passionate about and have spoken at conferences and awards banquets on my experiences. It turns out we all have great ideas and things to contribute to the conversation whether it’s at our meetings, at a Provincial event or on a National Council.

National Youth Council in Banff.

Thinking back to where I was a year ago, I cannot believe the changes in my life. Making new friends, speaking up, and not shying away from new experiences are only a few examples of how my new-found confidence has helped me. Stepping outside my comfort zone and applying for these opportunities has changed my life for the better. My goals have gone from “get a good job that I like” to “find a job that I am passionate about and enables me to make a difference in the lives of others”.

Confidence isn’t just getting up in front of people and speaking, it’s taking charge of your life and advocating for what you want. The National Youth Council has given me an avenue to create the kind of social change that I thought I would always just stand by and watch, never be an integral part of. This year I am excited to see what the National Youth Council has to offer and what we will choose as our actions to focus on. I cannot wait to meet the new girls joining us this year and build many more lasting friendships. Nothing gives me more pride than to be able to advocate for the values of this girl-driven organization and speak about my experiences. Guiding has shaped my life in a truly remarkable way.

Guest post by Emily Lints, a Ranger from Manitoba. Emily is a member of the National Youth Council and received a Girl Greatness Award for Confidence in 2018.   

Meet the new members of our National Youth Council!



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5 reasons why a Girl Guide trip should be on your bucket list

Empowering. Challenging. Inspiring. And just plain awesome. Travelling with Girl Guides has it all. Whether it’s exploring the hidden corners of London where Guiding began, seeing the out-of-this-world vistas of Newfoundland and Labrador, or high-fiving your fellow Girl Guides as you finish your hike through the Swiss Alps, there’s nothing like a Girl Guide travel experience.

Here are the top 5 reasons why you should put a Girl Guide trip on your bucket list. (P.S. Now is the perfect time! Applications for our 2019 National-Sponsored Trips close on Wednesday, September 12.)


  1. The adventure quotient is off the charts. Hiking the alps. Exploring Ecuador. Many Girl Guide trips are designed to stoke your sense of adventure and give you the chance to reach new heights.

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🇪🇨 Ecuador is one of those countries whose beauty can only really be captured in person. Between the stunning colours that endlessly intertwined between the buildings and the gorgeous fabrics covering the shoulders of each person walking by to the kind hearts of the local people willing to share a little bit of their lives with us, there’s no end to the beauty of this country. The girls I attended this trip with were the true MVPs. Each and every one of them has their special qualities that I’m going to miss (including Kiera’s wiggly eyebrows). You guys are awesome, crazy funny and so supportive. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of pals to help build a school with. Thank you guys so much for making this an awesome trip and thanks to Alberta Council – Girl Guides for making my last trip as a girl member a spectacular one! ❤️ #GGC #AlbertaCouncil #GirlGuidesofCanada #GGCtravel (Side note: there’s no real order to these photos and aren’t my greatest captures tbh 🤷🏻‍♀️ & I used some pics from Taralyn & Asia as well❤️)

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2. If the sights, sounds and lights of big cities are your thing, we’ve got you covered
. From Paris, London to Rome, Girl Guide travel experiences will have you saying ‘Oui, merci!’ to exploring some of this globe’s most dynamic urban centres.


3. You’ll discover just how amazing Canada really is. Fact: Canada is the second largest country in the world. So there’s a lot to see and discover in the true North-East-and-West strong and free. A Girl Guide trip is way better than an old-school geography class for making you say ‘Oh Canada!’

4. You’ll get the chance to see and do. Sure, you’ll see lots of amazing sites and meet some great people on your trip. But many Girl Guide trips also offer the chance to take part in local service projects.


5. You’ll meet some super cool girls. It’s hard not to make new friends when you travel together. Whether it’s while sharing some amazing new food, sitting together on a long flight or cracking inside jokes as you spend days and days exploring a new country, you can’t help but form new friendships that are totally solid.



London. Rome. Paris. The Amazon. Newfoundland and Labrador. These are just some of the destinations you can apply for as part of our Nationally-Sponsored Trips program. Hurry! The deadline is September 12. 


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Why soaking up summer in the great outdoors is the BEST

Making memories, making friends, making s’mores. It’s all possible through the kinds of outdoor experiences Guiding offers girls. Whether exploring the hidden beauty of an urban park or experiencing their first overnight canoe trip, girls in Guiding are kind of famous for soaking up every ounce of adventure the summer has to offer. Bonus: Guiding’s outdoor experiences are also an awesome opportunity for girls to build new skills, discover the thrill of challenging herself, and make new friends around the campfire. Pass the marshmallows, please!

Check out just how much outdoor fun girls in Guiding had this summer:

There’s nothing quite like those magical summer moments of singing silly songs around a campfire, giggling in a tent or learning to steer a canoe together. Hanging together outdoors is like the perfect recipe for making new friends.


“I did it!” Camp is a place where a girl can try new challenges, learn from her set-backs, feel confident to dust herself off and try again, and experience the thrill of figuring things out for herself.



Whether you’re a budding foodie or just down for classic camp cooking, food just somehow always tastes better when cooked outside.


Sometimes being outdoors is just about soaking it all in. Enough said.

Of course, Girl Guides know you don’t have to trek far to have an adventure – exploring the hidden beauty of your own neighbourhood is another way to get your nature fix.


Cheering girls on every step of the way during their outdoor adventures are our amazing Girl Guide volunteers. These amazing women mentors are in it for the fun and adventure, too.

Looking for a place where girls are empowered to take the lead, jump into awesome activities, and explore what matters to them? That’s Girl Guides of Canada. The new Guiding year is starting soon. Find out what units are available in your neighbourhood and register today. 

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Sparks sparkle – and so do new Guiders!


It’s been almost two years since I shared my story of being a new Girl Guide volunteer,  and while I’ve finally gotten the glitter out of my hair, the sparkle of Guiding still remains. Everyday spent with Sparks is a new adventure. We’ve planted trees, gone ice skating, explored outer space, and even had a sleepover at Girl Guide’s national office. I’ve watched Sparks form friendships, take risks and discover new talents and there’s no doubt I’ve grown alongside my Sparks, too. They remind me to be silly, sing at the top of my lungs, and live curiously. With the new Guiding year just around the corner, I can’t wait to see what happens next.  

A few months ago, an email arrived announcing that the national office would be hosting our own Girl Guide units. It read: “Are you looking for a little more glitter in your life? Looking to connect with nature and possibly even camp out under the stars? Well, we have just the thing for you!”

Immediately, I knew I wanted in. Although I was brand new to GGC as part of the Programming staff team, the opportunity to work with girls directly and be part of the Guiding tradition was immensely appealing. And of course there was the promise of glitter.

Within two weeks, and with several training sessions under my belt, I was officially a Spark Guider. Right away the world of Guiding began opening itself up to me in new and exciting ways. I quickly learned the Promise and the opening and closing songs, as well as how to tie a reef knot. I reviewed the programming options and wrapped my head around all the swag – badges and keepers and crests, oh my! Fortunately, my colleague and fellow Guider Chickadee (or as we call her in the office, Ashley) had experience with Sparks and has been incredibly supportive and helpful in showing me the ropes.

Finally, we were ready. We had all our supplies and a general plan for our first meeting. But it wasn’t until the girls arrived that I really understood what I had signed up for. That’s when the ‘spark’ was ignited in me.

feb9_sparkssparkle2Every week our Sparks come in smiling, ready and excited for what’s in store. They light up with each new challenge, and are delighted to learn more about what it means to be in Guiding. They have truly begun to demonstrate the Spark Promise and show excitement and imagination in all they do. We play games, craft, learn invaluable life skills and, most importantly, we have FUN!

The time spent with the girls is undoubtedly the highlight of every week. They make me laugh and smile, and they remind me to enjoy the moment. But perhaps the most rewarding part of being a Guider is watching girls discover the endless possibilities of who they are and what they are capable of. I see it in our Sparks every meeting, and it reminds me of what’s possible in my own life. I am proud to be their Guider and to be on this journey with them.

In December we celebrated the girls’ enrolment. On the day of the ceremony, the girls were all sashes, smiles and giggles. They made us proud as they recited the Spark Promise, and we sprinkled glitter over top of them as they received their enrolment pins. Being new to Guiding myself, I was also enrolled that night. I stood before our guests, three fingers to the sky, and recited the Promise just as millions of girls and women have before me. In that moment, with our Sparks smiling up at me, I felt myself become part of the sisterhood of Guiding. Perhaps it was the glitter in my hair, but I really could feel myself sparkle.

Guest post by Brittany Cohen, Coordinator, Global & Community Programming at Girl Guides of Canada and Guider (a.k.a. Emerald) with 73rd Toronto Sparks.

Interested in volunteering with a Girl Guide unit in your area? Call 1-800-565-8111 or check out our volunteering page

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How I jumped into a waterfall with Girl Guides – and you can, too!

Jumping into a waterfall –  sounds both exciting and scary all at the same time, right? But not when you’ve got your Guiding sisters to cheer you on. As Mackenzie writes, you never know what kind of adventure and amazing friends you’ll find when you take part in a Girl Guide travel experience.

P.S. You can get your adventure on by applying for a Girl Guide Nationally-Sponsored trip. Applications close September 12.

Traveling to the Girl Guide World Centre Our Cabaña in Mexico was more than I ever could have dreamed. From the moment I walked through the two blue doors donated by Lady Baden-Powell, I felt like I was home. While at Our Cabaña, I got to meet so many amazing girls that I still talk to today – from Scotland, United States, Venezuela, England and of course Mexico!

During our trip, we visited the pyramids of the moon and sun. It felt like I was climbing Mount Everest. But when we got to the top it felt so rewarding and the view was amazing.

One evening we had a campfire. It was so much fun getting to learn new Girl Guide songs in English and Spanish. I really experienced the sisterhood of Guiding when we’d all start singing the same song and everyone knew the words. This shows that no matter where you are in the world, you are connected through Guiding.

One of my favourite things we did at Our Cabaña was spending the day with kids from the local town. We made crafts, played sports, sang songs and laughed.

Another cool thing was going waterfall jumping. Waterfall jumping is exactly what it sounds like: standing on top of a waterfall and jumping down into the pool of water below. Some jumps were only 3 metres and some were 12 metres. Every jump felt so freeing and the support I found in my fellow Girl Guides as I took that giant leap was incredible. Everyone would cheer you on and congratulate you after you jumped.

On our last day at Our Cabaña, we all cried. I felt like I could have stayed there another two weeks or even two months. There was so much I didn’t even have time to do. As we walked out the door I said to myself, “I will return one day” – and I still plan on keeping this promise.

London. Rome. Paris. The Amazon. Newfoundland and Labrador. These are just some of the destinations you can apply for as part of our Nationally-Sponsored Trips program. Hurry! The deadline is September 12. 

Guest post by Mackenzie Furey, a Girl Guide member from  Newfoundland and Labrador. Mackenzie has served in many volunteer and leadership roles, including working with Guide units and as a member of the National Youth Council.


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Why an urban field trip should be on your summer bucket list

There is something truly awesome about the way Guiding can open doors to new adventures while supporting girls and Guiders in a safe space.  It really shouldn’t have, but it kind of surprised me recently – when our little unit from the ‘country’ found new experiences, tons of fun, and proven friendships while trekking around the ‘big city’.

Our unit, the 3rd Carter Guides, is from a small community outside of Halifax. While most of our girls take a school bus daily, only half had been on city transit. When we sat down as a unit to see if a city adventure was a good year-end trip the ideas flowed quickly. Girls had tons of ideas of what they would (and would not!) like to do during a day on the town.

We started our adventure by meeting up at the bus terminal one morning at 8 a.m. Each girl received a group name badge with emergency contact info, a scavenger hunt sheet (points for unique/creative answers), and a bag of snacks to start the day. As we hopped on the bus, I asked the girls ‘how many have never been on a city bus?’  As hands went up, others started sharing their experiences.  Snack bags were opened, scavenger hunts started, and our adventure day was off to great start!

Over the course of the morning, girls discovered parks and playgrounds, explored the waterfront, enjoyed the ferry ride (another first for some!), participated in the Halifax tradition of playing on ‘The Wave’ sculpture, and suggested other ways we could add to our day. We had tentative plans for the day, but our bigger plan was to roll with our day – as girls, weather, and opportunities allowed. Walking more than 6.5 kilometres, taking two buses and a ferry we were certainly able to see a lot.

After a picnic lunch, we explored the award-winning (and enormous!) Halifax Central Library and the historic Public Gardens, with the final stop at a the Halifax Oval – where girls had the chance to try roller skates/blades, scooters and bikes.  So many girls tried new things, and helped each other out.

As many traded in roller skates for (easier-to-use) bikes and scooters, one girl just kept trying.  Her perseverance impressed me.  When I skated passed on inline skates (for the first time in 20 years!) I told her I was proud of her and she yelled back “I’m proud of you, too, Jo!”  That moment stuck with me.  There is a girl, pushing herself, trying new things, and feeling comfortable doing so – and she didn’t just beam with pride, she passed it on.

Over our full day together, I saw too many Girl Guide-y moments to mention.  The girls embraced adventure and small challenges, solved problems as a team (picture a scavenger hunt blowing away), used kind words, and laughed with each other.  It isn’t often I take a day off work to spend away from my own family – but that Thursday, I couldn’t have been happier about my choice.

Guest post by Jo Swinemer. Jo has a been a GGC member for 30 years and has held a variety of roles – the past few years as a part-time Guider in Mount Uniacke, Nova Scotia. Jo is excited to open a Pathfinder unit for some of these advancing Guides this fall.  By day, Jo is the Membership Support and Community Development staff at the Nova Scotia provincial office.

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How Girl Guides showed their true colours – by painting a rainbow

volunteer paitingWhen the rainbow crosswalk in Smithers, B.C., needed a re-fresh, Girl Guide members in the northern B.C. community came to the rescue. Armed with paint brushes and a kaleidoscope of colours, local Girl Guide volunteers set to work in painting the colours of inclusion on Smithers’ Main Street. Guiding member Christine Tessier shares their story.

Girl Guides first got involved in our community’s rainbow crosswalk in July 2017, when Smithers hosted SOAR (Spirit of Adventure Rendezvous), an international camp for Girl Guides. This camp is held every three years in different B.C. locations.

As head of service projects for the camp, and a local Smithereen, I started searching for various projects that campers could participate in. Some of the projects included trail cleanup, painting tables and chairs on the site, collecting items for the Community Services organization and weeding at the community garden. We also painted fish on drains throughout the town and this led to a request to refresh the rainbow sidewalk on Main Street.

The sidewalk was originally painted in 2016 to show the town’s support and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community, but the town of Smithers was unable to find a contractor to redo the job so they asked me. Unfortunately, the weather would not co-operate and camp ended before we could get to the job. I still felt this would be a perfect fit for Girl Guides so appealed to local Guiders and we took it on.

volunteers painting rainbow crosswalk

It took three hours for us to complete. It was a first time for all of us, including town staff who provided the supplies. Halfway through, the mayor of Smithers, Taylor Bachrach, came to thank us for our work and our project ended up on the front page of the local paper.

While this project turned out to be great promotion for local Guiding, that wasn’t the only reason for doing it. I truly believe this was a simple but powerful way to show how inclusive we are and that we believe that all persons are valued.

Girl Guides makes it clear that we strive to provide a safe space for our members, which isn’t possible without acceptance and respect. The rainbow sidewalk has been a controversial topic among some in our small community of 5,000 – yet slowly but gradually, it has been accepted. I remember the first time it was painted in 2016. It was less than 24 hours before tire tracks appeared to mar the colours as people deliberately worked to deface it. Now locals praise our work as they walk by.

Guest post by Christine Tessier, a Girl Guide volunteer in Smithers, B.C.


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5 things I learned organizing a sleepover for Sparks


Girls empowering girls is a powerful part of the Guiding experience. Whether they’re cheering each other on as they try a challenging new activity or sharing a special skill, girls in Guiding can stretch their limits as they mentor one another. Pathfinder Ursa shares what she discovered when she organized a sleepover for 5- and 6-year-old Sparks.

An important part for a Pathfinder working towards earning her Canada Cord is planning an event or camp. For my Canada Cord I chose to plan a Sparks sleepover. Many of the girls had never slept away from home, nevermind gone to Guide camp, so this was a first for all of us. Here are five things I learned that night:

1. Having Sparks bring a special adult friend to the sleepover is a good idea.

For many of the girls at the sleepover, this was their first time sleeping away from home, and it was a big deal. By having a mom, sister, aunt, neighbor, or other special friend come along, the Sparks were more comfortable. The Sparks always had someone to go to if they needed.

2. Sparks can totally set up tents.

Spark setting up tentSeems simple, I know, but tents can be daunting even for the most experienced camper.

When planning my camp, I proposed having the Sparks put up their own tents, and there was some hesitation. The worry was that the parents or leaders would have to put up all the tents as 15 excited Sparks ran wild around us. In reality, the Sparks were overjoyed that they got to set up their tents. There were some who had gone camping before and were happy to show their deep understanding of how tents work, and there were some who were just happy to learn. You just need a little bit of patience, and someone tall enough to reach the top of the tent, and the Sparks can and will put up a tent.

3. Sparks are quick learners.

Campfire is an essential part of camp in my opinion, and I didn’t want to leave it out of our indoor sleepover. I ended up typing up all the words to all the songs we would be singing and handed them out – which brings me to the point of Sparks being quick learners. Most of these Sparks had never heard any of these songs before, let alone sang them, and I was amazed to see them all with their flashlights huddled together around the song sheets and singing along.

There was a point when one of the girls looked at her mom and said: “You’re doing the hand motions wrong. Here, it’s like this…” and then proceeded to show her the proper way to ‘sail the ocean wide’.

4. Sparks will get up at six in the morning.

Yup, I thought it might not be true if I kept them up just a little bit late, but alas, Sparks rise with the sun. I learned that perhaps I should have gotten up earlier and planned for breakfast at 6:15 a.m. But, at least the parents were there to make pancakes.

5. An exit strategy is always important.

At the end of every meeting the volunteers in the Sparks unit wait for 20 minutes after the meeting is done as the Sparks and their adults chat outside the meeting space. So I chose to end our sleepover at the park. There is a park just a 10-minute walk (20 minutes if you’re a Spark) from where we had our sleepover. The Sparks were set free to run off all the excess pancake sugar, and at 10 a.m. the sleepover was done.

This sleepover was an amazing experience for me to plan, run and learn. For anyone looking for an event planning or leadership experience, a sleepover is a great way to introduce yourself to leading younger girls, having a major role in the behind the scenes parts of camp, and to have a really great evening.

Guest post by Ursa. Ursa will begin her first year as a Ranger this fall. Guiding has been a big part of her life for over seven years. Besides Guiding, Ursa acts, knits, writes, and plays the ukulele. Her favorite part of Guiding has always been the time around a campfire surrounded by friends just as the fire comes down and the coals shine. 


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In Guiding, we have Pride in being inclusive

Photo: Saajid Sam Motala

Who doesn’t love a parade? Even better – when the parade is all about positivity and inclusivity. Now that’s the kind of parade that Girl Guides will totally join in. During Pride month, Girl Guides across the country participated in community celebrations big and small. At Toronto Pride, staff from Girl Guides of Canada’s national office and local members joined together for the first time to march as an official parade contingent. Their goal – to be loud and proud in showcasing Guiding as a safe and welcoming space for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.

Here’s what some members and staff had to say about what it meant to march in Pride as a Girl Guide:

Photo: Saajid Sam Motala

Photo: Saajid Sam Motala

“I have always wanted to go see the Pride Parade in Toronto. When I saw the opportunity to march in the parade as a representative of Girl Guides of Canada, I signed up immediately. Why wouldn’t I want to be part of something bigger than just an on-looker in the crowd?

I learned that day that Pride isn’t just for the LBGTQ+ community but it’s for EVERYONE who is an ally and friend to the community. It doesn’t matter your gender, race or colour – you simply feel accepted for who you are or want to be on that day. Aside from the amazing costumes, make-up and diversity everywhere, the most memorable moment was when I saw a young girl in the crowd raise her hand and give the Girl Guide sign. For Girl Guides to be a part of Pride, it reinforces the fundamental message that we stand for INCLUSION.” – Julia, volunteer Guider

Photo: Saajid Sam Motala

“Though I’ve been to Pride a million times, I have never marched in the parade, nor have I ever worked anywhere that’s been IN the parade. I wasn’t sure what to expect – but what I felt was a sense of community like no other. It was a pretty powerful moment! When people saw Girl Guides in the parade, there were such cheers. Girls and women who clearly had some involvement in the organization at some point in their life waved and applauded joyfully.

It was very clear that on Sunday, people saw Guiding in a new light. They saw an organization that wasn’t just talking the talk of inclusivity, we were (literally!) walking the walk. And for girls and young women, it just reinforces to them that not only do they have a safe space to be who they are, but they have a sisterhood that truly has their back, no matter how they identify!” – Rochelle, Senior Manager, Programming

Photo: Saajid Sam Motala

“As an openly proud member of the queer community, I want girls, parents and even former members to see that there are openly LGBTQA+ Guiders who will be there for our girls unconditionally. Girls are still learning about who they are, how they fit into their  local communities and the world overall and I want them to know that there are adults in their lives who understand what they’re going through – and that no matter what struggles they may face, we are out there cheering them on.

Everyone, regardless of gender or orientation, has a story of finding that place where they fit in. I want Girl Guides to be that place. I want people to see that Girl Guides of Canada is a positive and inclusive organization for girls where they can become involved in their communities and not only be accepted but celebrated for their diversity. At Girl Guides, a girl can be everything she wants to be and, for  me, that includes being accepted for who she already is.” – Jocelyn, volunteer Unit Guider 


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