Something pretty amazing happened to me the other day, and I am still excited about it. Through my job with the Canadian War Museum, I recently attended a video conference organized by the United States Embassy about women’s empowerment in Afghanistan. Heads of NGOs, diplomats, community activists and Afghan-born women all shared experiences and perspectives about complex problems in a chronically war-affected country.
For the first half of the conference, I felt awed and a little small. There I was, a safe office-worker, sitting alongside committed and courageous people, who are all taking serious actions to make the world a better place for girls and women. And doing it in a place where the challenges are numerous and the threats very real. I do have a great job: I bring stories of conflict to the public at the War Museum, but it’s quite a few steps removed from the direct involvement of the others in the room.
Yet, at about the halfway point it happened. I stopped being there as a “museum worker”, and started being there as member of Girl Guides of Canada. I’m sure it didn’t show on the outside, but for me, it really was a transformative moment.
How did it happen? It happened when someone related an anecdote about how Afghan women in a training class went from covering their mouths and refusing to speak at the start of the class, to singing proudly in public a few months later. The EXACT SAME THING happens in our multi-branch unit (12th Ottawa Guiding Group)!
One experience stands out in particular, for just how much it resembles the Afghan example, when one girl joined as a first-year Spark, and she could not speak in front of the unit. She would twist away from the circle and hide her face. By mid-way through the year, the same girl stood in the middle of the circle and made a presentation about her grandmother’s enrollment pin – to the whole group. It stood out as significant then, but I don’t think I realized just how significant it was until I attended that conference.
In Guiding, she found the courage to speak, and the confidence to know she would be listened to and appreciated. Listening to those conference participants say that those are the same things that Afghan girls and women need, made me realize (yet again!) the huge value of what I do as a leader. I came away from that conference not only awed by the stories of empowerment that were shared, but also inspired and proud to be part of Guiding.
— By guest blogger and Guider Kathryn Lyons, 12th Ottawa Guiding Group (Sandy Hill Sparks, Brownies, Guides and Pathfinders)
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