One year, I had a new member in my unit who was shy. Her father let me know that already by the age of nine, she had been through a lot. As a single parent he was doing what he could to help her, and had been recommended to enroll her in Guiding.
At first, Guiding was not something she was interested in. But I made sure she participated, I encouraged her and when something piqued her interest, well, I asked her to take the lead on it with my support. Before too long she was running for Patrol Guider, she was speaking out more, she was helping others. At the end of the year her father came to me and said, “Thank you for this year, but my daughter won’t be back. She now wants to enroll in sports, and other activities.” As a leader you don’t want to lose any girls, but also as a leader I was proud. By putting her in the lead, she gained confidence and was turning her whole world around. I hope to this day that is still happening for her.
And I hope for many other girls in the world, their leaders, Guiders and community are also giving them the chance to be in the lead.
Unfortunately, a recent global study indicated otherwise. It stated that more than 50% of girls find that where they live limits their potential in contrast to boys. When we hear a statistic like that from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), we immediately think of the lives of girls in developing nations.
But it’s happening here at home as well. The Canadian Women’s Foundation reports that more than half of the girls they interviewed wished they were someone else. Further, their research shows that, “…as girls enter adolescence, from ages nine to 13, their confidence declines sharply and they experience higher rates of depression.” http://www.canadianwomen.org/facts-about-girlsde
In grade six – or, when they are a third-year Guide – only 36% of girls say they are self-confident. By grade 10 (first year Ranger) this number plummets to 14%.
Sad? Shocked? Imagine what this means to the health of our country if girls aren’t confident enough to stand up and speak, to voice opinions, to make scientific breakthroughs, to lead.
This year, International Day of the Girl is Friday, Oct. 11. The theme from WAGGGS is to put girls in the lead. So I ask, are you ready to help improve on the above statistics?
How? Challenge yourself to lead by example. Give opportunities for girls to run activities whether it is as a Brownie or a Pathfinder. As Guiders we tend to plan our year in advance. But have you ever done planning looking at it from the girls’ perspective? Are you giving them ample opportunity to try to lead? Why not? As Guiders we take on so much responsibility: booking meeting spaces and guest speakers, organizing craft supplies, ensuring a safe environment. Sometimes we take it ALL on. And while that may seem efficient to us as volunteers, we may be letting down the girls we are there to support and most of all, empower.
Tomorrow is a special day, but it is just one day. We are early in our Guiding year and I know there are opportunities for you to put girls in the lead. View these opportunities through the lens of the girls who may not get opportunities at home or at school to do this.
We empower YOU, the Guider, to take the lead in passing the lead on. The positive potential consequences from doing so, will ripple out in your community for years to come.
By guest blogger Sarah Lyon of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Check out her own blog ‘Sarah Smells the Roses‘, as well as some of her more recent blog posts for Girl Guides of Canada: