Because it’s 2016… Girls’ and women’s rights

Mar21_KrystaCoyleUNI was recently a delegate with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) to the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in NYC. I’ve been trying to sum up my experiences to share with you, but I’m not entirely sure it’s possible. I met so many amazing delegates, experienced so many powerful moments, and was able to speak with a global community about so many issues affecting girls and women today.

Every word mattered as I heard from my fellow WAGGGS delegates and the other amazing young women at the CSW. We all became frustrated at various points, whether it was seeing others from our countries uninterested in fighting for girls’ and women’s rights, or hearing government officials talk about the involvement of boys and men more than acknowledging the unique situation of girls around the world, or even feeling like we weren’t getting our point across at all on some days. The other delegates reminded me at every turn that it was OK to be frustrated, but that it was important to take those feelings and turn them into action.

Whenever possible, I asked speakers and officials to remember the girls that don’t get the opportunity to share their stories. It is important to ask girls to participate in making decisions and policies that affect and can shape their lives, but we need to appreciate that not every girl feels confident enough or is courageous enough to sit at the table.

I thought of some of the girls and young women I have worked with in Guiding, and drew on my own experiences: organizations like Girl Guides of Canada play a vital and important role in giving girls and young women the skills they need to make a difference. Before we can talk about more women in government, or more girls in community leadership positions, we need to make sure that girls feel empowered, feel safe, and feel valued.

I really see the need for our Guiding programs when I think about some of the girls and young women I work with. I wonder if their experiences are captured when we measure things like rates of violence, enrollment in education, or even national economic prosperity. Unfortunately, I don’t think they are. I think we need to talk with girls in spaces they feel safe in, in order to reflect their unique experiences.

I’m excited to feel like part of a truly global movement that values all girls and recognizes that every girl has a right to be heard. I can’t wait to bring back everything I have learned from my fellow delegates and CSW to Canada.

 Guest post by Krysta Coyle. Krysta is a co-District Commissioner for Halifax South District,  National Link Liaison and a Ph.D. student in Pathology at Dalhousie University. Check out her previous posts – Women are scientists, too; What girls are saying about Girl Greatness; This is what Link looks like. Follow her on Twitter @microbialkrysta.

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