I’ve been thinking a lot more about safety and inclusivity lately. Just the other day, at work, in a room full of peers, superiors, and contractors, I was forced to justify some very personal choices and reveal a part of my identity that I didn’t want to. As I looked around the room, growing more uncomfortable and feeling more judged by the second, I realized I didn’t know who my allies were, if indeed I had any. I have never had this experience in my Guiding Life – quite the opposite is true. I feel safe, supported and valued for who I am and how I choose to present myself.
There are a whole bunch of reasons why I am involved in Guiding. It’s the fun. It’s the outlet for my crafty side. It’s the connection to my mother and my daughter and my sisters-in-Guiding. But the one I care about most deeply is Guiding’s values of safety, inclusion and empowerment for girls and women.
I try, in my words and in my actions, to embody those values – especially at Brownies – but also in all parts of my life. I choose to say ‘parent’ instead of ‘mom and dad’ to include all types of families. I tell people that Guiding is open to anyone who identifies as a girl or woman. We choose not to celebrate the dominant holidays at Brownies – but we most definitely party and celebrate!
I plan meals and snacks so that we offer something that everyone can eat. We allow for multiple ways to participate in activities and forms of expression. I gently challenge Brownies when I think I’ve heard something unkind, or I think there might be a more positive way to resolve a conflict. I try to be conscious of my own limitations, blind spots and assumptions. I listen. I am sure I miss the mark sometimes. When I do, if you have the capacity to let me know, please tell me and help me grow.
I sincerely hope that my words and actions in Guiding and the rest of my life project that I am a safe person who values inclusion. Having been on the other side recently – feeling unsafe – has made me all the more committed to keep trying.
Guest post by Kathryn Lyons, with the 12th Ottawa Guiding Group, Sandy Hill, Ottawa. Check out her previous posts: Big ‘mistakes’ make good memories; Small actions for inclusion; Managing Friend Drama; Sustainable crafting: Or, what can we do with all of that leftover fleece?; How do you organize all your Guiding stuff?
GGC’s ReACTion: Stand Up programming encourages girls to raise their voices, stand together and act for the changes they wish to see. Recent events in the news, both at home and in the United States, have left many feeling confused, excluded and even fearful. Stand Up encourages girls to recognize their strengths, share their values and to feel empowered to speak out about the issues that are important to them.