Even though we live in a world where girls are constantly treated as less valuable or powerful than their male counterparts, I’ve never believed that my gender makes me worth less. That’s because when I was 11-years-old I became a Guide – and I learned that girls can do anything. During 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, I’m shouting out loud and clear that in Girl Guides, girls are a powerhouse of support. We’ve totally got each other’s backs when it comes to letting the world know that girls are more than rather than less than whatever you perceive us to be.
Whether it’s on purpose or just an underlying bad habit, boys are often treated as stronger and more useful than girls. It’s not uncommon, especially in elementary school, to hear a teacher ask for “a big strong boy” to help carry something. And in my experience, boys often get the chance more often than girls to speak in formal and casual discussions. In a girls-only environment like Guiding, it’s simply not possible to brush us to the side.
Early on in my Guiding experience, it became clear to me that my gender should never limit what I can or can’t do. However, on a daily basis, the media and our personal experiences remind us that society doesn’t always treat girls the way we should be treated. It’s important for girls to believe they can do anything, but equally critical is learning to step up and speak up when we aren’t treated fairly.
As a member of GGC’s National Youth Council, it’s been evident to me that Guiding helps amplify girls’ voices. All the adult volunteers in our organization genuinely care, value, and respect what youth have to say. I’ve had the chance to share my insights and personal experiences with our Board of Directors and other volunteers on a huge range of initiatives they’re working on. Their desire to hear feedback from a youth perspective is always genuine and never a token gesture.
I’ve also been lucky enough through Guiding to connect with girls in my communities about what matters to them in Guiding, and what changes they want to see. For example, in April I attended the Ignite. Inspire. Innovate. Conference with 150 Rangers from across Canada.
I was amazed by Guiding’s ability at this event to create a safe space for us to discuss everything and anything we found important. From sexual assault and harassment, bullying, queer issues, and micro-aggressions faced by girls and women on a daily basis, it was clear no topic was off limits. Safe space isn’t just a word you can throw around, it’s a series of steps you take. In the case of Ignite, this meant making participants aware of the topics that were going to be covered before the presentations began, letting us step out of the room if it became too much – and having dedicated areas to chill out and take a break.
Whether it’s meeting with my own Ranger unit or connecting with Girl Guides across the country, Guiding has taught me to value my strengths and use my voice. In a world where girls are often treated less than fairly, Girl Guides offers a space for us to stand up and speak out about the issues that matter to us, in an environment where we are always supporting one another.
Guest post by Nerissa Kassis. Nerissa is a third-year Ranger in Vancouver and a member of the GGC National Youth Council. She is a self-proclaimed science nerd and always loves a good cup of tea.