Remembrance of wars past. Fear of conflict today. These simple but powerful concepts are on the minds of girls across Canada as we mark Remembrance Day 2018. Somehow, we often forget that war and violent conflict – whether 100 years ago or today – affects and involves young people. Yet teens aren’t often asked about their opinions on these topics.
At Girl Guides of Canada, we believe it’s important to understand the issues facing girls and to amplify their voices. This fall, we commissioned a nationwide survey that involved talking to more than 500 girls in Canada aged 14-17 about their feelings on Remembrance Day, war, and peace. What girls told us is that to them, Remembrance Day is about reflecting on the past while thinking about the very real impact of the global conflicts happening today.
Shining a light on the fear of war and the hope for peace
In this research, girls shared that they see Remembrance Day as an important time to honour the sacrifices of those who’ve served their country, whether as soldiers or on the home front. They also believe Remembrance Day is about honouring peace builders and thinking of those currently affected by war around the world. After all, girls today often have a personal connection to the impact of war beyond the lessons of their history classroom. Many girls in Canada have welcomed those fleeing global conflicts to their communities, classrooms, and Girl Guide units – or may even themselves have experienced conflict firsthand. Some have neighbours or family members who’ve been deployed overseas.
How girls are fostering peace in their daily lives
Teen girls are also telling us that a majority (63%) are concerned that they might experience war in their lifetime. Concern is significantly higher among girls who’ve met someone with firsthand experience of war, such as those who have met a refugee or a veteran. How we can we support girls who have these concerns? We start by providing a safe space for girls to discuss what matters to them and how, together, we can build a better world by girls. Through actions big and small every day, girls themselves are fostering peace through their own leadership, community service and building connections with their peers.
During the First and Second World Wars, Canadian Girl Guides supported the nation’s war effort and helped children affected by war. They made surgical dressings, knitted socks for soldiers, and sewed clothing for children who were victims of bombings. Today, Girl Guides continue to connect with members of Canada’s military as well as welcome newcomers and refugees in their communities.
On November 11, many Girl Guides will proudly participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies. They will honour those who have served and acknowledge their responsibility to work for the peace they fought to accomplish.