March 8th is International Women's Day: Girl Guides shapes the next generation of female leaders

Empowering females of the future: The feminist past and female future of Girl Guides 

Empowering females of the future: The feminist past and female future of Girl Guides
The name Brownies was officially changed to Embers in 2023.

GUIDER (noun) /gahyder/ Catalyst of girl empowerment. That's what's written on the new shirt I ordered from the Girl Guides of Canada store and I wear it proudly as I write this. Girl Guides is exactly that for me: How I empower the next generation of female leaders. Is there a more fitting topic for International Women's Day? I began my journey as a Brownie and Girl Guide before becoming Guider (unit leader) to an amazing group of Brownies (known as Embers as of 2023). Being a Guider is a big responsibility. The Guiding movement's past is rooted in feminism. Some people don't like the word feminism, but the definition is the belief that women should have equal rights. I can't imagine anyone being fundamentally against that. Girl Guides is the feminist movement all girls should be involved with. On this special day of celebrating women's equality, I want to share with you why your girls should join Girl Guides.

Girl Guides was founded because girls flexed their feminist muscles over 100 years ago

Girl Guides has a female-led history. Flashback to England in 1909 when Boy Scouts was gaining popularity. A group of girls demanded to participate in a Boy Scouts rally at the Crystal Palace in London. The event was organized by Lord Baden-Powell, who was impressed and moved by the girl's desire to be Scouts. He asked his sister, Agnes, to create a similar program just for girls, and Guiding was born. Had those young ladies not demanded equality, the idea of Girl Guides would not have been sparked. The Girl Guides movement made its way to Canada in 1910. In fact, the first unit was formed here in Ontario, in St. Catherine's. Two years later there were Guiding units in every province. This is a movement that was created by young female activists who had a thirst for knowledge, an interest in nature, and a belief that they had a right to equality. 

Empowering females of the future: The feminist past and female future of Girl Guides

The Guiding Law teaches girls to root for other girls

Guiding units have promises, missions, and laws that help them self-govern their community. The focus is on creating a better world, by girls. That's right, the units are female-led. The new program, Girls First, even empowers the unit to design its own curriculum. They learn about the topics they care deeply about and decide what badges they will earn. It puts the power and responsibility back in their hands. But they must abide by the following Guiding Law:

  • Be honest and trustworthy
  • Use my resources wisely
  • Respect myself and others
  • Recognize and use my talents and abilities
  • Protect our common environment
  • Live with courage and strength
  • Share in the sisterhood of Guiding
Women are often forced to compete with one another. Modern-day feminism is slowly teaching us to cheer for our fellow ladies. Girl Guides gives kids an early start.

Awards and recognition for young girls normalizes female success 

Earning badges as they rise through the ranks; Sparks, Brownies, Guides, Pathfinders, and Rangers, gives them a sense of accomplishment. These girls will grow up not questioning whether women should be ambitious. They will not assume women will have difficulty achieving success. As they enter adulthood, they will work tirelessly toward their accomplishments, because they don't know any different. Having a female-led organization normalizes women in leadership roles. Children are shaped by the examples that adults set for them. Let's show them that women can be ambitious leaders who can accomplish anything.

Empowering females of the future: The feminist past and female future of Girl Guides

Girls are given a platform to use their voice

If we are to ensure women's equity we need to continue to make our voices heard. Giving girls the ability to speak out about the issues that matter to them is at the heart of Girl Guides. They have a youth group called Wave Makers. These young girls are the spokespeople for Girl Guides. Girl Guides also supports and shares Girl-Driven Research that shines a light on the issues young women face including sexism, equality in the workforce, and gender equality. I did a program with my unit called the Future Voter Challenge that taught them about voting and politics. Most importantly, they learned that their vote matters. 

Girl Guides help create the next generation of climate activists

While most think that Guiding in nature is all about teaching survival skills, Girl Guides focuses largely on caring for the environment. The tent camping and large summer and winter camp events are a lot of fun, but earning outdoor knowledge badges is just as enjoyable. Part of the program is called Into The Outdoors. These badges teach about pollution, endangered species, recycling, and clean water, to name a few. Children care deeply about the planet and Girl Guides helps plant the seed of climate activism in these future change-makers, watering it over time and watching it grow and blossom. Once it blooms, the girls can work on badges from the Take Action section of their program. It's exactly what it sounds like; a tool that empowers them to seek social and environmental justice. 

March 8th is International Women's Day: Girl Guides shapes the next generation of female leaders

The girls finance their units and learn to be young entrepreneurs

How are the Girl Guide units primarily funded? Cookie sales! And who sells the cookies? The girls! Girl Guides teaches your girls the value of a dollar and the importance of managing their finances. They learn how to sell, how to count back change, and how to budget for their camps, crafts, and activities. These are valuable life skills we take for granted. There are even badges designed to nurture life-planning skills. The girls are taught about all different types of jobs, including trades. They do science experiments. Their Guiders teach them about money skills, employment, advertising, and even how to coupon! 

Girl Guides teaches social skills and forms bonds

Fairy tales teach you that you need a man, but Girl Guides teaches you that all you need is a friend. The most valuable thing the girls gain from joining is the friendships they make. They form lasting bonds and learn about tolerance, racial equity, and inclusivity. They learn the right and wrong way to behave in a friendship. They belong to a community. Learning to work with a diverse group of other girls is a social skill that will benefit them their entire lives. They have a safe space where they can explore their identities and talk openly about mental health. Girl Guides doesn't shy away from the tough stuff; Guiders are even given resources so they know how to have empathetic and educated conversations about topics like a girl's first period, bullying, or questioning sexuality. 

March 8th is International Women's Day: Girl Guides shapes the next generation of female leaders

That's a small slice of the pie when it comes to Girl Guides. There are too many benefits to list and activities to explore in one blog post. Girl Guide units are safe spaces created by girls, for girls. I take so much pride in my role as a Guider and in teaching my Brownies that we are all different, together. Women have many unique skills and talents they bring to the table, and those things should be celebrated among us. Feminism is about equality, but it starts with us. Girl Guides was founded on the idea that girls can do anything and should be treated equally. Over 100 years later, I'm proud to say, the Girl Guides of Canada is doing more than ever to support equity and empower girls to grow into ambitious, passionate future leaders; who promise to be kind.  

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