This post is by regular contributor Tricia Hogbin of Little Eco Footprints.
I was a Girl Guide when I was young. I still remember the sense of awe and independence I felt at my first Girl Guide Camp and I can still taste my first campfire damper. I’d love my daughter to join Girl Guides when she’s old enough. I value the skills I imagine Guides will teach her and love that it’s a ‘girls-only’ space. In a time when girls grow up all too fast, I hope that Guides can provide her the space to be a girl for that little bit longer.
Keen to learn more about Girl Guides today, I recently interviewed Helen Geard, Chief Commissioner of Girl Guides Australia.
Tricia: Can you please briefly tell me what Girl Guides is?
Helen: We are a girls’ only organisation committed to fun, friendship and adventure. We empower girls and young women to be their best and the values girls gain through Guiding set them up for life. With more than 22,000 youth members, we’ve been an integral part of Australian society for the past 100 years.
We encourage girls to try new things in a non competitive environment – experiencing adventure as they step outside of their comfort zone. From camping and abseiling to community projects, Guides learn about the world in a fun way. We encourage teamwork, help girls to grow in confidence and inspire girls as young as five to speak up and be heard. With the support of our amazing team of volunteers, girls and young women who are Guides grow to become the leaders of tomorrow.
Tricia: I was a member of girl guides more than 25 years ago. Has Girl Guides changed much in this time? If so, in what way?
Helen: We’re dynamic, relevant and constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of today’s girls and young women. Our program is girl-led which means that the activities we offer for girls today are in keeping with their interest. So a lot has changed since you were involved in Guiding 25 years ago. Guides today do things such as attend international United Nations conferences, speaking out on climate change and gender equality. Guides as young as five are also learning about the Millennium Development Goals and taking action on a local level to help achieve these international goals. But there are also some integral things that have not changed. The environment continues to be an integral part of our program and we continue to provide girls with a space to make new friends, experience new adventures and take on new challenges. We also continue to be part worldwide movement, enabling Australian girls to participate in many international opportunities. Whatever our girls take on, it’s about being the best they can be.
Tricia: I remember earning my collecting badge and a sewing badge. Does the badge system still exist, and what are some of the most popular badges today?
Helen: Yes, the badge system still exists. The most popular badges are the Promise Badge and the World Badge. The Promise Badge is awarded to every Guide when she makes her official Guide promise. The World Badge is awarded to Guides who set themselves a challenge to learn about our wonderful world – anything from other cultures to the United Nations or the solar system. Regardless of what badges our girls earn though, the system is all about enabling girls to work towards a set challenge, which helps to build confidence and self esteem.
Tricia: At what age can girl join Girl Guides, and what can they expect to do at Guide as while a member? Do activities change with age?
Helen: Girls as young as five can join a local Guide group. The activities girls do change with age and are in keeping with the interests of girls of various ages. In terms of what girls do, the activities are quite variable because Guiding is girl led. That means the girls themselves get to determine the activities they will undertake depending on their interests. So girls in the city might do very different things to girls in country areas depending on the local facilities and interests of the girls. Regardless of what our girls do, there are four key elements to the program and everything a Guide does is related to these elements. The four elements are physical, which is all about being fit and healthy, people which is about developing friendship, practical which is related to learning life skills and self which is about challenging yourself as an individual.
Tricia: I understand girls can join Scouts these days. What advantages do you think Girl Guides has for girls in comparison to scouts?
Helen: We provide a girl’s only space which has unique benefits. At a critical time in a girl’s social and personal development, being a part of a girl’s only space gives Guides a chance to be around like minded girls. It’s a place where girls make new friends, grow in self confidence, learn new skills and experience adventure. A safe and supportive girl’s only space gives girls the chance to tackle some of the tough stuff such as body image and self esteem.
Tricia: Anything else you would like to add?
Helen: Guiding’s global reach gives girls access to cutting edge contemporary projects ranging from economic literacy to nutrition and HIV/AIDS health education. With more than 10 million members in 145 countries, we’re part of the world’s largest girl’s only volunteer organisation. Being part of a global movement provides girls with a multitude of opportunities to connect with and learn from their sisters worldwide. Australian Guides regularly volunteer overseas and have the opportunity to participate in international conferences hosted by organisations such as the United Nations. We say “be your best with Girl Guides”. Girls worldwide say “together we can change the world.”
Thank you Helen.
Were you a Girl Guide? Have you thought about Girl Guides for your daughter?