For many in the Scout Movement, looking down on Girl Guides is the unwritten 9th part of the Scout Method. Proud that Scouting has no time for daisy-chains, badge-sashes (certainly not in Ireland anyway), cookies sales and brownie points, we like to simply write-off the Guides as a club for “future housewives”.
I say “we”, I of course mean “I”.
GUIDING HAS LUDDITES TOO
Criticism of Guiding hasn’t been entirely unwarranted. I’ve met Guiders and Brown-owls who haven’t been in the business of empowering young women so much as the business of enforcing feminine stereotypes.
ENTERING THE 21st CENTURY
But all is not as it seems. Just as Scouting Ireland is slowly (glacially slowly for some – Ed) moving away from the short shorts, garters and ‘Dyb Dyb Dyb’ that the man on the street still associates with us, Guiding (in the Irish Girl Guides, and Catholic Guides of Ireland) is itself becoming more and more modern. Some of the most forward thinking adult leaders I’ve met in recent years were Guiders. Guiding has progressed to such an extent, that some posters on the Chat Forum (the members-only Scouting Ireland chat forum) have claimed that The Guides have better programme than Scouting Ireland these days…
A good example of the progressive nature of the programme on offer to Girl Guides, is the association with the Free Being Me initiative. This is a positive step towards combating body-image issues in girls of all ages. It empowers impressionable young people to take a stand for themselves and their peers and is the result of a collaboration between WAGGGS* and the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. The scheme encourages girls (and, in Scout associations which are jointly part of WAGGGS and WOSM, boys in mixed Scout Groups), aged 7 and up, to let their friends know about all of the things they like about each other, independent of their appearance. It keeps them sceptical of airbrushed celebrities, gaining the confidence to be happy with their own body.
Despite its origins in what some might see as an un-holy alliance with an “evil multi-national Conglomeration”, Free Being Me is a revelation of what modern Youth Programme can do for modern young people in a modern world. The Programme has also been attracting media attention, the kind of positive media attention Scouting Ireland is crying out for.
GRASPING SOME UNPLEASANT NETTLES
The Stop The Violence campaign is another valuable avenue of youth empowerment. It speaks out for girls’ rights and seeks to tackle very real and shockingly common issues such as rape and domestic violence. These are big, challenging issues, ones that a timid Guiding movement in the past might have shied away from. We in Scouting Ireland, and WOSM, can and should do more to highlight these and other issues (such as age-appropriate consent education and the scourge of suicide in Ireland, in particular youth suicide) in which we can do more to encourage our membership to “improve society” “as responsible citizens.”
The sooner Scouting Ireland and the Guiding entities on the island commence some tentative, open-ended but purposeful merger talks, the better.
*World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts