In a bid to ensure young women’s voices are heard, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has launched a letter-writing campaign, encouraging its 10 million members to share their hope and ambitions for a better world with girls across the globe so that together they can form a stronger collective voice about issues that affect them, such as gender equality and discrimination.
Here are excerpts from letters written by guides across the globe, who reveal the issues affecting them.
‘Girls can bring about change, we make up half of society’
Lola is on the youth committee of the Girl Guides of Kuwait.
I am 20 years old and I’ve been with the girl guides for 15 years. I don’t feel proud or grateful for the way problems of girls of my generation are treated. However, we guides are self-made and have developed our own talents together. Every girl involved in the movement has a dream she wants to achieve on a personal or collective level, but there are still barriers of power and shame.
In terms of social issues, I’ve taken part in campaigns like the campaign against violence, which I think is part of the solution to our problems. However, real change relies on the whole community.
This letter is directed to all members of my community who are not girl guides: know that girls can bring about change, we make up half of our society and are an effective part of the community.
‘Girls grow up thinking their opinions aren’t as important as boys’
Tata, 16, is a guide in Georgia.
‘My country needs to talk about violence’
Dafne is a guide in Honduras.
Guiding has been the best thing that has happened to me since I joined. The topics that are the most important to approach here in my country are related to violence. I help the guide leader when we give a session on a specific subject that I know something about and the most beautiful thing is that she lets me contribute my ideas. I like that.
It is nice as a guide to belong to a large family, and we have developed community activities here to help prevent Dengue, Chicungunya and Zika. We have had an impact by doing house-to-house walks to increase awareness of these viruses.
‘Girls need to take their education seriously to tackle child marriage’
Massa, 22, is a guide in Liberia.
Girl guiding and scouting is so important in Liberia, where I live, because it helps we young people to be a friend to all, sharing and caring for one another. It also makes us come together and make good decisions for our community and country.
There are many issues that have affected Liberian society that guiding and scouting have helped in addressing. For example, early child marriage in Liberia. We have an education programme that makes girls realise the importance of and encourages them to take their education seriously.
We also create awareness about drug abuse, especially among young people. We as young leaders take on the responsibility of talking to our peers, educating them about the dangers of using harmful substances and we help prepare them for the future.
‘You are the most important being in a society because you give life’
Astrid is a guide in Gabon.
It is my pleasure to tell you about the importance of guiding. First of all, know that you are the most important being in a society because you give life. Moreover, a guide is someone who is independent, who uses both hands to succeed and achieve in life. She does not throw in the towel when faced with difficulty. One of our laws says: “The guide is not afraid of effort, she does nothing by halves.”
This movement lets me see my importance in society. In Gabon, young girls face dangerous things, such as poverty and misery, which push some young girls to a life of debauchery. Guiding activities allow some young girls to abandon this life and recognise their true value.
‘Common in all girls is the determination to be bigger than what the world believes them to be’
Laiba is a guide in Pakistan.
Pakistan itself is a collection of different communities and societies and mindsets. It does not have the same to offer every girl.
Some grow up being constantly told that they are inferior to their male counterparts, some are told that the purpose of their life is much smaller than they would like to believe, while others grow up with a series of opportunities coming their way, believing they can achieve anything and everything.
But one thing that is common in all young women is a strong determination to be bigger than what the world believes them to be.
Pakistani girls do not just reach for the stars, they determinedly work towards achieving their aims, breaking barriers with each step.
To make the world a better place, it is essential that we involve as many people as possible in initiatives that aim towards doing good.
‘I worry about finding a job’
Konstantina is a 15 year old guide in Greece.
Being a girl who is growing up in Greece is quite pleasant but it’s also difficult. First of all, I am proud that my country has many scientists, but at this time in Greece, due to the economic crisis I am worried about my future as I do not know if I will find a good job when I grow up.
Through guides/scouting every girl learns to survive in society. How to care about others and how to love other people. In a few words they learn how to be strong.
‘Do you know what language all people understand? A smile and a hug’
The following is from another Greek guide, aged 12.
I enjoy playing, making crafts and singing with the guides. I love going to camp in the summer. We help the community, we care about the environment, I like it when we fight to solve a problem.
‘We should not let the world change us, it is us who will change the world’
Jan is a 17 year old guide from Western Mindinao in the Philippines.
There are too many people in the world who don’t consider themselves beautiful. Some have low self-esteem. Others believe if they go out in the world and be who they are, they will be criticised. They think hiding under a shell can heal their pain. They believe they can’t fit in and enjoy life as they should.
I have found hope through the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. It has shaped my life and with their support, I feel ready to change the world.
Girls must never be made to feel that they are not good enough. Through one guiding programme, Free Being Me, I’ve learned one should not praise an image. Society cannot dictate how you should present yourself in the world. I learned that all of us are like stars shining. Sometimes, we are just blinded and we tend to forget that we are a wonderful creation. I learned that we should not let the world change us. It is us who will change the world.
I want to encourage other the girls and young women to trust in themselves, too. It might seem like a big challenge, but I truly believe it is possible.
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