At Home and Abroad, Girls Work to Change Our World

Elizabeth Magee

Worldwide or Local, Girls Work to Change Our World
By Julia Bache

Nadia, a delegate from Madagascar, with JuliaThis summer I traveled to Chicago as one of two delegates from Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana for the 2012 Girls' World Forum (GWF). This forum was the last of three centenary events for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) that focused on making the world a better place and celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Girl Guiding & Girl Scouting. 

In 2010, WAGGGS members gathered in the United Kingdom to learn about the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations. In 2011, young women came together again at each of the 4 World Centres (Pax Lodge in London, Our Chalet in Switzerland, Our Cabaña in Mexico, & Sangam in India) to grow their knowledge of world problems. Julia pledges to empower girls!

This summer, nearly 400 Girl Scouts and Girl Guides came from 100 U.S. Councils and 145 countries around the world to learn about current issues, share ideas, and create solutions within our own communities. I was honored to represent Kentuckiana at the GWF, along with Kinsey Morrison and want to share what I've learned!

At the GWF, we learned about three specific Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs:

  1. Eradicating Extreme Poverty/Hunger
  2. Women Empowerment/Gender Equality
  3. Environmental Sustainability

Through small-group sessions, plenary sessions, and outings in the city of Chicago, we discovered that poverty, hunger, and environmental problems are all current issues that affect women disproportionately.

While women complete most of the work in the world, they only receive a small portion of the profits in return. Women must care for their children, do the housework, yard work, farm work, and serve as the backbones of their families. From a world perspective, most men go off to work each day and come home to a freshly cooked meal. In a developing country, if there is a drought, it unfairly affects women because their crops won't grow and they won't have enough water for drinking or cooking. Women are also often caught in the cycle of little or no education and early marriage. Even in some areas here in the U.S., this is a problem for women.

Every problem comes with a solution. What is that solution? For most of the problems we discussed at the GWF, the solution is … a girl! It has been proven that investing time and money in a girl's education or giving women the resources (say a new goat) to start a business can make a huge difference. It is important to empower women and girls so they can have confidence to stand up for themselves and make their world a better place. Learning about Environmental Sustainability at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.

Along with all of the other girls who were selected to participate in the Forum, I felt very privileged to be a member of the Girl Scouts and Girl Guides movement. We appreciate being taught through the scouting program that we can be leaders and accomplish our goals. To us, being a leader doesn't seem so hard because we have had practice through earning awards, leading younger girls, and participating in service projects. Other girls and women around the world do not hear words of encouragement or empowerment every day, so I think it is our job to spread the message!

The Girls' World Forum was a great experience because we not only learned about problems and solutions, but we connected with Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from all over the world who are working toward the same solutions that we are.

The sisterhood at the Forum was overwhelming, even though we came from different backgrounds. My roommate was from Korea, and I practiced speaking French multiple times with some of the girls in my small group. We all came together through Girl Scouting, and we traveled baChicago deep dish pizza with the delegates from Japan!ck home knowing that we can work together from where we live to change the world.

Of course we will stay in touch through email and Facebook, but that sisterhood will stay in our hearts and spread to others as we become leaders in our own communities. Every leader and every service or take action project counts no matter where it takes place.

You, too, can make the world a better place! Any girl can research the Millennium Development Goals and complete a service project with her troop, group, or by herself that will help in solving these major issues. If interested in environmental sustainability, girls could volunteer at a local park or zoo, or spread the word about recycling. Older Girl Scouts could encourage younger girls at school or in a younger Girl Scout troop. All service projects, big or small, will certainly make a difference in the world. Isn't that one special theme that defines the Girl Scouting program?

Over and over again in Girl Scout history, we see girls striving to help their communities. The first handbook was even called, “How Girls Can Help Their Country.” As a new program in 1941, Senior Girl Scouts could become Senior Service Scouts and go through training to be able to take action in their communities in areas such as child care, food, shelter, and clothing. The Senior Service Scouts, or SSS, had a separate Girl Scout Promise in which they pledged to be useful to their communities and their country.

During World War II, Girl Scouts took an active position in the war effort. Girl Scouts sold war bonds and collected scrap metal. They even gathered extra fat (from their meat) and milkweed pods that were used to make life jackets. Nancy Northrop, a member of the GSK Archives, remembers folding thousands of newspapers to make small trash bags for hospitals. With so many adults working on the war effort, help was desperately needed on farms and in hospitals. Girl Scouts became Farm Aides to help with tending the animals and crops, and preserving food. In the hospital, Girl Scouts volunteered in the children's ward, helped prepare and serve food, and sewed hospital gowns. The Farm Aides and Hospital Aides programs no longer exist, but today Girl Scouts can become Program Aides and lead younger girls.

Girl Scouts have focused on service even when the United States has not been at war. In the 1970s, the Eco Action program encouraged girls to protect the environment and learn the importance of recycling. In the 1990s, WAGGGS countries put together and distributed refugee boxes that included items such as soap and towels. In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck, Girl Scouts sent aid. There were even patches for Girl Scouts who worked towards the hurricane relief effort.

Take action to make the world a better place!It is extremely important to continue to value helping others and complete service projects, especially since this is the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouting! It is encouraging to see through history that when girls set their minds to it, they have never failed to change the world. Whether helping to solve the Millennium Development Goals or putting together a Birthday Box in honor of the 100th Anniversary, Girl Scouts can be leaders and make the world a better place.

That's what Girl Scouting is all about. That's what we are celebrating this year and looking forward to in the next 100 years to come!


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