Together we’ve the power to change the world

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On 8 March, girls and women all over the world shared how they would Be Bold For Change to celebrate International Women’s Day 2017. This year’s theme focusses on global action to increase gender equality in the work place – an issue that seems all the more pressing following the World Economic Forum prediction that women won’t close the gender pay gap until 2186.

As members of the leading charity for girls and young women in Scotland we’re not willing to wait that long for real and meaningful change.

One of the ways we plan to Be Bold for Change is by representing the views of girls and young women from around the world at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Conference (UNCSW) in New York from 13-24 March.

This is an amazing opportunity to make our voices heard and it’s such an honour to have been chosen as delegates for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts 
(WAGGGS), which has 10 million members across the world.

While we all come from different countries and cultures, many of the issues that face girls and young women around the world are the same and we know how powerful our voices can be when we speak as one.

Like International Women’s Day, the theme of this year’s Conference explores how we can empower women and achieve gender equality in the world at work. While many of our young members are still a few years away from starting out on their career we believe it’s never too early to begin empowering girls.

Girlguiding Girls Attitude Survey shows that gender inequality starts to impact girls’ views of themselves and their hopes for the future from a young age.

More than half of girls surveyed aged 11-21 said gender stereotypes made them worry they’ll be held back in life because they are a girl.

Girls’ confidence about their future appears to drop as they get older too – while 86 per cent of girls aged 7-10 believe they have the same chance of being successful in their jobs as boys, just 35 per cent of girls aged 17-21 agree. It’s clear that too many girls and young women still fear their goals are out of reach simply because they are female.

As WAGGGS delegates to the 
UNCSW we’ll be using our voice to make sure decision-makers and world leaders with the power to make change don’t ignore the voices of girls and young women. Whether we’re fighting for girls around the world to have access to education, tackling the gender stereotypes that limit girls’ career and study choices, or ending sexual harassment and bullying so all girls can feel safe, happy and confident at school, we want to make sure every girl has the chance to achieve her full potential, now and in the future.

As members of Girlguiding Scotland we’ve both had amazing opportunities to discover our potential, grow in confidence and use our voices – from representing the view of girls across the UK as a Girlguiding Advocate to working with guiding members in Armenia and The Gambia to help girls take the lead, and helping other girls to have fun and discover their potential as leaders with our local Guide and Senior Section units.

Ultimately the most important message guiding has taught us is that when we join together and fight for our rights we can achieve real change. And that’s a message we’re proud to be taking to the United Nations.

Emma Guthrie and Isla Whateley, Girlguiding Scotland members

For more on guiding, visit www.girlguidingscotland.org.uk