Amy Macleod: Guiding girls towards new challenges can lead to big things

The 303rd City of Glasgow Guides enjoy some games.
The 303rd City of Glasgow Guides enjoy some games.
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Something special is happening in Glasgow. In a ­community hall in ­Castlemilk a group of girls are learning about the senses – some are ­tackling an obstacle course while blindfolded, some are experimenting with tastes and flavours while ­others are teaching themselves sign language.

This scene is being repeated in Guide and senior section groups for girls aged 10 and up across the city, and across Scotland. Girls are choosing, planning and leading their own challenges and adventures, pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone, making plans and generally owning it.

Amy Macleod, Girlguiding Scotland development worker

Amy Macleod, Girlguiding Scotland development worker

What makes the scene in Glasgow slightly different is that until a few weeks ago this Guide unit didn’t exist – now it’s a thriving group with more than 20 girls.

The 303rd City of Glasgow Guides is one of a number of units that have already opened or will open this year thanks to Generation CashBack – part of the CashBack for Communities programme that distributes money seized under proceeds of crime ­legislation to youth organisations and projects that are widening opportunity for young people in Scotland.

As a development worker with Girlguiding Scotland, I’m tasked with identifying areas of the city where there is a lack of opportunities for girls aged 10 and up and where guiding can make the biggest impact. Then I work with our existing and new volunteers to start up new units in the community. Starting a Girlguiding group from scratch, sometimes in places where it has ­never been active or hasn’t been active for several decades, comes with ­challenges and there’s lots of work to get to that point where we can open our doors to girls for the first time.

It might sound like a cliché but I don’t have a typical day as a development worker – just this morning I was visiting a local school to let them know about a new unit opening soon and found myself being serenaded by 100 singing kids.

Other days, you’ll find me plastering posters in every local shop, sports clubs and GP waiting room I can, or organising suitable venues and ­setting up volunteer training to make sure our new units are ready and raring to go.

Sometimes we have to look at doing things in a new way – for example our new Govanhill group meets at the MILK café, a social enterprise supporting female asylum seekers.

Sometimes we hit unexpected ­challenges – like how we can make sure unaccompanied refugee minors can join in camps and trips. But the rewards of persevering and taking a fresh approach are huge, for the girls and the wider community.

Being girl-led is at the heart of ­everything Girlguiding does – girls choose the badges they want to do, trips they want to take, camps they want to go on. They don’t just decide what they want, they’re responsible for planning and making it happen too.

Girlguiding brings together girls from all different backgrounds, with all different interests and skills – some are sporty and love anything that involves getting out, getting active; some love the chance to learn about the world around them and how they can speak out on the issues that matter to them.

Whatever makes girls tick, Girlguiding Scotland creates a space where girls discover their strengths and passions and work together to make amazing things happen.

The skills girls learn can bring huge benefits to their communities too. Girlguiding is helping to create a whole new generation of girls and young women who can both take the lead and work as a team. Hopefully many of the girls at Guides today will go on to volunteer themselves, creating a ripple effect for years to come.

Of course, there are still out-of-date perceptions or just a lack of knowledge about what Girlguiding does, which means that a big part of my role is encouraging girls, volunteers and whole communities to take a fresh look – or a first look – at ­everything Girlguiding Scotland has to offer.

Last month Girlguiding Scotland launched its Citizen Girl campaign in partnership with the Women 50:50 equal representation campaign, to help girls discover why their voices matters and how they can become the leaders of the tomorrow.

This month we’ve teamed up with Scottish Rugby to train our leaders to champion sport while last June around 8,000 of our members packed out the SSE Hydro for a start-studded gig with some of the ­biggest names in music. This summer Girlguiding will be launching its new programme packed with bang-up-to-date badges and challenges for girls aged 5 and up.

It’s clear we’ve got an exciting future ahead – and that giving girls a space to be themselves and the skills to lead is as vital now as it was when we started more than 100 years ago. With help from CashBack we’re making sure that no girl misses out.

Amy Macleod, Girlguiding Scotland development worker.