Girl Guides from across UK are using their association to give young women a voice on issues such as Sun’s topless tradition, writes Amy Callaghan
IN recent years, Girlguiding has become increasingly active in responding to campaigns and issues its members care: about such as supporting the No More Page 3 campaign, and changing the Girlguide Promise to open it up to other belief systems (or lack thereof). These issues may be seen by some as controversial but, by others, are seen as exactly what a charity “for girls, by girls” should be doing.
As an active member of Girlguiding, I know the amazing things the charity does. For a charity aimed at girls and young women, its focus is naturally on what they want to do and what they want to see being done. And if that means speaking out on issues such as No More Page 3, then so be it. If that means changing the Promise to reflect what the members want, then that seems sensible to me. And if what members want is to see real change happen – and Girlguiding can enable them to speak out about this – then why on earth shouldn’t they do so?
Recently, Girlguiding launched an exciting campaign focusing on changing the lives of girls and young women. The campaign is called Girls Matter, and it lays out eight calls for change directed at politicians that we want to see happen in the next parliamentary term. The calls come directly from girls and young women themselves, members from all across the organisation, and I was privileged enough to be extensively involved in the process of creating the campaign.
For the past two years, I’ve been a part of Girlguiding’s Advocate Panel, which is a group of young women aged 14 to 25 from all over the country who discuss the issues girls are passionate about and seek change. Being a part of this group has given me so many amazing opportunities. I’ve spoken out on the radio about the No More Page 3 campaign. I’ve made a speech to around 300 school pupils at a conference organised by Jo Brand. I’ve attended conferences, written articles and blogs, and just generally been able to develop my passions and interests. I’ve also met so many amazing people who are a part of the panel and who are passionate about the same things that I am – it’s just been the most fantastic experience. But the Girls Matter campaign is definitely the thing I’m most proud to have been a part of.
We first discussed the campaign at an Advocate meeting in 2013. Over the next year, we developed the ideas and thought about what the most important issues were to us – and to other girls too. We ran sessions with Girlguiding Units up and down the country, with Brownies, Guides and Senior Section members to find out what is important to them. And from this we devised the eight calls for change which now appear in the final manifesto. The campaign truly has been created by girls, and features all the things the girls said were most important to them. This is what makes it so important, and so powerful.
The fact that the calls come directly from the girls themselves means that they can’t be ignored.
Politicians have to act, because this is what girls want. In order to make them listen, Girlguiding Advocates have been present at all three party conferences of the big three political parties this autumn, bringing the campaign to the attention of Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats. I myself attended the Liberal Democrat Party conference and having the opportunity to meet face-to-face with politicians to tell them why this campaign is so important was so empowering. At the conference, we spoke to party leader Nick Clegg, as well as Julian Huppert, Jo Swinson, many other politicians and party members. Our own “Fringe” event at the conference was well attended and, for me personally, making a speech about the importance of Girls Matter helped convey how much the campaign means, both to myself and to girls and young women everywhere.
The Girls Matter campaign is so important. For the first time, girls and young women are making a direct call to the government on what affects them and what they want to see happen within the next parliamentary term. We’re saying that this needs to happen. And we can’t be ignored.
• Amy Callaghan, 16, is a Girlguiding Scotland Senior Section member from Glasgow.