When you think about Girl Guides, your first thought likely goes to cookies. But Girl Guides go way beyond that. In fact, the organization has roots in gender equity and inclusivity that continue to serve as its foundation for helping girls develop a sense of self and belonging, and a connection with their local communities and the larger global community. Here are three things you probably didn’t know about Girl Guides of Canada (GGC).
The inception of Girl Guides happened for a simple reason—girls demanded it. In 1909, girls in London, England, insisted they take part in a Boy Scouts rally. As a result, a girls’ program was created. A year later, the guiding movement reached Canada, where the first group was formed in St. Catharines, Ontario. By 1912, every province had a group.
Since then, GGC has given girls and young women a place where they can feel like they belong, as well as a platform to speak out on issues that matter to them. And, the organization performs girl-driven research on issues such as sexism, feminism, and the gender wage and leadership gaps. The resulting insights showcase how Canadian girls feel about important topics and help GGC keep advocating for and supporting girls. GGC believes empowering girls at a young age can set them up for success.
GGC also helps to bridge gender gaps. For example, they offer badges with the purpose of creating more interest in STEM fields among girls. Girls can earn badges by learning about nature, conducting science and engineering experiments, and exploring big-picture ideas. "Design Space" badges promote tinkering with machines, building robots and coding programs while "Our Shared Planet" badges encourage experiments about the forces of nature, observing the environment and sharing data with scientists.
Open to all girls ages five to 17, GGC is made up of girls, women, trans+ and nonbinary individuals. Members come from all walks of life and have varied lived experiences. It’s also committed to removing barriers for people with accessibility exceptionalities as we believe in equity for all our members.
In particular, GGC is on a journey of reconciliation. Its 2021 to 2023 National Service Project: ReconciliACTIONs, in partnership with the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF), inspires girls to start or continue their journey of truth and reconciliation. In partnership with DWF, GGC provides programming and specific resources on residential schools and has also developed partnerships with Indigenous-led organizations to create awareness, share, learn and take reconciliACTIONs to help shape a positive future for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.
You might assume all Girl Guides do the same activities, but with its girls first approach, GGC encourages each guide to direct her own guiding experience. Each Girl Guides’ group chooses how to spend its time together. The girls first program provides plenty of ideas including games, crafts, outdoor adventures and experiments, but it’s up to the girls to choose what they want to do. Plus, they can add field trips and events to customize to their own interests.
Not only that, as GGC is a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), Canadian Guides who are 18 or over can volunteer at WAGGGS World Centres in Mexico, England, India, Switzerland and Africa. They get to learn abroad and contribute directly to the lives of girls and women around the world.
GGC continues to help girls develop critical life skills and build self-awareness and confidence so they can figure out who they are, what they want to be and how to get there—within a vibrant, diverse and supportive community. So yes, Girl Guides still sell cookies, but on top of that, they could also potentially determine the chemical make-up of those cookies, devise a business plan for selling them or design environmentally conscious cookie packages.
Learn more about how Girl Guides can help your girls become whoever they want to be (registration is now open) or sign up to be an adult volunteer.
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