This article features on The Huffington Post.
In a true display of girl power, Girlguiding UK now officially backs the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign, a testament to an adaptable, forward-thinking youth organisation. Despite my own short fling with Guiding, I think this demonstrates the enduring potential for the group to give a solid grounding for young women in the UK.
A quick skim of their website proves that they’re not stuck in 1910. They offer peer education schemescovering issues like alcohol and sexual health, and have developed ‘Give Yourself a Chance’, an interactive tool confronting the pressure girls feel to look good. They also conduct the Girls’ Attitude Survey, and this coupled with signing up to No More Page 3 only emphasises the wish to stay in touch with girls growing up in the 21st century. As ‘Give Yourself a Chance’ says, ‘If an issue worries girls, it worries us’.
In engaging with issues like No More Page 3, they’re not becoming ‘politicised’. In this context, endorsement should not equal indiscriminate endorsement: it should, however, encourage discussion and debate amongst Guides UK-wide, leading them to form their own opinions on the issue, something which surely falls under their rubric:
We give the girls the confidence, skills and information to make informed decisions. We show girls how they can speak out and take positive action to improve their lives and the lives of others.
Girlguiding UK is simply remaining aware of the issues of the day, rightly trying to cater to girls in a Britain worlds apart from when the Guiding movement first began. The group can provide an ideal space for young women to discuss with their peers and adults the issues they face in everyday life, alongside maintaining the more ‘traditional’ obtaining of badges, community work and outdoor activities (which remain important).
They provide the chance for personal and social education in a real-life, extra-curricular environment, in a more comfortable space than a classroom, learning alongside peers and guided by adults not viewed with the same contemptuous label of authority teachers often are.
When you’re dealing with young people there can be a fine line between discussion and indoctrination, but endorsing ‘No More Page 3’ is in no way a slippery slope. ‘Experiencing the great outdoors’ will not become ‘harrassing old ladies in the town centre to sign a petition’ (at least, not on the organisation’s watch). The aim of the Guide movement – at least, by my understanding – is to provide girls with the skills and experience to become active, engaged members of society, and as long as it continues to do this, then it’s doing its job.