By Chloe Sladden Turner
The year is 1910 and a scout rally is being hosted by Robert Baden-Powell at Crystal Palace. It is an all-male event, until four girls dressed in Boy Scout uniform approach Robert at the front of the rally. They ask for “something for the girls” and Robert obliged. He asked his sister Angela and later his wife Olave to lead up the girl’s movement.
That single event started Girl Guiding, a 108-year-old charity and voluntary organisation for girls. Although it has sometimes been labelled as old, ultra girly and irrelevant in today’s society.
If so, how did it grown from just guides in 1910 to having six sections made up of the Rainbows (5-7), Brownies (7-10), Guides (10-14), Senior Section and Young Leaders (14-18), Adult, Assistant and Leaders in Training (18+), Student Guides and Trefoil Guides by 1987?
This doesn’t even mention the half a million members including volunteers and the president, Sophie Countess of Wessex and the patron, Queen Elizabeth II. The history of guiding reveals how many memories, achievements and more it has given hundreds of thousands of girls and women.
The official Girl Guiding UK website, Our Mission page, states their mission to girls as: “Whoever they are, wherever they’re from, girls and young women can do amazing things – we give them the chance”.
The mission statement continues: “Through fun, friendship, challenge and adventure we empower girls to find their voice, inspiring them to discover the best I themselves and to make a positive difference in their community”.
Also, the missions page goes on to say it is relevant because “Guiding is so much more than an after-school activity or a way for girls to spend an evening”.
It brings to mind what could be irrelevant about giving girls an all-female space and opportunities to have fun, gain skills and make friends outside of an educational or workplace environment.
Many members make friends in the younger guiding sections and still have them when they’re adults. Some members start as a five-year-old rainbow and stay on to become a leader in their early twenties. Guiding is something that can stay with you for life.
The relevance of guiding can be found, even when you become an older member and begin your young adult life. For example, there are hundreds of Student Scout and Guide societies in universities across the country. This includes one here at Hertfordshire, who currently meet 6-8pm on Thursdays at College Lane.
Amy Franklin, Member at the University of Hertfordshire Student Scout and Guide Society, said: “Guiding provides a sense of community wherever you are and can really help you settle into uni by offering a sense of familiarity in a place that’s otherwise unfamiliar. It also provides a break from the intensity and stress that comes with uni”.
That familiar community of Girl Guiding will be forever relevant to girls and women and not just in the UK but across the globe. Some of the reasons for this is because it provides opportunities, adventure, commitment, and memorable experiences for all women; regardless of background, education, ethnicity, sexuality – everyone, whoever they are, will always have a place at guiding. It shows how girl guiding is relevant in society and that will only increase over time.