As a former Brownie and Guide, and daughter of a Brownie leader my view on Girlguiding has never been distorted. That is why I find it hard to see what other people see. In the last couple of years I have had conversations with people that show me that there are some major misunderstandings when it comes to the charity. The only way to change these is by showing people what we really do. So where do these misunderstands come from?
A friend of mine recently started volunteering with a Guide unit, neither of us realising our common interest for a full term. We had a catch up and I worried I would explode in Girlguiding information. However I found that even after being welcomed as a volunteer she still had a lot of questions. What is Senior Section? What is the difference between Scouts and Guides?
Those reading the media
I’ve gone into detail on how the media have on occasions got Girlguiding and Scouting wrong. My Dad used the article of the boy ‘banned from Scouts’ as another problem with Christianity. I explained my viewpoint as a Brownie leader and the fact that Girlguiding is not a Christian Organisation and his argument quickly moved onto other areas. But this proved my point that even a seasoned football fan who knows full well not to trust ‘what the papers say’ took misguided information from the media.
Little previous knowledge
One person I met with a very uninformed view on Brownies was a party leader at our local bowling alley. She asked me what Brownies was and I explained the sort of activities we do. She was surprised and had believed it was something that children and their parents did together. It is likely she had a friend who was a Brownie and her Mum was a leader and being her only experience gave her this impression.
Influence from other cultures
Some American TV Sitcoms show Girl Scouts and these run differently from UK units. The Girl Scout units I’ve had correspondence with run as smaller groups. With as few as 5 girls their leader is often one of the girls parents and they meet in one of their houses. All the girls move up through Sparks, Brownies, Juniors, together and stay with the same group of girls. Perhaps this view is also where the bowling alley girl got her idea from.
But I hold nothing against this girl or anyone who doesn’t understand what we do, why should they research who we are? What does annoy me though is misinformed information being stated as fact and with comments on newspaper articles peoples opinions are much easier to come by.
The following are common comments made against Girlguiding;
Not allowing boys into Guides is discriminatory.
The aim of guiding is to help girls and young women develop emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually, so that they can make a positive contribution to their community and the wider world, as stated in the Royal Charter. One of the ways we do this is by giving the children a girl only space to allow them to grow without the pressures of having boys around. I completely agree that boys should have the option of a boy only space too and am gutted this is no longer an option in Scouts.
Girlguiding is still a charity and people give their time and money to help the development of girls and young women. Anyone has the option to give their time and money to any charity and if you do not agree with the cause then please choose another to support. Girlguiding is not the only charity that focuses its resources on women.
Girls are now in scouts because its more exciting, you actually go out and do things.
I’ll admit, I’m sure there are units that don’t spend as much time as they could be outdoors, trying adventurous activities, games amongst the trees and learning fun skills, but don’t go pretending no units put the effort in. I actually get offended by this. If a unit is run correctly the girls have their input and choose what they want to do.
When parents have this problem with their own child’s unit you want to know what to do? Organise something! The leaders may be exhausted and in need of some help! A few years ago we had a parent complain of the lack of trips her daughter had through our unit, this was put to our District commissioner who pointed out we were volunteers and if she had anything she would like to contribute she was more than welcome. What the parents were not aware of was that my Grandmother was very ill and my Mum and I could not attend meetings let alone organise trips. This fell to our other leader who also had to look after her Mother so it was a difficult time for all of us. Had this Brownie Mum come to us and had a chat we would’ve asked if she could lead something, but this never came about. We got through it and within weeks had a scavenger hunt in the park and a day trip in London.
If you think your daughter’s Brownie unit isn’t a suitable fit then try another if there is space, speak to the District commissioner and give your input. The leaders are volunteers at the end of it all and each gives as much time as they can to make it an adventure for girls.
The Guides is very much outdated.
Learning first aid is outdated. Being active in your community in outdated. Learning about other cultures that are becoming more custom in our country is outdated.
I think this sort of comment comes from someone who was involved in the charity in the nineties. At this time badges still included Chess, Birdwatcher and Thrift. I loved these badges, I learned to play Chess, I got outdoors and looked for wildlife and I still use my thrifty skill today turning old t-shirts into cushion covers. Others at the time would have preferred the options available today, the hobbies badge covers any kind of hobby imaginable.
Some may not realise the changes that Girlguiding has been through. There is more focus on science badges, we are encouraged to go outdoors and be more active and most importantly we give girls the choice. How can it be outdated if the girls are choosing their activities?
I was kicked out of Brownies anyway.
The amount of people ‘kicked out of Brownies’ astounds me. I heard this in person from a colleague and was in shock. Why would you be so open to the fact you were a bully of a child? In no other circumstance do adults boast about being hurtful to other people. No child would ever be ‘kicked out of Brownies’ unless they were a physical or mental threat to the other children and there was no means to change her behaviour. In which case these would probably be the same kids expelled from school. I never hear the same people boast about that.
Sometimes I think these people are trying to prove a point. They were too cool for Brownies. They didn’t want to work hard on badges or didn’t have their uniform smart enough, and believe that you can be ‘kicked out of Brownies’ for those reasons.
In conclusion, don’t comment on what you don’t know.
Come and find out! Girlguiding is a vibrant, active, happy charity that was founded to help build girls’ and young women’s character and self-esteem. I’ve learnt so much from Girlguiding as an adult that the affect this charity has doesn’t just stay with the young members. You might just be surprised at what we get up to.