Before #metoo went viral in 2017, there were few people speaking out about sexual harassment. Suddenly, influential people from Hollywood to the music industry were sharing their personal stories. So many people, women in particularly, had similar experiences. As media attention increased, I began hearing statements like, “oh, now everybody is a victim”.
People looked to me, because of my stance as a feminist, expecting me to respond. Initially, this was challenging, I didn’t think I had the experience to take a stand.
However, I have realised, as Girl Guides, what affects one of us affects all of us.
In a recent U-Report poll, 78 per cent of girls said sexual violence against women and girls was increasing in their communities. An estimated 50 per cent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16. The threat of sexual harassment makes 53 percent of girls avoid studying or taking part in activities.
These numbers are bad, but what is harder is thinking of every personal story behind each figure. Some of us might be victims, while some of have witnessed this happen to another.
"Ultimately, we all have stories about sexual harassment."
This year’s International Youth Day theme is “Safe Spaces for Youth”. Since the very beginning, Girl Guiding has provided safe spaces for girls and young women to be heard and support each other.
I have been a Girl Guide since I was seven years old. My patrol has grown with me. We have been there for each other at every stage of our lives. We created this unbreakable trust and friendship, which allowed us to share anything, especially bad experiences.
When I became a leader, I wanted create these same tight bonds with my Girls Guides. I truly believe these strong intergenerational connections make Guiding the safest space for girls around the world.
When I was delivering the Stop the Violence curriculum I realised how powerful this network can be. We were educating on gender based violence, unhealthy relationships and gender equality. This was only possibly because we had close relationships. We could share our experiences, listen to theirs without judgment and be the person they turn to for help.
Besides supporting each other and creating these safe spaces, we can also take action.
As a CSW delegate, I witnessed the incredible power of making our voices heard. Our team was committed to sending a strong message to all countries. We were representing a global Movement of 10 million girls transforming communities and demanding change.
I addressed one of the main conference rooms at the United Nations on gender-based violence. I talked about how deeply affected girls were, but how we also wanted to be part of the solution. We need to create more safe places for girls, in public spaces, their own homes and by creating communities like Guide units. This will go a long way towards ending the systemic threats to girls’ lives and dignity.
"I want us to be the last generation with #metoo stories to share."
At the end of negotiations a specific paragraph was added to the outcome document. This stated members would, “intensify efforts to prevent and eliminate violence and sexual harassment”.
The paragraph might be small but it was something we put so much effort into. It was a huge step to have the United Nations recognise the need to address sexual harassment towards girls.
I want us to be the last generation with #metoo stories to share.
This blog was written to support the International Youth Day #SafeSpaces4Youth campaign. Click here to read about the upcoming 16 Days of Activism campaign to learn how to advocate for these spaces.