Joyce Gildas, Girl Scouts of Madagascar
I am Joyce Gildas, from Madagascar and I have been a member of Girl Scouts of Madagascar for the past 10 years. When people look at me, they say I am lucky because I am a happy girl, and they never find me sad or angry. They do not know that behind each smiling face, there is also the dark side of someone’s life. My parents separated when I was one. Consequently, I became an isolated child. I went to school like other children, but I had no hobbies or friends. It was just from home to school and then back home.
Before being a Girl Guide, I was a shy person who could not start a conversation, I was too afraid of what people would think of me. Since I joined Girl Guides in 2009, I have participated in different trainings that I apply every day. One example of a training that changed my personality is “Free Being Me”. Being part of this training, I learnt more about myself, to show who I am and to share my opinion with others.
I also participated in different activities organised by WAGGGS, which have improved my leadership skills. Now I am a young leader and I feel good because I can use my voice not only for myself but for other young women too. Girl Guiding is the platform that gives me the possibility to change the world by creating a better future for girls. Using this platform, I am able to educate people on girl’s rights and I help girls to speak out for themselves, changing their destiny. Girl Guiding gives me the chance to advocate for gender equality. This platform gives each girl the place to be an agent of change because together, little by little, we are creating a better future for the world.
Girl Guiding has contributed a lot in my development. This platform taught me to have confidence and helps me to speak out for girl’s rights. “As long as Girl Guides exist, a better future for girls will be secured.
Micaela Lagoria, Asociación Guías Argentinas
I am Micaela, I am 30 years old and am from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have been a Girl Guide since I was 10 years old. I have had the opportunity to be a resident volunteer twice at Pax Lodge World Centre, and in my Member Organisation, I am part of the commission for programme leadership. I am also a leader at local Brownies.
I always say that if I was not a Girl Guide, I would be another person because Guiding has helped me so much. Guiding has empowered me to be independent, to have the determination to make decisions and have the opportunity to be in charge and organise big events. It has shown me that I can do that. One of my dreams is working for WAGGGS. The perfect work is to work in something that you love already.
I always say Guiding gave me the opportunity to know more about other cultures and experience situations in life that gave me the power and the spirit to do other things. I have been involved in the Dove ‘Free Being Me’ programme. I have been a Girl Guide leader for 12 years and Free Being Me is the programme they value the most. You can see how they react and how they see things differently after being part of this programme. In my community we work with parents and invite friends of the Girl Guides to be part of the programme. I think it would be that every girl and young woman can do whatever they want and can have the best results on what we want to achieve.
Sophie Nelson, Girl Guiding UK
When I was 16, I saw an opportunity to apply to be a Girlguiding advocate with Girlguiding UK and I remember thinking I must go for this, there is nothing that would sum up what I love to do more than this role description. As my time as an advocate progressed, I realised that getting involved with campaigns and speaking out for issues was something that I really wanted to continue.
In 2017 one of the Girlguiding advocates shared a news story about how 1 in 10 girls were experiencing period poverty in the UK and that they were missing school because of it. It was having a huge impact on their education, and their self-confidence and the way they went about their lives monthly. We thought this was an amazing opportunity as young women to raise awareness and for the government to pay attention. I took part in a protest outside downing street which called on the government to scrap the tampon tax and introduce free period products in schools.
Then in 2018 I realised there was a divide in young women and the campaign. There was a lot of stigma around how young women dealt with period poverty, and how young women felt about having periods. I said to my guide leader; can I lead a session on period poverty because I am worried that girls aren’t educated around periods, and there’s a lot of stigma that needs to be broken down. The whole session was completely tense, there was a real shame around it that was in the room, as I was talking people did not want to talk out. What does that tell you about how we feel as women having periods and how educated we are?
In the same year I presented at the Northern Ireland Teachers Conference and was again met with a lot of traditional perspectives on periods. I remember putting up an image on the screen when I was delivering my presentation, and saying it was one of my pet peeves that when period product companies were delivering adverts, that they used this blue like substance instead of blood. One of the women stood up and said, ‘Well I just think that is disgusting, and that is shameful that you are promoting that.’ I said to her ‘Actually it's really important that young women see the realities of this because when they don’t, it often has really detrimental consequences on their health and how they feel about themselves and how they react to getting their period’. It was a real eye opener in terms of how people still hold such traditional perspectives around periods and bleeding.
As of September 2021, all schoolgirls will have access to free period products. Which I like to think Girlguiding UK had a role in, so I count it a real success that we were able to bring the issue to light and campaign around it and hopefully have helped a lot of young women in the UK.
Monique Santovito, Girl Guides Australia
I started Guides when I was five years old, and I'm turning 19 this year. Through Girl Guides I ran a big project at school which was part of my Queen's Guide Award. I created a mental health group where I was the leader. We run three events every year; an antibullying day, a wellness week, then are you ok day, which is a suicide movement here in Australia. Our focus is spreading mental health awareness, making sure that people know where they can get help, and what is actually classed as a mental health illness. I think there’s so much stigma around mental health, you just don’t realise how difficult it can be especially with such a social age that we live in with all these different media platforms, it easy to get the wrong idea of what mental illness is.
I think the biggest thing that I would like to tell girls is that no matter what you’re going through and no matter how big or how small you feel like your issues are there is always help available. The biggest step is to reach out first. To anybody, a parent, a sibling, or your guide leader or a teacher.
I remember at my first advocate meeting and being shocked that guiding was so progressive…..I led a session on period poverty because I am worried that girls aren’t educated around periods, and there’s a lot of stigma that needs to be broken down. I had no idea that guiding was pushing these kinds of social issues forward.