Guiding gives me the extra push I need to spread my wings

I am Kellysya, 19 years old young leader from Girl Guides Association Malaysia and an A-level student.

Kellysa, Malaysia

I first became a Girl Guide at age 10 when our school asked us to join an organisation. I chose the Girl Guides Association because besides the fact that all my friends were in it; it was the only organisation that really allowed girls to explore their interests. There are so many things you can do as a guide — from reading poetry to riding a horse, the organisation provides a truly a safe space for girls to explore their interests and empower one another.

Soon after school, I became a young leader of Girl Guides Association of Malaysia and started working towards advocating for girls’ rights. There is no single experience that sparked my passion for the cause. I have always been a believer of equality and have been very vocal about it. As I grew older, I realised the privileges I’ve had in my life that have shaped me to the person I am today and the injustices in the world that prevent people, particularly young girls, from accessing the opportunities I have had in my life. It seems like an easy decision for someone with the experiences and advantages such as myself to do everything I can to empower and support others.

But I never thought myself capable of becoming the voice of so many girls. I saw my friends going to different advocacy platforms and raising their voices against an issue I cared about. It was a distant dream for me. When I saw one of my friends speaking at CSW, I was motivated to follow my dream. I think the best thing about guiding is that you don’t have to be perfect. If you commit to working hard, they encourage, support and groom you to succeed. They give you the extra push you need to spread your wings.

I first represented Girl Guides Association of Malaysia in the ninth World Urban Forum organised by UN HABITAT. The event was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2018. Through this experience, I learned about the importance of youth’s voices and the power of asking questions.

Soon after, WAGGGS U-Report launched a U-Reporters recruitment competition. The winner was to represent WAGGGS at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, USA. I wanted to explore where my newfound confidence could take me. My hard work paid off and I won! During the UNGA, I attended side-events, observed in high-level meetings and interviewed the UN Youth Convoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake.

My friends and family say I have been making an impact through my advocacy work but I don’t think it’s possible for me, as an individual, to truly make an impact. I believe that the Girl Guides Association of Malaysia has made a considerable impact, by providing a platform to the leaders and girls around the country. I’m just glad to be a part of something so significant that would help so many other young girls.

I have now been advocating against child marriage. I am one of the founding members of #NoBridesUnder18 campaign in Girl Guides Association Malaysia. I also joined many other members in the march to the parliament in November 2018 and handed over an end child marriage poster to the authorities. Led by our work, the GGAM is now working closely with UNICEF to fight against child marriage.

In March, UNICEF Malaysia nominated GGAM to send a young leader to be one of the youth panellists for Regional Forum on Solution to End Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) at ASEAN hall, Jakarta, Indonesia. UNICEF Malaysia selected me among a few other candidates to raise our voice against early marriage.

Most married girls who are my age were child brides. Studies have shown that most, if not all, girls who marry at a young age face many health risks and do not have access to higher education and quality jobs. Knowing this saddens and angers me. However, realising I have the opportunities that many girls don’t, motivates me to work harder in my advocacy work. I am looking forward to the opportunities the future will bring and am confident that from here, I’ll only fly higher to explore other ways I can make a difference.

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