Today is World Thinking Day – a great opportunity to take a moment and reflect on what we have achieved in the past 110 years thanks to girls and women like the original Girl Guides. As I exchange wishes for a Happy Thinking Day with my sisters in Guiding, I can’t help but think about all the people who have forged a path for girls and women today. There is no doubt that we still have a lot of work to do to close the gender gap, but the work is being done, and the gap is closing.
The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) is 10 million strong across 150 countries. The Movement started with an extraordinary event that happened 110 years ago, when a handful of dynamic, outspoken girls attended a Boy Scout rally and carved out a space for girls. Those girls were the very first Girl Guides, and their efforts helped to make the world a better place for girls.
When Girl Guides took the lead at the rally, they helped girls and young women to be included in leadership spaces, at a time when they could not even legally vote in many places.
It was 1909 and the suffragettes were standing up and demanding the right for women to vote. In Victoria, women were first able to legally vote in 1908. But in Britain, where the Crystal Palace rally was held, women did not get to vote until 1918 – another 9 years after those girls became the first Girl Guides, and joined a space where society did not expect them to be included.
The girls’ presence at the rally, and their demand that there be ‘something for the girls’, prompted Lord Baden-Powell (the founder of the Boy Scouts) to make space for girls in the Movement. In 1910, in direct response to those girls, Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes formally founded the Girl Guides.
The rally shows that when girls take the lead, they can change the world.
The original Girl Guides opened up a world of possibilities for girls and young women in 1909, which has built to a powerful, world-wide Movement that makes a space for girls to keep making an impact.
Just think about it – 10 million girls and women in their local, national and international communities, all making a difference right there and then to all of our communities.
Every year on World Thinking Day, Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world think about each other and celebrate our connections to each other. World Thinking Day is celebrated by exploring fun activities around a different advocacy theme each year. Girl Guides raise funds for the World Thinking Day Fund, which goes to support global advocacy campaigns and Guiding organisations. There’s also a badge (of course!) for Girl Guides who participate in World Thinking Day activities.
Celebrated since 1926, each year has a different focus and this year, on 22nd February, we celebrate the theme of leadership.
I’d like to invite you to think about the qualities of leadership and what these mean to you – and who in your local community, you see as leaders. Maybe even wish them Happy Thinking Day.
Yours in Guiding,
Chief Executive Officer
Girl Guides Victoria