Anna Pinkney | Contributing Writer | Thursday, 18 May 2017

Girlguides Are Bringing Their Badges Up-To-Date

Girlguides Are Bringing Their Badges Up-To-Date

The Debrief: Girlguiding UK announces plans to bring in badges for tech skills, wellbeing and social activism.

Girlguiding may stereotypically be associated with teaching ‘hostess’ skills, the national anthem and how to tie an array of obscure knots, however, the charity has revealed plans for biggest ever overhaul of their badges in order to make the organisation more relevant to the lives of girls and young women. 

The changes will affect all three divisions (Rainbows, Brownies and Guides) and new badges will fall into six categories: Skills for my Future, Have Adventures, Be Well, Know Myself, Express Myself and Take Action. The new categories and badges have been put forward from surveys of over 15,000 current members and include ideas such as App Design, Vlogging, Upcycling, Entrepreneurship, Voting and Speaking Out.

It’s been suggested that the names may ‘puzzle older generations’ but the sentiment of the movement shouldn’t; after all, girl guides were founded when a group of girls gate-crashed the first Boy Scout rally and demanded to take part, way back in 1909. Even in its early days, the organisation introduced badges that defied stereotypical gender roles, such as Air Mechanic (1912), Telegraphist (1912) and Electrical Engineer (1920s), and responded to the skills young women needed that weren’t being taught in schools. The traditional cooking and camping skills aren’t disappearing, but the new badge system aims, in addition to providing girls with practical skills, to build on the Guides' more recent focus on mental health and social activism.

A number of influential women have been given a Girlguiding ‘I Give Girls A Voice’ Badge, and asked to suggest their own ideas for badges to promote opening the discussion to the public on twitter, under #BadgeGoals.

Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle has suggested a Resilience badge to ‘help tackle the stigma around mental health from a young age by empowering girls to talk confidently about these issues and equipping them with the skills they need to be resilient throughout their lives.’

Dame Kelly Holmes has also been involved and added ‘My idea is that you put a heart that signifies helping people in their time of loneliness or bereavement, and it would be really nice if you could form something [where] girls go in and help old people have their moment of happiness.’ 

Public suggestions have also addressed mental health and wellbeing, a push for badges surrounding STEM subjects, and badges to reflect the Guides’ social action movements. Recent campaigns have included supporting a government inquiry into sexual harassment in schools and calling out the way female politicians are portrayed in the media

The new changes have been lead by Girlguiding UK boss Julie Bentley, who calls Guides the ‘ultimate feminist organisation’. Whether or not that’s true, with the new badges and campaigns, Guides are putting less focus on traditional skills and are really listening to the issues that concern their own members. In a BBC interview, Charlotte Forrester (18), a Guide Advocate – part of a group who represent the organisation to MPs – sums up the changes saying ‘We’re in a public space representing Guides, showing we’re passionate about issues that matter to young women and girls.’

‘As Guides, we need to demand better because women deserve better.’

Modern Guides may still be learning to pitch tents, but they’re also manning picket lines.

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