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There’s a place for everyone in Guiding!

Thanks to Rathdowney Senior Branch Leader, Alison Cahill, for writing this blog post about inclusion, diversity and equality following her trip to The Academy:

Wanna know something cool? Irish Girl Guides is a fully inclusive organisation!

That means that we have a place for every girl and young woman who wants to be a part of this amazing group. But not everyone has the same experience of inclusivity, just as not everyone has the same experiences in life. To help your girls understand that not everyone is walking the same path, try this activity with them:

Choose one person to be the ‘centre’ of the circle. Then divide everyone else into equal groups (three or four people in each group). Have the groups stand in a line each, stretching out from the centre. So, when you’re done, it should look like a sun with rays coming out from the centre. The first person in the line will be right next to the centre, while the person at the end of the line will be quite far away.

Now everyone begins to walk in a circle, keeping their lines. Slowly increase the speed from walking to running. The girls should notice that the person nearest the centre doesn’t have to move very fast to complete their circle quickly. But the person on the end of the line has to sprint to keep the line and make it around the circle. Even though everyone is in a line not everyone is able to walk the same path – some people are working harder than others, just to get the same result. Ask the girls closest to the centre how they feel. Then ask the girls furthest away. Repeat the activity with everyone in a different spot and ask again.

When the activity is over, sit down with the girls and ask them to think of examples of people who have to work harder for the same thing. Maybe they know someone who has to walk a lot slower and so takes longer to get to places. Maybe it’s someone who can’t explain themselves as well as some people, and so need patience to get their point across.

Now think of people who are left out of things altogether because they’re different. A good question might be – what might stop me from being able to attend Girl Guides? Really challenge the girls to look around them and think about what lets them come to Girl Guides and what might stop other people. Is your venue wheelchair-friendly? Who paid for your uniform? Do all your activities involve running, or talking, or a good understanding of English?

Explain to the girls that sometimes just saying that everyone is welcome isn’t enough. We have to think long and hard about what obstacles other people might have, that we don’t. It’s also important that we think about how we show ourselves, as a group. If we don’t see anyone ‘like us’ in a group, then we might automatically think that we aren’t welcome there, even if we are.

Then think about things you could do to make sure every girl in your community would feel welcome to attend Girl Guides if they’d like to. What changes might you need to make? Or what message might you need to put out into your community?

A good follow on from this discussion would be to complete the Disability Awareness and Exploring Faiths badges. They both deal with the topic of what makes people different, but equal.