A woman’s place? It’s wher­ever she wants it to be, say Girl­guide lead­ers

Fem­i­nist mes­sage at heart of youth or­gan­i­sa­tion’s lat­est cam­paign as it tries to at­tract new vol­un­teers

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Olivia Rudgard So­cial af­fairs cor­re­spon­dent

GIRLGUIDING has started a na­tional re­cruit­ment cam­paign with the move­ment telling women that their place is “wher­ever they want it to be”.

The cam­paign, which fo­cuses on em­pow­er­ing women and girls, will use the hash­tag #Knowyour­place – in a riff on a phrase of­ten used to put down women.

A pro­mo­tional video fea­tures groups of girls moun­tain bik­ing, play­ing with a para­chute and learn­ing sign lan­guage.

Vol­un­teers said they were at­tracted by the fem­i­nist mes­sage of Girlguiding. Gemma Rolls-bent­ley, who helps out at groups in London, said: “Some of the is­sues Girlguiding chooses to tackle around gen­der equal­ity, pro­fes­sional op­por­tu­ni­ties and re­la­tion­ships and sex ed­u­ca­tion are im­por­tant is­sues.

“And a lot of women like my­self, in their twen­ties and thir­ties, are re­ally strug­gling to un­der­stand how they can have an im­pact, how they can make a change and make a dif­fer­ence and Girlguiding re­ally of­fers a way to do that.”

Sally Ill­s­ley, deputy chief Guide, said: “The spirit of the cam­paign is to turn the old-fash­ioned idea that a woman should know her place on its head and to make clear that a woman’s place is wher­ever she wants it to be.”

Some vol­un­teer roles, such as unit leader and as­sis­tant leader, are open only to women, while helper roles are open to all adults. The 70,000-strong wait­ing list for girls wish­ing to join is not the largest ever, but de­mand is “ex­tremely high”, said Jess Bond, a lead vol­un­teer for na­tional projects.

“We want to take ac­tion now to try and tackle it rather than wait­ing for the num­bers to in­crease,” she said. “It is fan­tas­tic that so many girls want to join us, it is our aim to re­main rel­e­vant and change as the needs of girls and young women change.”

She said the or­gan­i­sa­tion was in the process of up­dat­ing its badge sys­tem to fo­cus on “ad­ven­ture, and chal­lenge and life skills” that “take girls out of their com­fort zone”.

Groups were also fo­cus­ing on “hon­est” con­ver­sa­tions about body is­sues and sex ed­u­ca­tion, she said, adding that the “girls-only” en­vi­ron­ment meant that girls felt more com­fort­able ask­ing ques­tions that they may not be happy to raise at school or at home.

While the over­all num­ber of vol­un­teers has re­mained steady for three years, more are say­ing they have less time to give up.

Ms Bond said: “The num­ber has re­mained steady over the last three years at around 100,000, but we are see­ing an up­ward trend in peo­ple look­ing for flex­i­ble vol­un­teer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. This is some­thing recog­nised across the vol­un­tary sec­tor as peo­ple look to fit vol­un­teer­ing into their busy lives.”

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