OK. I confess. I loved the Brownies and hated the Girl Guides, where I only lasted a few weeks. The Brownies made sense. You earned badges for doing what I deemed were silly things, and you then sewed the badges on to the sleeves of a little brown dress. The silliest and most difficult thing I had to do was traverse a section of the hall where we met each week balancing on two upturned flowerpots. I suppose it was designed to help physical coordination, but I can assure you it took me countless attempts to get from the starting line to the finish. But it was all worth it for those magic occasions when we got to toast marshmallows over an open fire and sing jolly songs.
The one drawback was Hilary Ann. Her mother was Brown Owl – and nepotism doesn’t do it justice. It was always ‘Hilary Ann, please could you show the other girls how to…’. Or ‘Hilary Ann, I’d like you to lead the nature walk’. You get my drift.
I don’t think Brown Owl liked me very much, and I never achieved the coveted accolade of ‘flying up’ to the Guides. I was grudgingly allowed to ‘walk up’. Was this perhaps due to my poor flower pot balancing? I’ll never know. Anyway, as mentioned, my tenure there was short lived. Shortly after my arrival the Guide Captain organised for us all to visit an old people’s home, as they were called then. My mother assumed we would be giving out cups of tea and biscuits and having jolly chats.
I returned home that day in shock and had nightmares. I was 11 years old and had been asked to give a bed bath to an old woman who was demented and shouted at me. My mother raised merry hell with the Captain and I never went back.
I’ve just discovered that modern day Brownies and Girl Guides have other problems to deal with. The Girlguiding Association has issued the results of a research study into 76,000 of its UK members aged between 4 and 25. Not a mention of the stress of walking on flowerpots. Instead, they found that climate change and sexual harassment were the biggest worries for these girls and young women, together with bullying, gender stereotypes and pressure to look in a certain way.
Perhaps the most shocking bit of data for this dame in 2019 was fact that for 15,600 girls aged 10-14, not being able to do the same thing as boys was highlighted as the most unfair thing about being a girl today. A 15-year-old advocate within the Girlguiding Association said that girls were not being listened to on the important issues that affect them and their futures. It does beg the question, have we got anywhere in terms of gender equality? I mean, this is the UK, not Saudi Arabia.
I for one am thrilled that these future dames have someone like Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish activist, to inspire them. Her extraordinary composure on what is becoming a world stage, as she resolutely campaigns for governments to take climate change seriously and act on the scientific evidence, is remarkable.
If only the worst thing that today’s girls had to fear was the flower pot challenge..