How The Girl Scouts Are Paving The Way For Female Empowerment And Girls’ Leadership

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It’s girl scout cookie season, so we wanted to find a way to give a huge shout out to the organization that is world renowned for its inclusive manner of teaching girls leadership skills. To be honest, we had discussed a few different angles among our editorial team and couldn’t find anything that immediately jumped out at us. Then along came some negative news regarding girl scouts and that became our jumping off point.

Allow us to explain that “negative news”. On February 18, a Catholic Archbishop from St. Louis, Robert Carlson released an official statement on behalf of the St. Louis Archdiocese casting the Girl Scouts in a negative light due to their stance on certain social issues. He claims the Catholic church’s values are at odds with those of the Girl Scouts especially when it comes to gay rights, reproductive rights, and feminism. The apparent support for human rights organization Amnesty International is something the Archbishop said went against Catholic principles.

He also went on to state that the girl scouts USA association with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts promotes abortion and birth control. If you want to read his statement in full, click the hyperlink above. While the core values of the Catholic church are not exactly a shocker (and we are in no way demeaning the right for any person to believe in a certain faith or religion) it kinda shocked us to see such a damning statement of an organization that should be on the very last of the Catholic church’s list when it comes to entities that reportedly “harm” people.

So that became the impetus for us to write an article about girl scouts USA and what they actually do for girls across the country. First we should address the issues Archbishop Carlson. In 2015 the girl scouts announced they would be inclusive of transgender girls in a campaign called #foreverygirl. This angered many, and one anonymous donor even famously donated $100,000 and demanded the organization NOT help or include transgender girls.

True to their intention, the girl scouts gave the money back, and ended up raising more than $300,000 from over 7000 supporters through a crowdfunding campaign. It was a great move by the girl scouts showing they refuse to be bullied or forced to fall in line with a belief that is anything but inclusive.

With the statement from the St. Louis Archdiocese, a spokeswoman for Girl Scouts USA denied the accusations flung at them, and declared they have no official stance on abortion or birth control, and also pointed out they are a completely separate organization from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

“Girl Scouts of the USA looks forward to extending our longstanding relationship with faith-based organizations, including the Catholic Church and Catholic communities, throughout the country. As the preeminent leadership development organization for girls of every faith and background, we remain committed to building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

“Building girls’ leadership skills is a non-political, non-partisan agenda,” she continued.

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We’re not sure how attacking an organization that is invested in a girls future is helpful or productive, but we thought we should point out the positive things girl scouts do. Remember the Ban Bossy campaign? Most of us know about Beyonce and Sheryl Sandberg’s involvement, but it’s also worth noting that Girl Scouts USA CEO Anna Maria Chavez was also heavily involved in promoting leadership skills in girls, and encouraging parents to get on board with this.

Studies show that from a very young age, girls are subconsciously taught different social codes to boys. At early elementary age an equal number of boys and girls say they want to be the president. By the time they reach high school the number of girls wanting to aspire to high positions of leadership, such as the president, drops off significantly. What are we missing in society where girls all of a sudden start to learn that hey are not to aspire to the same things as men, or feel they are not able to?

According to the girl scout’s Indiegogo Campaign page, internal research has shown them the following results among the participants:

  • 90% of girls receiving financial assistance say that Girl Scouts has helped them be more of a leader.
  • 88% reported that Girl Scouts has taught them how to treat others fairly.
  • 82% credit Girl Scouts with inspiring them to get more involved in their community.

The Ban Bossy campaign is a vital tool for driving change in gender norms and ensuring that an entire generation grows up knowing their assertiveness is not a negative thing, it is a key component of leadership.

During Women’ History Month, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Gold Award, former girl scout Katie Meyler was invited to speak to the Girl Scouts in New Jersey, her home town. Katie isn’t just a former scout, she is the type of leader who exemplifies the impact of girl scouts in a young woman’s life.

Katie is the founder of More Than Me, a nonprofit organization using education as a catalyst for social change for girls in Liberia, by helping them escape a life of sex abuse and prostitution. They provide free services to the most vulnerable girls in the capital, Monrovia, ages 5-17.

In 2014 Katie was named one of Time magazine’s ‘Person Of The Year’ for her work as a health promoter during the 2014 Ebola breakout in West Africa. During a tumultuous period when many international staff left the country, Katie bravely stayed behind to help the people she had invested so much of her life in.

The Gold Award is the highest honor a girl scout can achieve, so it was fitting to have such an exemplary advocate like Katie to mentor the next generation of girl scouts in New Jersey. In a statement to the press, Patrica Carroll, CEO of Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey said Katie is “an amazing example of female empowerment and how extraordinary girls can be”.

Jennifer Thompson, Chief Communications Officer of Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey also pointed out how powerful it was to be able to have someone like Katie show the current generation of girl scouts what is possible in the world.

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“We truly believe the saying ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. We could not be more thrilled to have Ms. Meyler share her work with the girls throughout New Jersey and show them that anything is possible when they harness their power,” she said.

During her time back in the United States, Katie was invited to the White House to work with first lady Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative to share some of the insight into how she has managed to empower girls in Liberia to become catalysts for change in their communities.

Now does any of this sound like an organization that is dangerous to the well being or upbringing of young girls in the United States? There are reportedly over 4000 girl scouts local troops in the St. Louis area who have been meeting in Catholic schools and parishes, who potentially will need to find a new place to gather if the local priest determines their activities do not fall in line with their values.

What we are trying to do is shed light on a positive aspect of what the girl scouts are doing in the hope that the message of what the organization is doing in the name of empowering the next generation of female leaders, will resonate more than any negative or false accusations. Girls deserve a chance to have their voices heard and have an opportunity to be of great service in the world. We will continue to be supportive of their programs and campaigns on our platform.

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