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Day 14 of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence

AWC Berlin is participating in 2020’s “16 Days” campaign by posting stories on gender-based violence to inform and inspire action. Follow the series on our blog and social media and let us know what actions you’re taking.

Editor’s Note: The following story is an updated version of the one we posted in our 2016 “16 Days” series.

Fortifying Young Girls Against Gender-Based Violence

by Vanessa Hansen and Karen Castellon

How do you prevent gender-based violence (GBV)? By raising mighty girls who grow up to become mighty women! Working with girls as young as five years old, the Girl Scouts program “builds girls of courage, confidence, and character.” It empowers them to make confident decisions about their own lives and to make positive changes for others in their community.

In 1912, seven years before the Nineteenth Amendment granted American women the vote, Juliette Gordon Lowe founded a “worldwide movement inspiring girls to embrace, together, their individuality, strength, and intellect.” She began with a gathering of eighteen girls in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia, where she created a new kind of educational and outdoor program for them. The first Girl Scouts were pioneers who opened new paths and opportunities for girls everywhere.

The Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) is a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). Both organizations continue to evolve and inspire girls and young women across the globe to—among many things—take a stand against GBV. In 2013, UN Women, in partnership with WAGGGS, launched “Voices Against Violence,” to engage young people in efforts to prevent—and to end—violence against girls and women.

As a member of the FAWCO delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women in 2019 (CSW63), Claire C. was inspired by what she learned from a panel that featured girls from the first troop for girls living in homeless shelters in New York City, particularly two key insights: not only does participation in Scouts offer social protection (the theme of CSW63), but domestic violence is also one of the root causes of homelessness. Building on these insights, Claire created a video on domestic violence that shared resources for those in need.

Did you know that USA Girl Scouts Overseas has an active scouting program for girls and young women from five to eighteen years old? The Berlin Girl Scout program has expanded from a small group of five girls in the 1950s to ninety girls and thirty-two adult volunteers in 2020. Girls and young women are provided rich opportunities to develop their social, academic, and leadership skills via age appropriate badge-earning challenges and outings. Self-reliance, civic responsibility, and leadership are key aspects of the program. The girls, following the Scout motto “Be prepared,” receive basic training in first aid and responding to emergencies. With the support, vision, and commitment of role models, girls have the opportunity to find—and become—leaders in their communities and the world and will, hopefully, inspire other young women to take on community-support and leadership roles .

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