When most women think back on theirGirl Scout experiences, they remember roasting hotdogs and s’mores over a campfire
(which might have earned them a Simple Meals Badge), selling Thin Mints (Cookie Business Badge), or singing carols at a retirement home (Legacy Badge). Now members of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) can earn a whole new kind of badge developed in conjunction with UN Women. Stop the Violence: Speak Out for Girls’ Rights is a new curriculum that teaches girls about self-protection, makes them aware of violence against girls and women, and educates them about how to seek help for themselves or for other females who are threatened by violence.
“Violence against women and girls—it’s a global phenomena,” says Nanette Braun, chief of communications and advocacy at UN Women. “It’s not just a widespread occurrence in one particular region or country. Up to 70 percent of women and girls may be abused in their lives.”
One way to stem this pandemic of violence, Braun says, “is to prevent it from
happening in the first place. We want to teach zero-tolerance of violence against women. This program is about teaching girls about their rights and the issues surrounding violence so they can recognize when it’s happening and prevent it. We want to teach girls and boys what their rights are, what they are entitled to, and what should not happen in any circumstances.”
The Girl Scouts and the U.N. introduced an international pilot program, teaching the curriculum to some 1,500 Girl Scouts and Girl Guides in countries such as Madagascar, Kenya, the Philippines, and Ireland. Participants can earn a badge by completing six sessions from the activity pack, which encourages them to think about and understand the issues and develop the skills to speak out and take action on them. The activities are age-appropriate, so youngest groups might start out with leaders storytelling and playing games that prompt girls to recognize gender bias and get them thinking about inequality. Older girls might make posters for the cause, visit shelters for abused women, and develop speaking skills to communicate with groups outside WAGGGS about such violence.
The curriculum will be available to the ten million Girl Scouts and Girl Guides in 145 countries, in print and online, by summer 2013. WAGGGS expects that by 2020 at least five million children and young people will have taken part.
Already, those in the pilot program have been deeply touched by the experience. A Girl Guide leader in the U.K. says she noticed a difference in the way girls viewed gender and what they perceived as acceptable behavior. Many units ran community events to raise local awareness of violence, and there were positive responses from parents who went along. The message is moving outward, into family discussion and through communities. One leader said, “The parents I spoke to were really grateful to us for tackling these subjects, and one parent told me that her daughter had initiated some really interesting conversations at home about these issues.”
Braun says UN Women intends to extend its curriculum to an even wider audience. “We are going to talk to governments through the United Nations,” she says. “We’re hoping to engage the Boy Scouts too.”