As the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK, we believe we have a responsibility to give girls a voice on the issues that matter to them and to empower them to make a difference. We empower girls to speak out where they wouldn’t normally have a voice, to influence decision makers and to give them the tools and confidence to make change happen.
Girlguiding’s national youth panel, Advocate, is a key way in which we do this. The Advocates seek change to improve all girls’ and young women’s lives. They are 18 young women, aged between 14 and 25, who represent the charity nationally at high profile events and in the media and influence and help to shape all our advocacy, public affairs and research work.
Being an Advocate is the opportunity of a lifetime because it offers you the chance to get your own views heard and speak up for girls and young women across the UK. The other Advocates inspire me to do my best every day!
Larissa, 18, Croydon
They get to develop their confidence, learn new skills and knowledge and discuss issues that impact their lives and the lives of girls across the UK. They have recently focused on body confidence, the representation of girls and women in media and politics, girls and women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), education, violence against women and girls and young people’s mental health.
Over the last two years our Advocates have shown that Girls Matter – in the 2015 General Election, they put pressure on all major parties to act on girls’ eight calls to action. They went to the political party conferences to get girls’ voices heard as well as blogging, tweeting and writing opinion pieces in national media about the youth vote and made sure girls’ voices were broadcast during the 2017 UK snap General Election.
They’ve campaigned to tackle sexual harassment in schools – putting pressure on the Government to take action and influencing the decision for Sex and Relationships Education to be made statutory in schools in England. They also successfully persuaded the Government to update the guidance given to schools to include sexual harassment – and have attended important parliamentary meetings and provide evidence of what life is like for girls in the UK.
Our Advocates lead the Girls’ Attitudes Survey – our annual flagship survey, which allows girls and young women in the UK to tell us what their lives look like today and what changes they want to see to improve their lives. They shape the questions and they make sure people in power hear what girls told us by speaking to the media, presenting at events, speaking to politicians and writing blogs.
In the 2016 Girls’ Attitudes Survey girls and young women told us that they feel held back by gender stereotypes, sexism, and anxiety about how they look. They think they may not achieve their aspirations because they don’t feel safe; they’re facing double standards on what behaviour is acceptable because they’re girls and they don’t feel the same roles and opportunities are open to them compared to boys.
Yet its clear girls are challenging these inequalities and standing up for themselves and other girls. They are reclaiming the internet to make sure that all girls can express their views and have a voice. They are calling out sexism where they see it and demanding that women and girls aren’t judged by how they look and have equal opportunities now and in the future.
Advocate is just one of the ways that Girlguiding gives girls a voice and empowers them to change the world around them.