Girl Guides, the worldwide voluntary organization dedicated to the all-round self-development of girls and young women. Girl Guiding originated in the United Kingdom, taking its inspiration from the Boy Scout movement which was founded in 1908 by a famous British army general, Robert Baden-Powell. At the first Scout rally, held in London in 1909, Baden-Powell encountered a group of girls who insisted they were Scouts too. Recognizing their determination, Baden-Powell established a separate organization for girls, and in 1910 the Girl Guides Association came into being. At first, it was run by Baden-Powell’s sister, Agnes, but from 1915 his wife, Olave, became increasingly involved and in 1918 was appointed Chief Guide. She continued to be very active until her death in 1977.
Guiding spread rapidly from its UK beginnings and within a couple of years, there were equivalent associations in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, and the United States, where it was called Girl Scouts. Today the Guide family has over 10 million members in 140 countries.
Each of these countries has its own association with its own name, uniform, age groupings, and a programme that reflects national and cultural circumstances. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the two youngest sections are Rainbows (5 to 7 years) and Brownies (7 to 10 years). But Rainbows became Gumnuts (6 to 7y) in Australia, and Teddies (5 to 7y) in South Africa, while Brownies are Little Wings (7 to 9) in Peru and Ladybirds (7 to 11) in Italy.
Despite wide differences of race, creed, culture, and economic background, all these national associations share the same traditions, aims, and basic principles of Guiding—essentially the Promise, Law, and the Guiding method.
The Promise and Law, adapted to suit the needs of each country, express the ideal and spirit of Guiding. Except for the youngest members, the Promise is in three parts, involving: a personal commitment to God or Supreme Being, good citizenship, and helpfulness. The Promise also requires members to keep the Guide Law. This is in ten sections and addresses every aspect of life: a person’s relationship with self, with others, and with the world. As a reminder of the three-part Promise, all national Guide badges incorporate a trefoil.
The self-training method used in Guiding has several key components, including working together in small groups, decision-making which leads to self-government and self-programming, and engaging in a varied and balanced programme—at the girl’s own level and own pace. Through the programme, girls can learn all kinds of skills, from computing to cookery, and take part in many different activities—especially camping and other outdoor projects. They also have many opportunities to give service, which can range from fund-raising for a charity to working directly in and with the community. In Pakistan, for example, Guides run literacy programmes for adults; in Thailand, they operate healthcare schemes in rural areas; in Sri Lanka, they are involved in a drug rehabilitation project; in Chile, they set up self-help schemes in underprivileged areas.
All national associations belong to the international body, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). WAGGGS has its secretariat in London and maintains four world centres where Guides and Girl Scouts from all countries can meet to take part in conferences, seminars, community projects, training courses, and holidays. These centres are Pax Lodge in England, Our Cabaña in Mexico, Sangam in India, and Our Chalet in Switzerland.
One of the many traditions linking Guides the world over is Thinking Day, held on 22 February, the joint birthday of Robert and Olave Baden-Powell. Guides and Girl Scouts usually arrange a celebration of some kind, reaffirming their commitment to international friendship.