Girlguiding Advocate and Girlguiding Scotland member Bethan looks at how Citizen Girl is creating a more equal future for women and girls
A century ago, after a long and gruelling fight, the first women finally gained the right to vote here in the UK. Fast forward 100 years later and, thankfully, the idea that women have the right to choose who represents them and shape the decisions that affect their lives is widely accepted as an obvious, undeniable fact and women are pushing boundaries and breaking barriers in politics, the media, business, science, sports and so much more.
But that’s not the whole story. Because even now women still only make up around a third of MPs and MSPs and are still under-represented in leadership positions in business, the media, science and more. And sexist attitudes and gender stereotypes continue to have an impact on girls’ everyday lives and their aspirations.
That’s why Girlguiding Scotland have teamed up with equal rights campaign group Women 50:50 to create Citizen Girl - our new campaign and resource to help girls aged five to 25 discover the power of their voices and inspire the next generation of female leaders in politics and more.
We know that if we want to see real and genuine equality in the next 100 years then everyone’s voice must be heard. Our research found that 57% of girls age 11-21 feel politicians don’t understand the issues affecting girls and young women – but equal representation and ensuring our representatives come from diverse backgrounds can help mean that when our politicians make decisions they do so from a place of real understanding of what girls and young women are facing.
We're lucky in Scotland to have several strong female political role models but all too often having women in senior leadership positions still feel like the exception to the rule. Plus girls are acutely aware of the negativity that can come from breaking barriers and speaking out – from sexist coverage like that infamous leg-sit front page where we saw our First Minister and Prime Minister reduced to their legs, to the daily reality of online abuse and harassment women receive when they make their voices heard.
Without tackling these issues early on the vicious cycle of lack of representation will carry on. The good news is that we have the tools to make real change and help create a more equal future for my generation and the girls that will come after us.
By simply listening to girls we can show them how much their voice matters and that's one of them most empowering thing you can do for a person. I’ve been a Girlguiding Scotland member since I was five and I’ve seen how powerful this can be. From running my own camp to representing the views of girls across and speaking out to politicians and the media as a Girlguiding Advocate, the experiences girlguiding has offered me has shown me that it’s never too early to show girls how powerful their voices can be.
So I’m really excited that in units right now girls are building their own edible parliaments, writing to their MPs & MSPs and holding their own Citizen Girl summits. I hope Citizen Girl will send the message loud and clear the girl’s voices are powerful and we deserve to be represented and respects, now and in the future. If we empower girls today we can all look forward to a more equal future.