Girl Scouts of Nassau County had our first Advocacy “Call to Conversation” on May 12th! About 25 girls and parents put themselves on the frontline to help our Council move our Advocacy Agenda forward. It was an enlightening evening as we listened to the girls and heard the concerns of
Girl Scouts of the USA, our national organization, selected GSNC to be an Advocacy Champion Council last year. We are one of about 16 Councils across the country who are part of the 2009 wave of Councils working to give our girls a voice to speak out on issues of importance to them and to empower our girls to be ready to take action on these issues with elected officials and others who can help make changes.
When girls and their parents entered the room there were pictures, newspapers and magazines all around the room highlighting the critical issues facing girls today. Issues like bullying and cyberbullying, some cases that have resulted in suicide. Ads with provocative and very thin girls selling jeans, or something else? Stories about teen pregnancy. Images, images, images, and words and stories. The first order of business was find out the girls’ first reactions to these stories and pictures. We had each of the girls write what they thought on sticky notes to get the conversation started.
We then reviewed the three GSUSA Advocacy Priorities, Relational Aggression (which includes bullying and cyberbullying), Media Images and Disordered Eating. We asked the girls if they had other issues that they wanted to include as their most pressing issues. They girls agreed with the priorities set by GSUSA.
The girls present were most concerned with bullying -- in all forms – and with media images. With that two groups were formed and the parents were sent to another room to discuss their concerns on these issues. An adult facilitated the girl groups for about 20 minutes and then they were left to talk among themselves, while one of the girls served as scribe for each group.
We gathered lots of feedback on the issues that do matter to girls. We heard some heartfelt stories of how social bullying can tear a girl apart and affect all aspects of a girl’s life, including her willingness and ability to perform her best in school and relate to her peers and family. It’s one thing to read these stories in the newspaper, and another to speak with someone who has first-hand knowledge.* And everyone is confronted by media images that are unrealistic, but still leave their mark on girl’s self-esteem …
This was a start. We are just beginning. We’ll be meeting again on June 14th to continue the Conversation and begin to craft our Call to Action. We hope that you will join us. Visit our website for more information, or contact Carole Aksak, 5516-741-2550, ext. 254, firstname.lastname@example.org
*Note: In the meantime, we offered girls, and their families, access to GSNC resources to assist them in meeting their most pressing challenges.