UK’s Chief Guide visits UAE Girl Guides

It has been 100 years since the Guiding movement began and to commemorate the milestone, Girlguiding UK’s Chief Guide Gill Slocombe paid a visit to the UAE last month, her first official trip outside Great Britain since taking on the role three years ago.
Brownies play a game during one of their regular weekly meetings at St Andrew’s Hall in Mushrif, Abu Dhabi. Volunteers are urgently needed to keep some of the units from closing. Silvia Razgova / The National
Brownies play a game during one of their regular weekly meetings at St Andrew’s Hall in Mushrif, Abu Dhabi. Volunteers are urgently needed to keep some of the units from closing. Silvia Razgova / The National

What sounds like an earthquake is actually 24 girls between the ages of 7 and 11 slapping the floor in time.

“Thunder, thunder, thunderation, we are the Girl Guides Association, when we work with determination, we create a ­sensation,” they chant.

It has been 100 years since the Guidinging movement began and to commemorate the milestone, Girlguiding UK’s Chief Guide Gill Slocombe paid a visit to the UAE last month, her first official trip outside Great Britain since taking on the role three years ago. It was also first time a chief guide has visited any of the 270 groups that make up British Guides in Foreign Countries, which is present in 35 countries worldwide and boasts 530,000 members.

Keeping up with the times

In a world unrecognisable from the one Brownies inhabited a century ago, one constant is the emphasis on helping others across all the units, which include 5- to 7-year-old Rainbows; 7- to 11-year-old Brownies; 11- to 14-year-old Guides, and 14- to 19-year-olds in the senior ­section.

Adele Steel, 52, the district commissioner for Guiding in Abu Dhabi, says: “The core values of Guiding are still helping others and challenging yourself. But in no way are we all about knitting and cleaning these days. We’ve had our girls on climbing walls and assault courses – it’s not a genteel pastime. They give the Scouts a good run for their money. They can be quite scary when they’re en masse!”

A commitment for life

For Guide Joaanavi Coneti, 14, taking the oath is her favourite memory of her four years in Guides. “It took a lot of time to memorise and think about the promise,” she says. “It’s a life motto – it affects everything in my life.”

Raeanna Stewart, 16, from Scotland, who is in the Senior Section, likes to help out with the Guides and Brownies. “The younger ones really look up to you,” says Stewart. “And I like the freedom of the all-girl atmosphere. There are some things you can’t discuss when there are boys around.”

Women of the future

An important aspect of modern Guiding involves encouraging the girls to develop a positive self-image. That includes a body confidence programme, and a course starting in February to train older girls to educate their peers about timely issues including bullying. “A lot of our badges now involve discussion on images of women in advertising. We ask the girls: ‘Should we let these affect us?’” says Steel. “It’s relevant now. There are more things in society that affect their confidence. We work on how girls can be independent and not get held back by anything. We’re setting them up to be able to make life ­choices.”

Volunteers needed

Despite the growing demand for places in the UAE’s Guiding units, there is a lack of adult volunteers. In Abu Dhabi, this means one Brownie unit and one Rainbow unit are in danger of being suspended after Christmas.

“I could open another Rainbow and Brownie pack tomorrow and fill them up almost instantly, we have so many girls wanting to join,” adds Steel. “But we haven’t got enough adults prepared to volunteer and take on the ­commitment.”

artslife@thenational.ae

UNITS IN THE UAE

British Guides in Foreign Countries, which is part of Girlguiding UK, has a presence in 23 countries where it can be difficult, for reasons such as language or culture, for girls to join the local national organisation.

Abu Dhabi

The first Brownie unit in the capital was set up in 1967, and is believed to have been the first Guiding unit in the Middle East. There are currently nine units – three Rainbows, three Brownies, two Guides and one Senior Section, which meet at St Andrew’s Hall, Al Khubairat and Al Yasmina Schools. Email adelesteel@hotmail.com

Dubai

Guiding is led by Dubai division commissioner Claire Godfrey, who has been involved in Guiding since she was 7. Guiding is a popular pastime in Dubai. First came the Brownies in 1970, the first Guide unit in 1980 and the first Rainbow unit in 1994. Now, there are 35 units – 8 Rainbow, 17 Brownie, 9 Guides and a senior section, comprising more than 850 members. Email girlguidingdubai@gmail.com

Sharjah

There is now one Brownie, Rainbow and Guides unit each, with some girls attending from Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah. The groups meet at the Wanderer’s Sports Club in Sharjah, led by Mandy Bray. Email sharjahguiding@gmail.com

UAE Girlguides

Sharjah is also home to the headquarters of UAE Girlguides, which is separate to BGIFC, although they’re all part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. The association, which holds meetings in Arabic, was set up in 1973 and is led by its president, the wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, Sheikha ­Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi. The Guides teach the elderly to read and write, and spread awareness about violence against ­women, among other things. Email info@uaegg.ae

Published: December 6, 2014 04:00 AM

SHARE

Editor's Picks
NEWSLETTERS
Sign up to:

* Please select one