What benefits can you expect for your daughters once you enroll them in Sharjah Girl Guides? And does it matter for the girls as they grow up and for their communities.
I was invited the last month to the annual ceremony of Sharjah Girls Guide (SGG), in which Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, awards each of the girl guides the badges they’ve earned across the year. I was completely blown away by what SGG does, and the potential impact it could have on girls as they grow up to be in leadership positions in their communities. We always argue for women empowerment, but I think SGG is one of the very few organizations who has realized that to achieve this goal, you need to plant the seeds at a very young age.
SGG is a non-profit volunteer driven organization that offers extra-curricular activities and programs for girls (ages 7 -1 5) from all nationalities in the UAE. Guiding, which is very similar to Scouts Associations in the US, provides an outlet for girls to have new experiences, discover themselves and develop their skills in a safe, fun environment. It’s worth nothing that there is a separate organization for boys called Emirates Scouts Association, which has its impact as well.
As I was going through the gallery of the girl guides achievements in the ceremony I attended, I kept imagining the kind of influence each of these achievements will have on the girls as they grow older. And so, I’ve decided that if I ever had a daughter, enrolling her in SGG would be a must, so that I could ensure the right foundation of her empowerment is laid down early on. Being a business owner with a background in tech industry, I approach this with entrepreneurial and scientific bias. These are my five reasons of why I appreciate what the SGG does:
- Girl guides partake in different kinds of sports over the years, between running, football, archery, and horse riding. It’s only natural that Sharjah has reached the maturity of setting up Sharjah Women Sports Foundation, when they have been cultivating the interest in girls from a young age, and provided them with the training they’d require. We can’t keep saying that girls naturally don’t like sports when we never expose them to all different types of sports at a young age and allow them to experiment and find what they may like.
- The girl guides are trained in self-defense. I believe being able to physically defend yourself can give you a certain level of needed self-confidence. This can cascade on your mindset and behavior to defend yourself physically and vocally in your daily life. I’ve known a few families that would sometimes hold back their girls from studying abroad, for fear that they won’t be able to defend themselves if they ever had to. But why hold back your daughter when you can just simply train her how to manage in such situations? We might live in a safe country where such risks aren’t the norm, but one mustn’t wait till it becomes the norm to start teaching the girls how to take care of themselves.
- The girl guides are taught to raise funds by selling cookies. This might sound like a trivial thing, but this essential skill is important in their lives later on, especially if they start their businesses. It will teach them how to sell their ideas and pitch them, the courage to talk to potential investors, the mindset of strategizing your audience to know who your potential buyers are from those who will waste your time, and the accounting skills to manage how much you sold and how much more you need to sell. Personally, I think running my business and my constant scout for advertisers for the magazine might have taken a different more effective turn if I had that training as a kid.
- The girl guides are taught engineering and how to build robots. As a woman with a background in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), specifically in computer science, I was almost always the only woman in the large management meetings of men. As I was skilled and articulate in IT, especially considering all the technical jargon, (as you would hope anyone would be in such a position), and I’d always sense amusement from some colleagues, like it was impossible for women to be in such field, let alone master it. But it’s not impossible. I was passionate about my field, and my batch in the university were all intelligent women who were passionate about the field as well. Everywhere around the world, new advocacy programs are being created to get more women into STEM fields, but it requires making girls familiar with it at a young age to enable this as a natural result as they grow up. I won’t get into how the gender can be a barrier into those fields, as it needs a whole article on its own. However, what I’d like to say is that learning sciences has taught me in more ways how to dabble with things till I get it right, how not to fear making mistakes because they will just redirect me to the right way, and that sometimes, there can be many correct ways. Those lessons are the cornerstone of what I do in my company now, and I can’t imagine how much easier it would have been had I learned them earlier!
- Senior girl guides are encouraged to embrace entrepreneurship. I know we’ve been hearing this word a little too often in the past few years, and the country, in general, is trying to encourage this mindset in different ways. But what SGG did differently this year was to partner up with Sheraa Entrepreneurship Center in Sharjah to teach the girl guides the necessary skills required in running a business, and then pushed them to start practicing what they learned. SGG management then explained to the girl guides the basic requirements of the official procurement process, and allowed them to organize a whole event on their own. The guides contracted all the vendors they wanted by negotiating directly with them, got all invoices, broke down their budget to all the elements they needed for the event, and ensured everything is within the overall budget they were given. This is how you ensure a future generation is well adept at entrepreneurial work, by making them experiment it for their own and go through all its steps. So when they grow up and consider starting their businesses, all the necessary steps are then natural to them and they can build on them to innovate and achieve bigger things.
These are the 5 main reasons that stood out to me the most, but throughout the ceremony categories like pottery making, finding your way through mazes, arts and crafts making, and camping nights showed that there is a lot more to this program than I initially suspected. I am continually impressed by their efforts, and it gives me faith for the future when I look at these heartwarming efforts.