ST JOHN’S, Antigua – As Guides reported recently on their travels over the past year, it became clear that the 100-year-old body remains one of the most relevant in terms of leadership training and consciousness raising among young women. It’s also clear though that the girls will inevitably grapple with the politics of gender in a world where they are themselves striving to be empowered.
Is it true that empowered women have higher rates of divorce? This was the premise of one of the questions put to one of the young presenters. There was no source attribution for the premise and the respondent floundered a bit as she tried to address why that might be – coming up, in the end, with ego on the part of some women in partnerships; clearly a response that merited further discussion though perhaps the format didn’t allow.
The larger purpose of Presentation Fusion, as explained by the public relations spokesperson for the Girl Guides Association of Antigua & Barbuda Jellette Bowen, was “to share the experiences of the Rangers and Young Leaders who, within the last 12 months, participated in regional and international events.”
While, in the past, they would have simply submitted a written report, she explained, that this new approach was being taken as “we want to involve everyone in carrying out the tasks that we set out to do.”
These girls, teens and young adults primarily, have quite a number of tasks, both on a personal and group level, ahead of them, judging from the presentations. They’ve also acquired, in the process, quite a bit of character and life-building experience.
Shameena Bailey, a Young Leader with Seventh Antigua, reported on her participation in the Young Women’s World Forum in March 2011 at Our Cabaña in Mexico.
“I personally observed throughout this experience that to lead others, you must first be able to lead yourself,” she said.
“To lead yourself,” she continued, “you must make sure to first know yourself,” and that is the message, she said, she would try to communicate to their peers in their pursuit of healthy relationships with others.
Bowen, also a Sixth Antigua Ranger Leader who participated in the Young Women’s World Forum in the UK in October 2010 and in the Fifth Caribbean Link Ranger Gathering in Trinidad in August 2011, declared herself an empowered young woman and revealed plans to draw 100 new recruits into the Guiding fold by 2012. But, like any leader knows and she acknowledged, “I can’t do it alone … I’m hoping that each one will win one.”
Launee Richards, also of Sixth Antigua and also a participant in the gathering in Trinidad, emphasised the social issue of teenage pregnancy.
“Our commitment was to do an activity similar to Teen Talk in our association.”
Teen Talk was a TV programme addressing issues of adolescent sexuality.
“If we try to and decrease the amount of persons having unprotected sex or having sex at an early age, we’ll be able to decrease (teen pregnancy),” she said.
Naila Ferris, a Third Antigua Ranger and junior council treasurer, also a participant in the Trinidad gathering, noted that to empower someone, you have to give them what they need to empower themselves. An empowered woman, she said, is “respectful. She’s careful with what she takes part in.”
Being empowered, she added, also created the foundation for growth in your life. Her personal goal is to empower her peers to “value themselves, know their self worth.”
Ayanna Dorsett, an Eighteenth Antigua Ranger and alumna of the Trinidad gathering, said, “I learned no matter what, always put your best foot forward.”
Her activities in Trinidad included a visit to an elderly home and since returning to Antigua, she said, she’s done the same, as part her continuing community service.
“We reached out to each other, learning what others had to deal with,” said Sixth Antigua Ranger and Junior Council President Alesha Baptiste, who spoke of how this taught them to appreciate how lucky they were.
She attended the Young Women’s World Forum in Switzerland in March 2011 and the World Conference in Scotland in July 2011. She spoke about the power of the lobby and of creative communicating and networking. Her group, she said, will be working on advocacy vis-à-vis HIV/AIDS.
Danielle Jonas, who was also at Our Cabaña in Mexico, is working on building a group of Tweenies and Brownies in Sea View Farm; her goal, to start imparting some of what she’s learned about respect and leadership beginning with the very young.