Monday, 20 May 2024
Monday, 20 May 2024

Girlguiding launch their asks to the next government

GIRLGUIDING, the UK’s largest youth organisation dedicated completely to girls, has recently set out how the next government should better prioritise the needs, happiness and safety of girls and young women.  

Ahead of the general election, the charity is calling for the government to listen to girls and act on the issues that matter to them most. Developed in collaboration with girls and young women of all ages, the document titled ‘For All Girls: Girlguiding’s Asks of The Next Government’ sets out ten asks about girls’ safety, mental health, cost of living and the environment. 

Girlguiding launched their asks at a House of Commons event, sponsored by Kim Leadbeater MP. The event was attended by key political figures, Girlguiding members and celebrity presenter Ashley James, who spoke to attendees about the disproportionate mental health challenges currently facing girls. 

Angela Salt, CEO of Girlguiding said:

“Girls have told us that they’re worried about their safety, mental health, the cost-of-living crisis and the environment – and we’re calling for decision-makers to listen and create a more equal society.

“We know that girls’ happiness has hit an all-time low, and they are struggling with their mental health, so it is crucial that a future government make reversing this steady decline a core priority. 

“Girls are facing more challenges than ever in their day-to-day lives, from appearance pressures and sexual harassment to worries about the environment, their future prospects and the cost-of-living crisis. We must champion this generation of girls now, more than ever, to ensure that their futures are free from limitation and inequality.” 

Four core themes 

Girlguiding’s asks are categorised into four main areas – girls’ safety, mental health, cost of living and the environment. 

Within these themes, girls are calling for the government to…  

1. Create new and inclusive Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) resources in schools.  

2. Require advertisers, brands, and influencers to make it clear when images have been filtered, edited, or created by software or artificial intelligence.   

3. Appoint a Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and have at least 50% women on major political party frontbenches.  

4. Close the gender pay gap so girls have equal access to sports and high-quality sporting facilities.  

5. Address girls’ mental health needs and take urgent action to solve the mental health crisis.  

6. Make mental health professionals available in every school, and give them the right training to ensure girls’ needs are spotted and taken seriously  

7. Ensure every school and college across the UK has period products available throughout the school day, free of charge 

8. Recommit ending the gender pay gap, so that earning potential is not determined by gender.  

9. Take immediate action to reduce the environmental impact of fast fashion and help everyone better understand where their clothes come from.  

10. Ensure all girls have equal, safe access to the outdoors, and involve girls in designing public spaces like parks, so they feel welcome and included. 

Girls’ safety 

With the rise of sexism in schools, online misogyny and gender-based violence, girls don’t feel safe.   

Girlguiding’s 2023 Girls’ Attitudes Survey found that 52% of girls and young women aged 11-21 don’t think sexist comments are dealt with seriously in schools. 69% of girls said boys had made comments about girls and women that they’d describe as ‘toxic’. More than 2 in 5 girls (44%) revealed boys at their school have made comments about girls and women that have made them feel scared for their safety. 

Mental health 

We’re in the middle of a mental health crisis for girls, with over a quarter of 16-year-old girls in England contacting public mental health services in 2022. Mental health conditions are more than twice as common in girls than boys. Even more worryingly, it’s been reported that girls and young women under the age of 24 have seen the largest increase in suicide rates since reporting began in 1981.

Cost of living 

Girls and women often feel the effects of the cost-of-living crisis more than boys and men. That’s why Girlguiding is calling on the next government to help girls afford the essentials, and make sure they grow up in a more equal world.  

Girlguiding data found that 75% of girls aged 7-21 are worried about the increased cost of living. 1 in 5 girls (21%) aged 11-21 worry about not having enough money for period products or period pain medication. Despite progress like scrapping the tampon tax and a trial of free period products in England’s schools, girls are still worried about this most basic of needs. 

Environment 

Climate change is an incredibly important issue for girls. 62% of 7-21-year-old girls worry about climate change and threats to the environment some or all of the time. 

Girls are concerned about the impact of fast fashion on the environment. Nearly 2 in 5 (39%) girls and young women aged 11 to 21 feel pressured to buy the latest clothes and keep on top of fashion trends. However, half (50%) of girls and young women aged 11 to 16 think fast fashion has a negative effect on the environment, rising to 63% for those aged 17 to 21. 88% of girls aged 11-21 believe clothing companies should be doing more to produce clothes in an environmentally friendly way. 

Ashley James, broadcaster and presenter, said: 

“We are in the midst of a mental health crisis for girls, and there is no easy fix without urgent government action.  

“Mental health disorders are more than twice as common in girls than boys, and Girlguiding’s own research found girls are significantly less happy than they once were, with just 17% of girls now saying they are very happy, down from 40% in 2009. This significant drop corresponds with the rise of social media and online harms – this is no coincidence.  

“More needs to be done to protect girls against the pressures they are facing daily – from their body image to their online presence.” 

Millie, 17, Girlguiding advocate, said: 

“It is paramount that government prioritises girls’ safety for the wellbeing and security of girls across the UK. Girlguiding’s Girls’ Attitudes Survey found that almost 3 in 5 girls worry about being sexually harassed, whether at school, in public, or online. It is clear that this issue is widespread and affecting girls’ happiness, which is at its lowest levels in the last 15 years.  

“It is worrying that girls don’t feel safe, wherever they go, and something needs to be done to protect girls and their futures. We would like to see a government who will revise and create policy tackling this issue, and address gender inequality within parliament and the country as a whole.”  

Sofia, 6, Rainbow, who spoke at the event, said: 

“I’m lucky that every week I go to the kid’s park run and it’s amazing! But unfortunately, there are fewer parks and green spaces for children to play in some parts of our country. This makes me sad because playtime and getting fresh air makes me and my friends happy. 

“Our government should make sure that all children have protected parks to play in so they can be healthy and happy – it is where animals and bees live too, after all.” 

Kim Leadbeater MP, who sponsored the launch of For All Girls, commented:  

“I believe MPs should listen to young people as much as possible. As a former Brownie and Guide, I’m delighted to sponsor this event and have the opportunity to hear how passionate so many girls are about making the world a better place. 

“Young people often feel strongly about influencing real, impactful change and there are a wide range of things they care about – local, national and international issues. Their voices really matter, and decision-makers should listen to young women and girls – and boys too of course – about their hopes and fears so we can understand what’s needed to build a better future for their generation and for all of us.” 

As the UK’s largest youth organisation dedicated completely to girls, Girlguiding works with decision-makers, funders and other stakeholders across society to improve girls’ happiness and prioritise their needs.  

The organisation aims to build an equal world where all girls can make a positive difference, be happy and safe, and reach their potential. Girlguiding girls are up to 23% more confident than the UK average, and 36% more likely to have done something good for their local community or the environment. 

Through the charity’s innovative peer education program, coreprogramme and wellbeing and resilience tools, Girlguiding continues to help and support girls and young women – allowing them to learn, have fun and enjoy adventures, as they have for over 100 years. 

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