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Bringing home the message

by Grace-anne Crichlow

Western Hemisphere Board Member

Commissioner for Training – Barbados

Every year we meet to celebrate World Thinking Day – a day when ten million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in 145 countries around the world remember their sisters through many intercultural activities which include advocacy and consciousness raising on themed issues, fund-raising and other exciting fun events.

World Thinking Day is also a time to celebrate the joint birthdays of our Founders of Scouting and Guiding Lord Robert Baden-Powell and his wife Olave who served for many years as the World Chief Guide.

Since 2009, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, the umbrella organisation of which the Girl Guides Association of Barbados is a full member, has linked its themes for World Thinking Day to one of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals. These themes not only assist in the planning and direction for World Thinking Day and the given year but also serve to enrich and strengthen the national programmes of each Association. The Millenium Development Goals are eight goals which create a blueprint for improving social and economic conditions around the world by 2015. Our Global Action Theme Badge Curriculum is based on these goals which are linked to our core values and Vision.

The year 2015 is fast approaching, many nations have not achieved the goals and we will be part of the post 2015 international development framework to be articulated. The World Thinking Day theme for 2013 focuses on MDGs 4&5: “Together we can save children’s lives” (reduce infant mortality) and “Every mother’s life and health is precious” (improve maternal health).

Recently, while discussing WTD activities with one Commissioner here in Barbados, I learned of her interaction with a young Girl Guide, who recounted all the “really cool things” she and the girls from her guide company did last year and are still doing to “save the planet” (Goal 7 – ensure environmental sustainability) – working on recycling projects; creating different types of gardens, growing food crops and flowers for a beautification project; joining excitedly in national clean-up campaigns, and many other experiences.

In fact, the excitement and the sense of adventure from their outdoor activities so motivated the girls that they all participated in water safety activities for an entire term.

Regarding 2013, the Guide was not afraid to say that she thought that the themes did not sound as exciting as last year’s or some of those which preceded. In 2011, MDG 3 gender equality and empowerment of women, 2010 MDG 1 Ending poverty and hunger, 2009 MDG 6 Combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Yes, the young Guide understood to some extent that we can help ourselves and others by working on the themes; that there are probably some exciting things for the girls to do in the Activity Packs, but she was still a bit puzzled as to why we were working on those themes (reducing infant mortality and improving maternal health) this year – what have they to do with us in Barbados in 2013?

To answer this question, let us start by thinking of some of the benefits that you enjoy today as a young person growing up in Barbados. What are some of the privileges that you may sometimes take for granted? Free public education, health care and general access to the world of technology (cell phones, IPads, the Internet). These benefits were not always available to the vast majority of our population.

MDG 4 Reduce child mortality

Our response in WAGGGS is Girls worldwide say ‘Together we can save children’s lives’. Mortality refers to death. Child mortality relates to deaths of children under the age of five. Barbados ‘ under-five mortality rate is 12 per 1,000 live births( 2008). In 1908, one hundred years ago, we recorded 406 deaths per 1000 live births.

In Barbados, 90 per cent of one year-old children are immunized against measles. Before a child enters primary school he/she is immunized against MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), polio, diphtheria, polio and tetanus at the expense of the state. Malaria is hardly spoken of here. This is certainly not the case in every country.

I have only to think of Haiti right here in the Caribbean, where much still has to be done in the area of health education and infrastructure. Access to clean drinking water which we take as a given still needs to reach many as does access to health care.

The focus country of our Western Hemisphere region is Venezuela.

Let us learn what the Guides in Venezuela are doing to help their communities and their nation improve child and maternal health.

We may live on an island, but we cannot allow our thoughts and our ideas to be insular.

Many of you Blossoms, Brownies and Guides will leave these shores (166 square miles) to study, to work, and to embark on new phases of your lives. The Internet has revolutionised life and learning in a way that was unimaginable some thirty years ago, thus equipping you more readily with knowledge requisite for your development.

The Mission of the WAGGGS is to enable girls and young women to develop to their fullest potential as responsible citizens of the world. Our girls must be taught to see why health matters, to look at the root causes of ill health, to see the impact of such and to act accordingly to avoid such as far as possible.

In our non-formal education programme of Guiding, we must seek to incorporate and reinforce good sanitary practices, good dietary practices and an exercise regime into the daily activities of our charges. These lifestyle practices will help to reduce the incidence of non communicable disease such as diabetes and hypertension so prevalent in our society today. A healthy girl becomes a healthy woman.

We are focusing on MDG 4 and 5 this year because the lives of women and their children are intricately woven together. Healthy mothers are more likely to have healthy infants.

In the words of Stephen Sobhani, Director of Private Sector Engagement for the UN’s global strategy, Every woman, every child

Healthy and educated women lead to healthy families – children live longer and people are more productive. Healthy families lead to healthy communities, nations and economies; more stable regions; and a safer and peaceful world. This global movement all starts with that one young woman – wherever she may be – and the responsibility is on all of us to make sure she has the right information, the right tools, and the right sense of self to, very simply, “do”

Together we can change the world. Though some detractors may think that this is impossible, as members of the Guiding family, we are committed to making a difference in the world. We therefore try to achieve these goals through our diverse efforts. Our WAGGGS Vision 2020 states that all girls are valued and take action to change the world. We strive to make this a reality.

MDG 5… improve maternal health

The maternal mortality rate in Barbados is 95 per every 100,000 live births. It can be said that it is a medium rate for the geographical area. In our society 91 per cent of the births are attended by skilled health personnel.

Both mothers and newborns face higher risks of death or injury when health services are unavailable, inadequate, or cannot be accessed. When mothers die, their children are up to ten times more likely to die early than children who still have a mother to help

Thus the activity packs will help members learn about the issues that affect maternal health around the world, the root causes of maternal deaths, and ways you can make a difference in your own life, community, country and around the world.

If we are to help develop healthy child then we also need to ensure the mothers are well too. We should focus on ways in which we can enhance their lives by equipping them with the right information on how to care for themselves and not just to be a mother to her children or to neglect them.

We should try to help the mother maintain the balance of mind, body and soul so that she has the peace of mind to make the right choices for herself and her family.

So, how can we do this? Each one, reach one. But first we must be equipped before we can respond.

Imagine more for our girls. Imagine the world in which they would like to live (The world we want for our girls campaign). A world free from violence, a world where human rights are respected by all, a world with minimum infant deaths, and maximum improvements in maternal health.

To this end, let us explore the themes during the year, research relevant information and empower our girls to be confident agents of change. Let us be inspired to act using as our spring board our two Activity Packs. Let us make strategic partnerships locally, regionally and internationally to enable us to realize these MDGs.

Let us support the WTD Fund and the activities that it covers. Some of you would have started to work on the exciting activities and projects shared in the World Thinking Day Activity Packs. I urge you to share your stories. Remember that your Association has a weekly page in the online newspaper Barbados Today. Continue to positively influence the social fabric and climate of our nation.

As a Brownie in Jamaica and a Girl Guide here in Barbados, I learned much from guiding. Many character building experiences in Guiding fashioned me into the person I am today. I try my utmost to live the threefold promise I made as a Brownie Guide many years ago and later renewed as a Girl Guide.

I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country, to help other people and to keep the Guide law.

The keeping of this promise fuels my commitment to Guiding – to utilise my talents to love and serve a higher being, my country, and other people, the region and the world.

In whatever way we can as leaders, our aim is to make a difference in the lives of young girls and women so that they may reach their true potential as responsible citizens of the world. As leaders, let that truly be our mission. Let us ensure that at the end of the year the young Guide mentioned earlier, a year older and wiser, sings a different tune one extolling the praises of the experiences and activities of 2013 which serve to shape her life.

As a member of the Western Hemisphere Committee I take this opportunity to thank the Guiders in each section, volunteers who steadfastly deliver the programmes seeking no reward but the smile of the confident girl making a difference in her community. I thank the Commissioners and various Advisors for contributing to the management of this Association soon to celebrate 95 years of Guiding.

May you be blessed with a renewed sense of commitment and dedication as you contribute to the development of the local Girl Guides Association of Barbados and the World Association of Girl Guide and Girl Scouts.

Let the Girl shine forth as an example (not only on the 11th October International Day of the Girl which was first observed in 2012). Let her be the compass needle pointing the way influencing her peers, a light, a beacon, exuding positive energy, empowered and engaging in activities dedicated to the service of the community, advocating on issues which affect her. Our nation can only grow stronger with her efforts.

Kindness first says the Blossom, Lend a hand says the Brownie Guide, Be prepared choruses the Girl Guide – each section of the movement contributing to the greater good.

“Together We Can Save Children’s Lives” and “Every Mother’s Life and Health is Precious”. From today, let us make a promise to do our best to achieve the goals of these themes. The future is in our hands.

In closing, I leave you with the words of Kofi A. Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations:

“Let us be clear about the costs of missing this opportunity: millions of lives that could have been saved will be lost; many freedoms that could have been secured will be denied; and we shall inhabit a more dangerous and unstable world.”

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