GirlGuiding UK--the largest organization for girls in the UK, with more than half a million members--recently conducted a survey of more than 1,000 Senior Guides (age 16 to 25) to find out what skills they most wanted to master as part of their Guide experience.
The results? The Girl Guides' top concerns were money management (named by 93 percent of Guides), learning to perform CPR (named by 85 percent), and practicing safe sex (named by 80 percent.) Also on the Guides’ agenda: Producing a high-quality resume (66 percent) and learning to assemble flat-pack furniture (55 percent).
Leaders of the Girl Guides have said they plan to use the information to help make the organization “more relevant” to modern teenagers and prepare them for adult life in a world where women may have many sex partners during their lifetimes and no longer rely on men for financial security.
The British and international media have reacted with some astonishment to the news that the Girl Guides were interested in activities so out of step with the Guides' traditional mission, which centered, according to the Guardian, on spending "carefree days striving to achieve badges for keeping an orderly house and stamp collecting." But I say: Good for them. The days of expressing shock that teenagers would even think about having sex should be long over, and with them, the days of attempting to fit girls into the box of traditional gender roles. So what if girls want to replace lessons in sewing, baking, and darning their tights with workshops on HIV prevention, acing a job interview, and putting together perplexing shelving units from IKEA? The Guides of 100 years ago received badges for milking cows and ironing clothes; their lessons were as irrelevant to the girls of 50 years ago as housecleaning lessons are to those alive today.
As nations around the world adopt the United States’ spectacularly flawed (and failing) “abstinence-only” approach to sex education, alternatives to publicly financed health classes are badly needed. Even in Britain, where attitudes toward sex education are considerably more enlightened than in the US, the abstinence-until-marriage debate is raging (witness the recent uproar over a British schoolgirl who wanted to wear a “purity ring” signifying her chastity, defiance of rules prohibiting religious paraphernalia in the schools), making the wide availability of medically accurate sex information more vital than ever before.
I love british girls. If I could only talk to one.