by IRENE FOWLER, Guest Blogger
The most common way people give up their
power is by thinking they don’t have any.
– Alice Walker
Good morning everyone and welcome.
As a Director of a private secondary school for girls, in Nigeria, part of my responsibilities included overseeing enriching, character-building extra-curricular programs, beneficial to the holistic development of our students.
One of such programs was a school’s chapter of the National Girl Guides Association, which in turn, falls under the umbrella organization, known as the “World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).” The ubiquitous, voluntary movement, which was founded by Lord Baden-Powell in 1928, is dedicated to girls and young women.
The body represents over 10 million women and girls from 150 countries. The mission of the empowering, female oriented initiative is “to enable girls and young women to develop their fullest potential as responsible citizens of the world.” https://www.wagggs.org/en/
The International character of the WAGGGS is a valuable and significant feature, in the pivotal task, of building bridges accross national, racial, cultural, social and religious divides. Over the several years of my involvement in the sorority, I witnessed the harmony and promise of adolescent girls from varying demographics, as they interacted enthusiastically, happily learning from each other. Teamwork, is a thread that runs through every aspect of local and international guiding.
International summer camps are highly anticipated, cherished events, within the annual calendar of the movement. They provide the perfect and unique environment, for girls to not only discover common ground with international peers, but to celebrate and respect diversity and inclusivity. Bubbly, energetic campers participate in well-organized activities, geared towards engendering self-development, personal responsibility, team building, leadership skills, community service, respect for nature and camaraderie.
The impactful experience, leads to positive, bonding relationships outside of the familiar personal cloisters of the attendees. These fortunate girls serve as eager “ambassadors” of their respective countries at the gatherings. Following which, they become agents of international understanding and cooperation, as they share their rewarding camp experiences, with members of their local communities.
Princess Benedikte II, Royal Aide, and Irene Fowler
It is against this backdrop, that I led a group of excited girl guides from Nigeria, to an international summer camp in Denmark in 2007. According to the UN World Happiness Report, Denmark, ranks second after Finland, on their happiness index. I certainly found the indigenes to be very friendly and trusting – no doubt a reflection of their inner-feelings of equanimity and bonhomie.
A staple, starring, event of international summer camps, is a welcoming reception arranged by the host country for leaders of country delegations. At the “meet and greet,” leaders enjoy the hospitality on offer, whilst engaging collegially with each other, as well as with key members of the camp’s various organizing committees. A highlight of the event is when each guest-country leader, is introduced to local or national dignitaries, present at the formal occasion.
As part of the planning phase of camp preparations, each leader would have received a detailed programme of events and activities, which may or may not include information on v.i.p visitors to the camp. It is customary to present a thoughtful gift that represents and showcases, one’s national culture to such distinguished persons. Therefore, in keeping with the Girl Guide motto – “Be Prepared,” one travels to camp, with a few appropriate options.
As it happened, on the morning of the reception, we were informed that Princess Benedicte ll of Denmark, was expected to join us in her official capacity as national patron of The Green Girl Guides of Denmark. Princess Benedikte, second in line to the throne, is the second daughter and child of King Frederick IX and Queen Ingrid of Denmark. She is the younger sister of the reigning Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II and the older sister of Queen Anne-Marie of Greece. Her birth occurred during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Denmark.
Awareness of the contemporaneous, inauspicious, state of world affairs at the time she was born, likely helped to shape who she is today. Her tireless dedication to female empowerment, and her selfless commitment to fostering understanding, cooperation and peace in the world, speaks for itself.
Princess Benedikte heads the Scout/Guide organization in Denmark with great passion. Equally significant, is her highly noteworthy involvement at the global level of the movement. She is a patron of the Olave Baden Powell Society (OB-PS), a WAGGGS support organization.
On a personal level, I found Princess Benedikte to be kind, affable and down-to-earth. She is unequivocally a universal role model for all youths, especially women and girls, of all backgrounds.
I hope that with the roll-out of a successful global covid vaccine program, international summer camps will resume as soon as possible. The importance of such events cannot be overstated, in light of increasing world polarization and divisive demagoguery, emanating from unscrupulous, autocratic world leaders.
I would counsel leaders engaged in such shameful and abhorrent conduct, to take a leaf from the book of the young WAGGGS summer camp attendees. They admirably exemplify how to build bridges and pursue peace and harmony. The lesson will be a masterclass in decency and responsible leadership.
Welcome Irene and thank you for sharing this story. Programs like this one open up worlds of possibilties for those who participate. I hope that we can get back giving kids these opportunities soon.
Thank you. Our leaders seem to forget that it is today’s youth who will one day wear the mantle of ‘custodians’ of our planet.They demonstrate an alarming lack of vision and good faith on their part.