Dear Girlguiding Movement
It was February 1980. I can still smell the candles Brown Owl had placed round the mirror on the floor of the church hall. Hear the rain and wind outside, feel the rub of the starched collar of my new dress.
This was to be the first time that year I would adjust my brown bobble hat in nervous excited anticipation. (The second was waiting to sit on Jimmy Savile's knee on a pack visit to Stoke Mandeville hospital. Thankfully, I can only vaguely remember his loose tracksuit bottoms)
But the sense of pride, belonging and self esteem I felt for the first time in my life aged seven that wet winter evening will never leave me.
I was about to make my promise to you, the Girlguiding movement.
I can still recite it now. 33 years on.
I promise that I will DO MY BEST, and do my duty to god. To serve the Queen, to HELP OTHER PEOPLE, and to keep the Brownie Guide law.
You are right, Girlguiding. The promise is really important. It was to me. Not the god bit. But DOING YOUR BEST & HELPING OTHER PEOPLE.
That's why I was over the moon earlier this year when you consulted with over 44,000 people from all walks of life to change it (I was one of them.)
The promise to "love my God" is to be scrapped and replaced with to "be true to myself" and to "develop my beliefs".
It's that god bit, you see. Some of us have a problem with it. And we don't want to lie, not be true to ourselves. In fact, according to the latest census - rather a lot of us in the UK don't believe. 24.7% with no religion, and a further 7.2% with no stated religion.
That's an awful lot of girls who may have felt excluded before (as my daughters have done previously).
You can HELP them now. DO YOUR BEST to build their self esteem and sense of pride in achievement, belonging & self development.
With exposure to lads mags, easy internet porn & an ever increasing focus on appearance & photo shopped imagery to build role models & sense of self, you are needed more than ever. You know this. Well done on your 'No More Page 3' fight, by the way.
So, thank you. It made me want to come back & volunteer. Like my friend Jem Henderson in my hometown of Harrogate did recently. But that backfired on her, didn't it?
Leaders here in Harrogate are REFUSING to be inclusive & adopt the new promise, despite your insistence there will be no variation. Digging their heels in & making GirlGuiding unwelcome for many of us who don't believe.
They are even backed by the former Bishop of Rochester, The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, who is calling on other guide leaders to follow suit. Back off, Rev. It's none of your business. Girls can't even be bishops so you have no say in this. And Girlguiding is not about Christianity.
You state that Girlguiding is about:-
"giving girls and young women a space where they can be themselves, have fun, build brilliant friendships, gain valuable life skills and make a positive difference to their lives and their communities. We build girls' confidence and raise their aspirations. We give them the chance to discover their full potential and encourage them to be a powerful force for good."
Discriminating against over 30% of girls in the UK with no faith or stated religion doesn't echo the above. You are NOT being a powerful force for good.
And if you allow these rogue leaders to keep on using the old promise - you have forgotten yours. Remember when you took it, as I do, like yesterday.
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF. HELP OTHER PEOPLE. You are needed more than ever.