When I became a Brownie Leader with Girlguiding at 15 I was expecting seven to nine-year-old children who needed help doing up their shoes but I was wrong. I learnt that these girls are smart, and they are funny. I also learnt just how quickly pressure affects young girls. A Brownie told me she loves fruit drinks, but can't have them anymore because they're 88 calories and that's 'too many'. Another told me she wants to lose weight so boy will think she's beautiful. Some stopped wanting to be doctors because 'that's what boys do'. The self-proclaimed fastest girl in year three almost stopped running when a boy made fun of her. They constantly police themselves because that's what they think is right, and it scared me.
Being a girl is hard. Like, really hard. It's a constant uphill struggle to perfect the balance between too much and too little; narcissistic or proud? Confident or arrogant? It's exhausting and it's unfair.
"I want to be able to ask a question without have to preface it with 'sorry'. I want to look in places of power and think "if she does it, I can do it too". I want to be out with my friends and not feel like I have to keep tabs on where they are and who they're talking too. I want to watch a film with a strong female lead. I want to feel safe. I want to feel valid. I want to feel like I matter.
That is what Girlguiding's Girls Matter project is about. We are the future, and it's important that we're included in decisions directly affecting us. The government needs to make changes where it matters; we have more women in parliament than ever before, but they are still grossly outnumbered. We need our curriculum to accurately reflect issues facing young girls today; body confidence, gender equality and a zero-tolerance approach to sexual bullying and harassment. We need girls to feel empowered, and able to speak out on their opinions on sexism and stereotyping. We want girls' rights to be a priority.
There's an election looming, so now is the time to act. Girls are calling on our elected representatives to make a change for the better. We have thoughts, we have opinions and we deserve to be listened to. Change is within our grasp, and we are asking our government to help us achieve it.
Share your thoughts using #GirlsMatter