Girl Scout Delegate Guest Blog with Lillian Hogan!
We are overjoyed and incredibly proud to share with everyone this insightful, moving and important post from GSSNE Girl Scout Delegate Lillian Hogan. Lillian was one of four young women in our council selected by GSUSA to represent our organization at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York City this past March.
We encourage you to read about Lillian's experience as a Girl Scout and her time as a Delegate last month.
Eleven years ago, I began my career as a Girl Scout. I was five years old and full of excitement, energy, and the overwhelming desire to become one of the sellers of the ever loved Girl Scout cookies. When I was twelve years old, in sixth grade and a Cadette in Girl Scouts, I looked out at the world for the first time. The news was more than just my parents’ nightly programming, and I was starting to understand that my life and experiences weren’t universal. So as I looked out at the world, what I saw was that the education that I took for granted, and had begun to blame for a recurring amount of sleep deprivation, was an aspect of my everyday life that countless numbers of girls globally did not have the ability to obtain. As I looked further, I saw the inequalities that girls faced globally, not just in education, but in everyday life. I was still, by definition of my society, a child, but at twelve years old, I began to see the world. It was then that I decided that in addition to being a student, a Girl Scout, and a young woman, I was a feminist and a member of an unsung global collection of individuals who believed that gender should not define treatment or opportunity.
At sixteen years old, more than two thirds of my life have been spent as a member of Girl Scouts. I have been shaped by my experiences surrounding the world of Girl Guides, so it was no surprise when my five year old self grew up to be a feminist. Since age five, Girl Scouts has made given me business and marketing skills, camping and survival training, and a space where I can flourish uninhibited by societal norms and expectations. Now, as a sophomore in high school, I never imagined I would have been in New York City, staring up at the 193 flags flying high at the United Nations Headquarters as I entered the building as a delegate. Girl Scouts granted me that opportunity. At the 61st Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held for two weeks in March 2017, I spent six days at the United Nations representing the Girl Scout delegation.
Throughout the Commission, delegates attended a variety of sessions ranging from the use of technology in education to the preventative steps necessary to end human trafficking. Each session is typically run by a participating Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), UN faction, country, or a combination of any number of those representative bodies. Of the six days I spent at CSW attending sessions, I sat in on a multitude of forums that spoke on issues that affect women globally. Not only did this grant me the opportunity to learn more about the world I lived in, but it also allowed me to meet individuals from all over the globe. I heard their stories, their inspirations, and their struggles and for the first time, I was able to see first-hand the resounding effects of the harsh and differing treatment of women worldwide.
As my days at the UN began to approach an end, I was left with important questions. How could it be that of the 51% of the global population that women make up, we have historically and consistently been faced with discrimination and oppression? How could it be that in a modern era women of color, women with different ability, LGBTI women, indigenous women, womankind overall, are still socially, politically, and economically unequal?
The both overwhelming and underwhelming answer I have come to find is that we have allowed the formation of society to be built on the subjugation of women. Within this society, we have shaped and formed a culture where leaving behind certain members normalized. We have created an idea that there can be a “lesser” in terms of people. In the Girl Scout Law, we are taught to do our best to “make the world a better place”, and I have carried this lesson with me through life. There is no lesser person, and there should be no unspoken societal code of conduct to warrant unfair treatment to anyone.
One of my favorite events that I attended at the Commission was the Youth CSW Conference. It was at this event that I was able to connect with young adults around the same age as me from across the world, and discussed issues that affected us differently, and issues we all faced globally. Issues of women's rights are different for girls and young women. For the majority of the Commission, issues that girls faced and the way issues affected girls specifically, were barely discussed.
From birth, children are altered by gender roles, assumptions, and unequal treatment that will shape them in their years leading to adulthood. Young girls, specifically, are among the most vulnerable group of people globally. It is often the young girls that are left forgotten, or taken advantage of. The Commission on the Status of Women did a wonderful job addressing the issues that face women, and creating a platform where these issues can be discussed and challenged. However, the lack of focus on girls’ issues raises the question: where are the advocates for the youth?
I have found that this is usually an answer that is made overcomplicated. The simple answer is that youth advocates are everywhere. The Girl Scouts, this year's GSUSA Delegates, I myself, prove that youth advocates are everywhere. They are the unheralded victors of change, and hopefully someday soon they too will be given a spot on a global initiative for change.
Around the world, girls constantly face challenges in education, health, social status, job availability, just treatment, economic independence, and countless more factors that will shape how they view the world and how the world views them. There are countless issues that girls alone face. The world is changing, and this generation and the coming generations are more than prepared to shape it to a world where equality is not an aspiration, but a guarantee.
Since I was selected as a delegate I have been welcomed at the Rhode Island State House, granted a temporary spot at the United Nations, and given a platform from where I can openly and fully discuss the inequalities women and girls face every day. I attended a ceremony to congratulate the Princess Sabika bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain for her achievement in being this year's recipient of the Global Award for Women. I saw the Secretary General of the United Nations speak. But above all, I learned the importance of individual and global advocacy.
As long as there are still believers in the subjugation of women out in the world, there will be no equality. I therefore urge everyone to look out at the world we live in. There is more to feminism than just the challenges we see in the United States. Intersectionality requires that leaving no one behind includes all aspects of humanity. Feminism is for everybody, and so long as there is a voice pushing for change, there is a change to be made.
~Lillian Hogan, age 16, South Kingstown, RI