This month's Global Conversation focuses on equality, and this topic couldn't come at a more appropriate time.
Girlguiding UK's 2012 Girls' Attitudes Explored Survey highlighted that 55% of girls aged 11-21 in the UK believe there aren't enough female role models. Girls interviewed for this survey struggled to name sportswomen as role models. Sports coverage in the UK does seem to focus on men, and it's very rare for coverage to focus solely on women's teams, so this shouldn't be a surprise. I was, however, surprised by this quote: ‘I can name guys – Ronaldo…’ ‘Kelly Holmes. Usain Bolt…’ ‘David Beckham.’ Kelly Holmes is such successful female athlete that in 2005 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her achievements. Do girls today actually know who Dame Kelly Holmes is? Or is the assumption that, because Kelly Holmes is so successful, she is male?
I've been really inspired this summer by both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I've never been particularly interested in sport, so have surprised myself by becoming a little bit obsessed with games I didn't even know existed (wheelchair basketball anyone?!).
My inspiring stories haven't necessarily been the big stories that were picked up by the media or shown all over the tv coverage (although Ellie Simmonds winning gold in the S6 400m freestyle and smashing the world record by over 5 seconds did leave me, and probably most of the UK, sobbing!) Instead, my inspiration has come from the individuals who have challenged people's expectations.
Particularly memorable are Sarah Attar, the 19 year old 800m runner, and Wodjan Shaherkani, the 16 year old judoka. These two women made history this year by being the first women from Saudi Arabia to be allowed to compete at the Olympic Games. Within their country these two women are by no means seen as equal to the male athletes, and have been the subject of a lot of controversy in Saudi media. It doesn't matter that Sarah finished her race 43 seconds behind the heat winner, or that Wodjan didn't make it past the first round. The fact that these young women were given the opportunity to compete in London shows a strength and determination that should be applauded.
To me, equality isn't about treating everyone the same. Everyone is different. If we weren't different the world would be a really boring place. It's important to recognise those differences, and, for me, that's where equality really comes into play. Equality should be about recognising diversity and enabling everyone to have access to the same opportunities.
We need to be doing more in the UK to introduce girls and young women to role models from across all walks of life. I am so proud to be a member of an organisation which supports and encourages girls and young women to be who they want to be. As a Leader, I should be doing my best to act as a role model for my Brownies and showing that, no matter who you are, you can achieve amazing things. I hope that, following the success of Team GB in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, these young women can begin to recognise the significance of women's participation in 2012.
“Just because an animal is large, it doesn't mean he doesn't want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo”
You just can't argue with Winnie the Pooh!
PS Check out Girlguiding UK’s inspiring Real Role Models here.