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Girls Empowering Girls

A girl-driven approach to gender equity

Preface on language use

“Gender equality” versus “gender equity”

This paper intentionally uses the terms “gender equity” and “gender equality” in different places for specific reasons. Generally speaking, “equality” refers to giving different groups of people access to the same opportunities in equal proportions. Efforts to realize gender equality usually involve ensuring women and girls have the same opportunities and representation as men and boys. For example, achieving equal representation for women and men among elected officials or on corporate boards is an excellent step toward advancing women’s empowerment in Canadian society. However, striving solely for equality may not reflect the fact that individuals or groups of people may face systemic barriers, meaning that even with access to the same opportunities, their experiences and outcomes may differ.

On the other hand, equity is about removing the systemic barriers that marginalized groups face, so that everyone can achieve equitable outcomes. Rather than simply providing equality in access to opportunities, an equity-focused approach starts by acknowledging that different groups of people have different experiences and therefore different starting points in society, and as a result must be treated differently in order to achieve true, substantive equality – equality in substance, not just in name. When we talk about gender equity, we talk about a society in which girls and women not only occupy an equal number of seats at the table, but one where they may access these seats without facing harmful stereotypes about their abilities as women and girls; where they may participate without being subjected to gender-based harassment and violence; and where the intersectionality of their experiences – based on race, class, ability, sexual orientation and more – is accounted for, likely through gender-based supports that address the specific barriers facing girls and women.

In many ways, the Girl Guide movement’s own story is one that started with a demand for gender equality: in 1909, girls in England demanded to take part in a Boy Scouts rally organized by Lord Baden-Powell at the Crystal Palace in London. Baden-Powell was impressed and asked his sister, Agnes, to create a program just for girls. This was the beginning of the Guiding movement, with its early days being characterized by girls advocating for access to the same opportunities afforded to boys – in essence, gender equality.

However, as described in this report, despite efforts and progress towards achieving gender equality, gendered inequalities and gendered inequities persist through the prevalence of harmful gendered norms and stereotypes. As such, today, Girl Guides of Canada’s approach is one that strives for gender equity – ultimately a more ambitious goal, in which systemic changes empower every girl to truly be everything she wants to be.

“Girls and women”

Girl Guides of Canada (GGC) is a membership organization for girls and women to meet in a safe, inclusive space to explore what matters to them. GGC recognizes and values the richness of human diversity in its many forms, and therefore strives to ensure environments where girls and women from all walks of life, identities, and lived experiences feel a sense of belonging and can participate fully. As such, persons who identify as girls and women are welcome to join GGC, including transgender girls and women. Throughout this report, all references to “girls and women” refer to individuals who identify as girls and women, regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth.

For this reason, the term female has intentionally not been used in this paper, unless used in a direct quote or statistic. Female is commonly used as a biological term referring to an individual’s sex, and can be considered exclusionary to transgender girls and women.

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