In July, girls from 79 countries and 89 U.S. councils met in Chicago to address the world's most urgent challenges. Using their well-honed leadership skills, girls devised systems to help end poverty and hunger. They also focused on ways to empower women and promote gender equity. And, tapping into their passion for environmental issues, girls worked to ensure environmental sustainability. The selected attendees, ages 14 to 18, hope to motivate and inspire a global sisterhood of girls their age. From July 11-17, 2012, Girl Scouts Raydijah and Caitlyn and Girl Scouts alumna Shedaria represented our Council at the forum. Below is an interview with Raydijah and Caitlyn about their experience!
Why did you decide to accept the nomination to attend the Girls’ World Forum (GWF)?
Raydijah: I accepted the nomination because I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to meet people and learn about other cultures.
Caitlyn: I was honored to be nominated. I thought it would be an once-in-a-lifetime experience to be exposed to so many different people and cultures.
What did you do to prepare for the GWF?
Raydijah: I looked at my community and saw what was wrong and I looked at the Millennium Development Goals we would be discussing…and I also did my pre-work required by Girl Scouts of the USA, of course.
Caitlyn: I did look up the Millennium Development Goals. For me, it was different because I just turned 14 and it was one of the first times I was looking at global issues, so I tried to get informed so I had some knowledge before I went. I also researched WAGGGS.
(The delegation also had three meetings and attended a special tea with Board Member Lillian Walby to learn more about the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.)
Raydijah: It was to focus on three Millennium Development Goals that are big issues for Girl Scouts and teach girls about other countries and their problems with the same goals.
Caitlyn: It was a lot of things. It was a centenary celebration. It was a gathering of girls from all over the world to become educated about issues they might not necessarily see in their community, and to get realistic solutions as to how they could help in their community.
Raydijah & Caitlyn also described that the forum had lots of different sessions: plenary sessions with keynote speakers, breakout sessions with small groups, and different sessions for the education of the problems, solutions for the problems, and leadership, self-esteem and advocacy skill-building.
What did you learn at the GWF?
Caitlyn: I just learned so much about how even though we’re on the other side of the world, we do have a lot of similarities, but at the same time, there is a lot of stuff I had no idea that’s going on in other countries. I made really good friends with a girl from Hong Kong and we were talking about gender equality. We were talking about the problems in our community. I was telling her that here women get paid 30% less than men, but she told me that in Hong Kong, it’s actually reversed. Men don’t get into universities and they don’t get jobs as easily as women. She was shocked to learn that the U.S.’s situation is so different.
Raydijah: I learned so much I can’t even put it all into words but one big thing I learned is how similar and how different we are from girls in other countries. For example, there was a girl from Malaysia there. Where she’s from, girls are not allowed to drive and they aren’t allowed out of the house without a male figure as opposed to the Cook Islands, where everyone is equal no matter what you are, no matter what, everyone is equal. I want to go there SO BAD, you don’t understand! J
Who did you meet at the GWF?
Caitlyn: There was this girl from New Zealand and her accent was cooler than British and Australian combined. All these girls are like so smart, and they’re so passionate about these issues. Like, Raydijah got close to one girl in particular, but I met a lot of people from New Zealand, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Korea, Malaysia, the Maldives, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
Raydijah: I particularly close to one girl from the Cook Islands. I don’t want to brag about her, but she was the most amazing person I ever met. She was so sweet and welcoming. I met people from everywhere, Thailand, Namibia, Cincinnati, Miramar, Japan, Dominica, Curacao, and London (can’t leave out London! We called the girl from London Fergie).
What did you do at the GWF?
Caitlyn: First of all, we had six sessions, one for each Millennium Development Goal, so we had sessions educating us about the issues and we had what we could do to make a difference. We had reflection sessions with our chaperone Shedaria, we had keynote speakers, and we had people coming to teach us skill-building to help us take out our Take Action plans. We did a lot of stuff. There wasn’t an average day. We went on different trips around Chicago. They were called Take Action Days. We did very different things. I planted grass.We were busy in every sense of the word.
Raydijah: A better question would be what we didn’t we do! (In addition to what Caitlyn mentioned)… we went on different field trips in the environment, like to the zoo. I also walked around a recycled building that has a garden. We went on the rooftop and looked at the solar panels. There were night activities too. One night activity was International Night where we got to learn about other cultures. We went on a double-decker bus tour to see Chicago. There were at least three sessions in a day. You got about two or three short breaks. Most days, we were in a very small room with a lot of other girls. There were various activities and work. We had a lot of work.
What did you enjoy about the GWF?
Caitlyn: Everything! As hectic and cramped as the schedule was, looking back it was probably the only experience I’ll have to meet so many people from all over the world in the matter of a week and gain so much knowledge.
Raydijah: I loved meeting people from everywhere and hearing their language and hearing what they like to do back home for fun and telling them what Miami’s like. Everyone’s heard of Miami.
What was challenging about your trip to the GWF?
Caitlyn: For, that would be the schedule and being away from home. This was my first big trip away from home, and it was a week. And just being exhausted every day. But, it was definitely worth it.
Raydijah: Although I’ve been away from home before, being away from my mom was probably the hardest thing, because you just need that love that you’re used to. But now that I’m back home, I definitely think all my heartache was worthwhile because that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Caitlyn: Shedaria was such an awesome chaperone. She let us have enough freedom to where we could go shopping or go to the Navy Pier but she always made sure that we got to where we needed to be. For me, one morning I started to feel really dizzy and had to miss some sessions. She stayed with me the entire time and made sure I was drinking my Gatorade to get my electrolytes back up. And she also really helped us brainstorm a lot about our Take Action project.
Raydijah: Shedaria was absolutely amazing. She was the perfect person because she’s around our age so we can relate to her but she can also be an authority figure. She allowed us our freedom like Caitlyn said but she always made sure she knew where we were and if we were okay.
What is the Take Action project you’ll be doing all about?
Caitlyn: We noticed that in the Chicago airport there are recycling bins everywhere but in the Miami International Airport there is no recycling. I think if it’s convenient for people to recycle, they will. We decided to focus on Millennium DG #7 which is environmental sustainability. My understanding is that we will start at the camp level with the Forever Green program and try to implement it even further throughout council, and then we will branch out into other places in the community, either together or apart. My idea for camp and council is for FPL to do a free energy efficiency evaluation. They will tell us what to do to make the office more energy efficient. We can try to get donors to get us the right light bulbs, replace paper towels with hand dryers, and renovate the office to become greener.
Raydijah: I want to do a beach clean-up. Hopefully we can make it a few days out of the year that are beach clean-up days. And another thing we are looking at is getting recycling bins at council and at the airport. We want to inform people about what recycling could do in our community.
The girls also want to focus on Millennium Development Goal #7 (environmental sustainability) in their planned Gold Award projects.
Do you think it’s important for our council to participate in other WWAGGGS gatherings in the future? Why/not?
Caitlyn: Definitely. They are such a huge organization and they can provide many opportunities for the council. They are huge. They have so much going on. They can do more than our council can do by itself.
Raydijah: Yes, because they’re a great organization with so much to offer and they would be good to include in our projects because they can help branch our projects further out into the world.
Raydijah: I want to thank the people who nominated me. Also I want to thank Ms. Shedaria Deleveaux for being the chaperone, she’s amazing. I want to thank Ms. Julia Onnie-Hay (Director of Programs) for preparing us to go to the Forum.
Caitlyn: I just have a lot of people to thank. Basically everyone at council: Ms. Beverly Jones, Ms. Julia Onnie-Hay (Director of Programs), Ms. Shedaria Deleveaux, everybody for constantly asking me how the trip was going, and I was just so honored to be nominated in the first place, and it was such an amazing experience, and thank you, everybody.