//That Time I Organised a Mock General Election at Scouts//

Lately my passion for politics has just come flooding back to me. As you may or amy not know, last year I stuided AS Level Government & Politics, and unexpectedly fell in love with it. Whilst studying for my A Levels this year, I’ve had to push politics to the side and focus on the subjects I’m currently studying, but I think the recent political events in the USA, France and now the UK, my love for politics has returned, as it were.

Today at dinner I was discussing the French election with my family, as you do, and suddenly remembered That Time I Organised a Mock General Election at Scouts™ with my sister. After doing a bit of digging on my old blog, I found the post I’d written about it, so I thought I’d write about it again, because it’s something I’m really proud of (and yet another sign that I was in love with politics without realising??? Seriously for the past few years I’ve been like ‘oh yeah history is my favourite subject and I want to study it at uni’ and somehow completely missed all the signs that I was actually really enthusiastic about politics WELL DONE EM). Funnily enough, I can still remember where the idea came from. Basically at my Explorer Scout group we had to take it in turns in organising the meetings, and as we met on Thursdays, our weekly meeting would fall on the 7th May 2015, which just happened to be polling day for the 2015 General Election. I noticed this when we were at the planning meeting in January to plan the meetings for the months ahead and as our Scout hut is used as the local polling stations, it meant we wouldn’t be able to meet at the hut on that night. it was n’t a problem, because as our leaders said we would just have to meet outside of the hut that night, but it got me thinking. Despite the fact that i wasn’t even studying politics in 2015, and had never studied in school, I remember being really enthused about the General Election, and the fact that our Explorer meeting coincided with polling day was just too good an opportunity to miss in my opinion!

So, I talked to my sister who was also part of my Explorer group, and we came up with the idea of holding a ‘mock’ General Election in which the explorers form their own political parties, come up with a manifesto, present their ideas to the group and then have a secret ballot. So we claimed tha evening as our night to organise and got planning!

As we couldn’t meet at the hut, we decided to meet at the local woods instead (which in hindsight wasn’t The Best™ idea because GNAT BITES ARGHH) and instead of getting the ‘parties’ to right a whole manifesto, we just asked them to come up with policies on the EU, the environment and education. I ended up being part of a party as well, because there was an odd number of Explorers there, and our party was called ‘UK Dependent on Immigration Party’ or ‘UDIP’ for short (political pun intended – I think you can probably guess our politcal standpoint). Overall, the evening went really well! I mean, we came up with some whacky policies that probably would never get us elected, but it was thrilling to feel like we were actually engaging with politics.

The result of the ballot was 6 votes to The Bush Party (don’t ask), 5 votes to UDIP and 1 vote to The Fromage Party. Instead of forming a minority government, The Bush Party opted to form a coalition with The Fromage Party.

I think organising and running this mock election is one of the things I’m most proud of doing in Scouts, because I actually felt like I as helping fellow young people to get involved in politics and to the help them understand more about the way the govenrment works in the UK. Thinking back on it now, I think this could be something I want to go into in the future – educating young people about politics. Whether that be through teaching or campaiging or what, the advocacy of politics in education is something that I’m very passionate about (you can read my post about why politics should be taught in schools here), but we shall see where the future takes me!

//Founders day! 110 years of Scouting//

Today is known as Founder’s Day in the Scouting movement as it’s the birthday of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of Scouting. 2017 also marks 110 years of Scouting! So I thought I’d talk a bit about what Scouting means to me. 🙂

I started scouting in 2007 when I joined Cubs, and left scouting last September as I couldn’t keep up with it as well as starting a-levels, so in total I’ve spent 8 years of my life in Scouts and what an amazing time that’s been! 

One of the most prominent things that comes to mind when thinking about Scouting and what it means to me and for all the millions of other scouts around the world is the word ‘discovery’. 

Obviously, scouting provides a doorway through which we can have access to the outdoor world and explore more about the place where we live but alongside that, it gives young people a safe environment in which to discover ourselves; who we are and how we fit in with the world and society. 

That’s something that I’ve really valued throughout my time in Scouting, because the inclusive atmosphere at my local scout group made feel comfortable enough to be myself and develop as an individual and I’m really grateful that I had this opportunity growing up. It’s definitely helped to shape me as a person and taught me invaluable skills such as communication and respect which are often lost in the hustle-bustle of modern society. Most importantly, it’s given me a more positive outlook on life as I know that even if I’m faced with challenges that seem impossible, there is always away to get through them with perseverance and hard work.

Despite being a girl in a scouting movement that is predominantly – but not exclusively – made up of boys, during my time in scouts I didn’t once feel that I couldn’t – or shouldn’t – do something just because of my gender. The opportunities and experiences scouting gave me were some of the best of my life – from attending Gilwell 24 and being surrounded by thousands of other scouts from around the UK and further a field to hiking up mountains in Austria and volunteering as a Young Leader and helping other young people get the most out of their time in Scouting. However I know that young people in other countries may not have the chance to experience this so I’d like to say that I hope that as the scouting movement grows, it will help young people in countries where society is not equal or inclusive to have some of the experiences I’ve had and be given equal opportunities to discover the world around them and develop as young people, regardless of gender, religion, race or sexual orientation. 

Although I am not currently a member of the scouting movement, I will never forget what it means to me and one day hope to get back into scouting and help young people get the most out of the wonderful association that I love.

//Why I’ve left Scouts…//

It makes me really, genuinely, sad to have to write this. Scouting has been a HUGE part of my life for the past 8 or so years. I never thought I’d voluntarily stop Scouting but here I am, giving it up. 

The truth is, I never really fitted in at Explorer Scouts. I’ve been at my Explorer Scout unit for over two years now and have seen many people come and go yet I never really felt like I fitted in with anyone there. I just couldn’t be myself around those people which is what drove me to leave in the end. I don’t feel as if I fit in anywhere at the moment, not even with my friends and family but that’s another matter.
So I didn’t see the point of carrying on going to Explorer Scouts when I just felt so out of place and couldn’t enjoy myself because of this. I think  it’s a good time to move on from something when you stop enjoying it, or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself since I decided to leave.

Leaving Explorer Scouts, however, means that I also have to stop volinteering with Cub Scouts, which is something I love and am deeply sad about giving it up. I do feel like I’ve gained a lot from the past two years I’ve been volunteering there. I’m more confident in my socialising skills for one thing and I like to think that maybe I helped to make those kids lives a little better and a little happier. I’ll miss them all, especially as I never got to say goodbye, but I’ll always remember them.

I do feel as if a part of me is sort of missing now that Scouting is no longer a part of my life, but I am ready for the challenges that my next adventures bring, whatever they may be, and will always cherish the memories and friends I’ve made over the years. I just need to keep telling myself that I am NOT giving up, I’m just moving on to find something that makes me happier, and that’s okay. 🙂

//Scouting for girls, scouting for all//

Today I read an article summarising the 2016 UK Scouting census which was full of statistics – some which made me very proud to be a member of such an inclusive youth movement, and others which made me realise there is still a long way to go before Scouting around the world is fully inclusive.

This year marks the 25 anniversary of girls being accepted and welcomed in to all sections of Scouting, for all age groups. 25 years is a relatively short amount of time compared to the 109 years that Scouting has been running in total. For just under a quarter of the Scouting movement’s lifetime, girls like me have been allowed to explore the outdoors, enjoy thrilling adventures and most importantly have fun with other youngsters whilst boys have been able to do so for 109 years.

Although 25 years of girls in Scouting is a very important and exciting milestone to have reached, it does disappoint me a little that it wasn’t until 84 years after Lord Baden-Powell hosted the first ever Scout camp on Brownsea Island and therefore created the Scouting movement, that girls were given the same amazing opportunities that Scouting has to offer as boys had nation-wide.

Despite this, I do feel very lucky and honored to be a representative 25% of the Scouting movement in the UK on this blog. Although I do wish the percentage of females in Scouting was higher, I’m sure, over the years, this figure will continue to grow and I want to be a part of that.

Over my 8 years in Scouting, I have seen the number of girls in my group steadily grow. When I first started in Cubs in 2007 – which was, coincidentally, the 100th year of Scouting – I was one of two girls in a Cub pack of around 30. A few years later when I moved up to Scouts, there were probably around 5 girls at any one time. Now I am an Explorer scout and am proud to say that my Explorer unit has a healthy, almost equal, balance of girls and boys.

Scouting has been such a life-changing experience for me –  I have grown in confidence, for a start, but I have also experienced so many extraordinary things that outside of Scouting I could never have dreamed of participating in and achieving .

For example: I have been white water rafting in the rapids of an Austria river, I have zip-lined over a ravine despite my fear of heights, I have led a group on a 10 mile hike in the middle of the night, map reading as well as completing various challenges along the way, I have learnt valuable skills such as first aid and fire safety, I have attended a national camp with over 7,000 participants from around the UK, I have visited the birthplace of Scouting – Brownsea Island, I have been on more muddy, wet, cold Scout camps than I can count on my fingers yet all these memories make me beam with happiness at as I remember them. I have done so much in Scouting that I never thought I could ever and would ever do, however there is still so much more I could do to ensure other girls and young people get to have opportunities like these and memories to last a lifetime.

That is why I’m blogging about Scouting, to get the word out that ‘Scouting is for girls and Scouting is for all’. That’s also why I have been a Young Leader at a Cub pack for 2 years now, to show the next generation of young people what Scouting is all about and to inspire more youngsters to join the adventure. As my Explorer leader said to me a few weeks ago – ‘people like you are the future of Scouting’. In the next 5, 10, 15 years it is going to be young people like me who already help to run and organise Scouting on a small scale, volunteering our free time despite having to study for exams and complete vast amounts of school work, to help youngsters get everything out of Scouting that I did when I was their age. It is going to be us that are going to be the face of Scouting in the years to come, adding to the already 115,000 strong network of adult volunteers in the UK. It’s my way of giving back to Scouting, for saying ‘thank you’ for everything it has helped me achieve and for making me the person I am today.

However, despite the fact that UK now has 573,000 members in the UK alone, it has been estimated that as much as 50% or more of the British population do not know that girls are welcomed into Scouting, and we need to change this.We need to spread the message that Scouting is for all.

Although in the UK I am able to be a Scout, in other countries around the world girls don’t have the same opportunity as I have to take part in Scouting and it’s not just girls either – in some other countries, youngsters are prevented from joining Scouting because of not just their gender but their sexuality, their race, their religion…the list goes on. Although I would love to see the day when the proportion of female Scouts in the UK equals or even beats that of males, even more so would I love to see the day that all youngsters around the world have the chance to be involved in such a wonderful movement.

Yes, Scouting in the UK is inclusive, and we are very lucky to have that, but Scouting around the world at the moment isn’t entirely inclusive. Not only do we need to spread the message within the UK that Scouting is for girls too, we need to do so in every country around the world. Scouting isn’t and shouldn’t be a gender specific youth movement in any country and in order to move towards a more equal society, we need to spread this message. Even if you are not or have not been involved in Scouting yourself, even if you don’t know anything about Scouting whatsoever, I hope that you will take away from this post that Scouting is for all and understand why it is so important to me and many others that this message is spread across the world so that Scouting isn’t known as ‘a youth movement for adventurous boys’ but ‘a youth movement for adventurous young people’.

//And I care what people think//

Being part of the blogosphere has been amazing and I can’t belive it’s taken me almost a whole year to realise what a bunch of inspirational people you guys are. You guys are not afraid to share your opinion, to get your voice heard. Not afraid of what others may think. Not like me, anyway. Well, through blogging I do try to do those things, to not ‘care’ about what people think, but in the back of my mind I guess I’m constantly thinking that someone is going to take offence at my opinions or criticise me. Even though I know how lovely you giys are, I still keep thinking that. But not any longer.

For too long I’ve been holding myself back for fear of being judged. There are so many things I’ve stopped myself doing just because I’m worried people will laugh at me and make fun of me.

I don’t want to be that person anymore. I don’t want to be that person who just shows up and blends in – I want to be an inspiration to others and the only way of doing that is to stop caring what others think of me.

For example I volunteer at Cub Scouts once a week and have done so for the past two years but I seem to avoid every opportunity I have there to put myself forward (mainly because I like tobe organised and mentally prepared before hand, not just thrown in to stuff on the spot). However, I’m fed up of this. Scouting is meant to be and has always been fun for me but lately I’ve been to busy worrying about the impression I give if myself than actually enjoying myself. I mean, who cares if I make a fool of myself by stuttering when I speak when I’m put on the spot? They’ll probably forget about it in about 10 minutes anyway.

I’m fed up of feeling like I have to told how to do everything instead of using my instinct for fear of getting it wrong. I want to be indepedent so I need to stop caring what people think.

I want to make a difference to the kids who come to Cubs lives, I want to be an inspiration ti them but quite frankly I am nothing more than someone who just lurks in the background at the moment.

My mum, for instance, is a huge inspiration for me. She, like me, is quiet and reserved yet she made the decision a few years ago to take over complete responsibility for the Cub pack because it was at risk of closing due to lack of leaders. Since then, she has never failed to run a Cub Scout meeting – even if she is ill, she has sorted out all of the Cub’s badge records which were in a mess, she has recruifed two new leaders, orgainsed camps and sleepovers, run lots of activities and, most importantly, interacted and got to know the kids very well.

She is truly my inspiration. Although she is shy and quiet like me, she has good self confidence and has complete respect from every single one of the Cubs.

My mum is my role model, so I hope one day I can be a role model to the young people too.

But first, I need to stop caring what people think – whether it is people at school, strangers in the street or people in Scouting. None of their opinions matter as long as I stay true to who I am and am proud of what I do.

Right, starting now, I no longer care what anyone thinks of me and the things I love.
🙂

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//I am female too//

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Just because I love the outdoors,
With it’s hilltops and coastlines and woodlands and moors,
And I love the fresh air and the blue sunny skies,
Especially the clouds that silently drift on by,
Doesn’t mean I not female.

Just because I love being a scout,
With our campfires and hiking and laughing about,
And I always go camping in rain, snow or sun,
Because I love being outdoors and having lots of fun,
Doesn’t mean I’m not female.

Just because I’d rather stay at home watching Doctor Who,
Than go out shopping or partying with strangers like you,
And because I love Harry Potter with all of my heart,
And from these beloved fandoms I never want to part,
Doesn’t mean I’m not female.

Just because I spend my time reading historical fiction,
And painting model airplanes to fit accurate descriptions,
And I love learning about battles and wars,
Despite all of the murder, violence and gore,
Doesn’t mean I’m not female.

Just because I’d rather be playing tennis or cricket,
And would die to have a twenty one pilots concert ticket,
And I spend my summer holidays supporting my local sports teams,
Becuase I’ll only ever be able to join them in my dreams,
Doesn’t mean I’m not female.

Just because I hardly ever wear skirts or dresses,
And live in jeans, hoodies and converses,
And because I’m not afraid of what others think I look like,
When I wear sporty clothes when I go cycling on my bike,
Doesn’t mean I’m not female.

Just because I don’t bother applying loads of make up,
On to my face as soon as I wake up,
And I don’t bother straightening my wavy, messy hair,
Because I like it the way it is and I really don’t care,
Doesn’t mean I’m not female.

Just because I’m not your typical teenage girl,
And I like to be different to the rest of the world,
And I don’t fit these stereotypes which will never go away,
Because from these restrictions I dared to stray,
And stand out from the crowd and be unique,
Because I don’t want to be part of this type of clique,
Doesn’t mean I am not female.

Em. 🙂