Girlguiding says ‘sorry that we’ve not done enough sooner’ in response to racism findings

Girlguiding is blighted by racism and discrimination, an investigation by the charity has found.

The charity carried out a diversity and inclusion audit with more than 200 people within its organisation, including girls, parents, carers, staff and volunteers.

This found “equality, diversity and inclusion problems” across the charity.

Most of those that took part said the charity was not an inclusive organisation and exclusion.

Girls from marginalised communities are excluded, based on religion, race, sexuality and disability, said a report into the audit’s findings.

The charity’s rangers, who are aged 14-18, “stated reoccurring instances of racism, Islamophobia, homo/bi/transphobia and ableism against girls by leaders and other girls”, the audit says.

It adds: “Volunteers and rangers said that there is a lack of understanding when it comes to accessibility needs and how to best support disabled rangers.”

In addition, the charity is described by those interviewed for the audit as “predominantly white and middle class”.

“Participants reported a lack of diversity at all levels of the organisation, but particularly in senior leadership,” the audit found.

“Marginalised participants said that there is a lack of inclusive decision-making and that their voices are often unheard.”

The lack of diversity among leadership at the charity leads to a “lack of role models” and poor levels of trust in the charity’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, said the audit.

Fears are raised by those surveyed that diversity commitments “might only be ‘lip service’ or a tick box exercise”.

It adds: “This was echoed by volunteers, who said that the same people get encouraged to be commissioners.”

People of colour, LGBT and disabled Rangers cited a lack of encouragement “to become young leaders”.

Recommendations made include ensuring that there is a “zero tolerance approach to oppressive behaviour from volunteers and girls”.

The charity needs to “develop a clear strategy that has one overarching EDI vision for membership and staff”.

This needs to have “united buy-in and endorsement” from trustees and senior leadership, among both staff and volunteers.

“This is essential for successful buy-in from the whole organisation,” adds the audit.

In addition, a plan to develop and maintain diverse leadership needs to be put in place along with fast tracking the progress of underrepresented groups.

Strategic plan for diversity and inclusion

The charity has pledged to take action through a strategic plan for diversity and inclusion.

“We are sorry to anyone who has ever been made to feel unwelcome, unsupported or uncomfortable or who has been subject to discrimination or exclusion of any form at Girlguiding. Even one instance is one too many,” said the charity.

“To move forward, we need to collectively and individually acknowledge that we've not yet lived up to our values of inclusion. We’re sorry that we’ve not done enough sooner.”

The strategic plan focuses on measures to change the charity’s culture through measures such as recruiting a network of ‘volunteer inclusion advisers’.

It also includes measures around checking data around membership demographics to set targets and track progress.

More collaboration and better communication is also promised. This includes reviewing the charity’s history.

“Being an inclusive and impactful organisation is one of our key strategic goals, said Girlguiding chair Catherine Irwin.

Writing in the audit report she said: “We want to become more inclusive to be more relevant and accessible to more girls and volunteers and have a greater diversity of girls benefitting from the best of what guiding can offer.

“We knew from our existing research and project data that we had more work to do to be the inclusive, welcoming organisation we aspire to be. A diversity and inclusion audit was commissioned in 2020 to help us understand how to build on the good work that many in our guiding community have already started and to show us the gaps.

“This report summarises the experiences of over 200 members of the guiding community through a series of confidential interviews, focus groups and an anonymised survey, including staff from Girlguiding UK sites, young and adult members, and parents and carers from across the UK.

“We especially made space for people from marginalised groups who haven’t been fully included or represented in the past

“The voices in this report paint a very clear picture of where we’re getting it wrong.”

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