Besides being the British Monarch, Her Majesty is the head of the Commonwealth of Nations, which includes Botswana. I am reliably informed that Her Majesty the Queen was also an active Girl Guide in her youth and has since remained an avid supporter of the Association worldwide as its patron. This commitment is, in part, reflected in the fact that the Association’s highest award is the Queen's Guide Award. In celebrating the Queen’s birthday we are not only celebrating nine decades in the life of a remarkable person, but in the Girl Guide values that she has consistently espoused in carrying out her public duties. Girl Guiding is, of course, based on a core set of values that are rooted in the Girl Guide Promise and Law, namely that a Guide is: Honest, reliable and can be trusted; Helpful and uses her time and abilities wisely; Faces challenges and learns from her experiences; A good friend and a sister to all Guides; Polite and considerate; and Respects all living things and takes care of the world around her.
It is by acting on these universal values that Girl Guides have for over a century been empowering young women to realize their full potential as responsible citizens by doing their best to others; while acting within their individual faith. It is therefore not surprising to find that so many Girl Guides have gone on to become leading politicians, writers, businesswomen, and scientist. These include, amongst others, prominent personalities such as Hillary Clinton in America, the Canadian astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar and our very own Dr Gaositwe Chiepe. Like the Queen, each of these remarkable women are prominent advocates, as well as benefactors for Girl Guides. As someone who is passionate about the value of non-formal and formal education, I greatly appreciate the fact that the key components of Girl Guiding are premised on the recognition that young people:
Can develop life skills and attitudes based on an integrated value system based on their Promise and Law; Learn from their peer group and through activities and practical programs that are created by young people for young people; Volunteer to join non-formal education organizations that are led also by volunteers that ensure commitment and maximum learning; and Learn by progressive self-development through: Learning by doing, Teamwork though the patrol system and training for responsible leadership, with active cooperation between young people and adults. It is on the basis of this integrated approach to self-development that each Girl Guide has the opportunity to define her own progress and development according to her individual needs and aspirations. As the founder of Girl Guiding (along with the Boy Scouts), Lord Baden-Powell, wrote in 1918: "Our method of training is to educate from within rather than to instruct from without; to offer games and activities which, while being attractive to the girl, will seriously educate her morally, mentally and physically."
In commemorating the 90th birthday of the Girl Guide patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, we are paying tribute to the noble institutions and good causes that she has championed over the decades. Amongst these, none stands out more than the leadership training provided by the Girl Guides. Finally, allow me to end with words of wisdom from the Queen herself that encapsulate what it means to be a girl guide: “I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.”
*Part of Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s address at the Girl Guides event marking her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th Birthday at Thornhill School Hall on Thursday 21 April 2016