Amid the ongoing civil war in Syria, groups of Girl Guides are continuing to meet to bring a sense of normality and hope to young women.
Girl Guide and Girl Scout meetings have been held in Syria since the 1950s. You may know that the movement started in the UK way back in 1909, launching an all-female version of the Boy Scouts. (It was about time us girls got a look in!)
And despite the horrors of the war in Syria, the extremist groups and warring factions weren’t going to stop a strong group of young women from doing their thing now were they?
And quite incredibly, given the situation in Syria, The Syrian Girl Guides have just been granted full membership of the movement’s worldwide body this week. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts made the move, praising their work to provide “a safe space to play and make friends”.
The Syrian Girl Guides now has more than 1,000 members.
One of them is 22-year-old Sham, who lives in Damascus. Reflecting on the devastating six-year civil war in her country, she says, “it’s made me stronger and helped me realise what I want to do in life. I know now that studying is the key to everything. Girl Guides has helped me no end and it’s one of the reasons I consider myself successful.
“I am a part of the efforts of rebuilding Syria because I am a leader in the Scout movement.”
Women have been oppressed in Syria under the brutal regime of terror groups, including Daesh (ISIS). Seeing them unite, despite the divisions in the country and the restrictions faced when trying to organise group activities, is inspiring.
And considering the faith-based wars happening in Syria, the Girl Guides is a multi-religion organisation, welcoming all.
“The Guides and Scouts is a movement that is not political,” says Sham. “It is for the country. It is for Syria … We never talk about politics. It’s open for everyone. Christians, Muslims, everyone.”
Sham, and her fellow Girl Guides, are living proof that women are resilient and will defy all odds, even when faced with war. We cannot forget the importance of women to rally together and encourage each other in moments of difficulty and instability.
Sham sums it up perfectly: “In Syria and the Middle East, women have not reached the position that they should be in yet … It is hard to persuade people that even though I am a woman, I can still be a leader, a decision-maker and be able to create positive change.
“Girls are the key to our future. They are capable of amazing things.”
We certainly are. And we hope that the strength and determination of Sham and the Syrian Girl Guides permeates throughout the world.