Blog | What Scouting means to me

Blog | What Scouting means to me

08 March 2017

For International Women’s Day we asked Vonnie Sandlan, Scout volunteer and President of NUS Scotland, to reflect on what being a woman in Scouting means to her.

My motivation for joining Scouts is not what has motivated me to stay, or indeed to take on additional responsibilities. I find myself surrounded by incredibly talented women who are passionate about the experiences we provide to our Beavers, Cubs and Scouts, and who have enriched my life with friendship and challenge.

I came into Scouts in that time-honoured tradition of wanting my children to join our local group and finding that group short of help. I've always been a fairly pragmatic roll-up-the-sleeves kind of person and so joining in seemed logical.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into!

As with all adults in Scouting I take my responsibilities to our young people very seriously and, for me, that responsibility has an additional edge when it comes to girls and young women.

I believe that Scouting offers the antidote to gender stereotypes in wider society by offering our girls chances to participate in activities that otherwise might not be open to them because of their gender. From our youngest Beavers, spending happy Saturdays learning about frogspawn, to our girls in Cubs who have more than held their own climbing trees and whittling sticks at camps, and to our young women Scouts who have found a space to develop organisational & leadership skills through working on their Chief Scouts Gold Award.

The psychologist Vygotsky talked about the ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ – that space where children and young people, given a bit of support, are best able to develop new skills, and it is the opportunities provided in Scouting, which allow all our young people to push themselves, to succeed at new things and to grow in confidence and skill.

And that isn’t limited to the young people in Scouting, either! As a leader, Scouting has offered me far more than I ever thought. I remember very clearly my first camp at Auchengillan, clambering terrified (while pretending I was just fine with it!) up stacks of boxes, with our children standing beside cheering me on and celebrating my success. I remember feeling exhilarated afterwards, having conquered my fear of hurting myself which had held me back from participating in physical activities for many years. In that moment, I realised that far from something that I only gave to, Scouting was giving me confidence and opportunities that I didn’t realise I was missing.

And of course, I couldn’t possibly write about what Scouting means to me without mentioning the wonderful friends I have made - the women who keep the fun going even at 1am when you’ve been trying to get the Cubs to bed for three hours!

And so on International Women’s Day 2017, I say to all girls and women in Scouting:

Here's to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.