Sunday, July 6, 2014

World Conference Update: Day 1, 7/6/14

Our pair group from Orientation
Yesterday at the WAGGGS World Conference, we started off with orientation. As we run through the protocol, it's amazing to see so many different people come up to speak to our delegates, speaking in so many languages. At all times, speakers are being translated into English, French, Spanish and Arabic. The diversity at the World Conference is inspiring!

During Orientation, we were asked to turn to someone near to us and introduce ourselves. We then were asked to pair up with another two groups. Amazingly, I had the good fortune of being paired with someone from Dove, Sangam, and the 5th World Center! It was amazing to be in the company of such a powerful team and amongst women making such a difference. The opportunity to pair with them was unbelievable!

Over 600 people at the Conference!
New members into the organization were voted in. Countries like Cameroon, South Sudan, New Guinea, Mongolia, and the Cook Islands, to name a few, were voted into WAGGGS! It was powerful to see the triumph of the women at WoCo representing their initiated countries and to know that in these countries where girls are in great need of leadership, sisterhood, and support, WAGGGS, it's support network, and its resources will be there.

Princess Mabel van Oranje of Denmark (pictured left) spoke to the Conference as well, addressing the issue of child marriage world wide. Girls who experience child marriage are more likely to experience domestic violence and rape and permitting the practice to exist undermines global efforts to eradicate poverty, said Princess van Oranje. Girls who give birth under the age of 15 are also five times more likely to die in childbirth than women who give birth in their twenties. “In too many places, girls are not seen as equal to boys,” she exclaimed-- a truth many of us know all to well. You can check out more info about Princess van Oranje's call to advocate from girls suffering from child marriage at Girls not Brides.

Other orders of business that we ran through were the goals, methods, and budget for the next triennium, all of which will be voted on for approval later on in the conference.

Connie Matsui at the GSUSA Welcome Reception
At 6pm, Girl Scouts USA hosted a welcome reception for those of us from the US! It was great to see the number of Americans who were there to support Girl Scouts worldwide and the missions of the WAGGS and GSUSA. We also had the opportunity to hear from Connie Matsui, an American running for the World Board (more to come tomorrow on all of the candidates!).

At 7pm, dinner commenced. During dinner we had an astounding amount of traditional Chinese food. The courses were brought out, as we in the US know it as, “family style”-- a large plate was brought out for the whole table to share. The is the traditional banquet style in China. Thankfully, a young woman from Hong Kong named Fonnine sat down next to me and explained all of the different dished. Interestingly, the rice and noodles come at the very end of the meal (the end being about 2 hours later!).

Throughout the dinner, we also got to watch some amazing traditional shows, such as a one where a man danced around and swapped off these masks he was wearing. During this one, the masks moved so fast, I thought it was an electronic mask or something. But at the end when he swapped off the last one to show his face in the same manner as all the other masks I realized that these were actual masks on his face and somehow, as if by magic, he was flipping between them! Two
Korean singers serenade Princess Benedikte
young girl guides from Hong Kong also gave a great Chinese opera performance-- at the end I ran up to see them and was amazing by the amount of makeup and costume they had on! There was also a troupe of beautiful and costumed young girls doing what seemed to be a Chinese form of ballet, using sailing fans and clomping castanets. We also had the chance to watch one of the famous lion dance (though I always thought they were dragons!), which reminds me of what I would image to see at the Chinese New Year. And we wrapped up with this amazing Korean acapella/opera group. They sang pop classics as well as some opera favorites. Their voices were unbelievable-- I couldn't imagine such full, strong voices coming from these young men!!

Me with Hong Kong Girl Scouts!
Overall, dinner was amazing and very reflective of the experience at the World Conference so far. Women from New Guinea at our table cheered and ran to the stage when they were recognized for being voted into WAGGGS. I helped to translate for a group from Sierra Leone who wanted to tell Mary Jane from our UN NYC Team about the African Federation they were proposing. One woman at our table was a candidate for the World Board. And the District Commissioner and International Commissioner from Hong Kong sat at our table, helping to answer our questions about China and explain their traditions and customs. Such an amazing opportunity to sit with people from all corners of the globe over dinner!

Be sure to follow the World Conference live at #35WoCo on Twitter!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hello from Hong Kong: 35th World Conference Young Women's Event

Currently, the World Assn. of Girl Guide and Girl Scouts' World Conference is under way! This year marks the 35th World Conference and it is being held in Hong Kong! The World Conference allows for all of the member organizations (AKA "MOs," basically all of the different countries that make up WAGGGS) to join together to vote on important decisions for the direction and goals of WAGGGS. World Conferences are held every 3 years and each MO is allowed to send 2 delegates to represent their vote (there are more than two people for every country here though-- you can send "observers" too who can attend conference session but cannot vote on behalf of their country). This year there are approximately 600 conference attendees from over 145 countries! The event is held from July 6-9.

Yesterday, WAGGGS hosted an opening event for young women attending the 35th World Conference-- the Young Women's Event. During the experience, young women ranging from 13 to 30 had the chance to get together on the day before the conference to work on leadership development and understand their role here at the conference. As a part of the experience, the young women and girls were given 4 destinations to get to in Hong Kong, as well as a meeting with a local female business leader/executive. UN Team member Kristen Grennan (age 24) was on team 6 and went to a Buddhist temple called Man Mo Temple (if you're in HK, I highly recommend stopping at this sight!). The team got very lost, but
was able to stumble on a delicious restaurant for lunch! In the end, the team didn't make it to more than 1 sight, but we were able to make it to our meeting with a business executive-- Amee Chande, who not only works for Tesco, but also has been involved in Girl Scouts on 5 continents and is now very engaged with WAGGGS, specifically the Dove "Free to Be Me" program. Amee spoke to the young women and girls about why, within Tesco, women make about 80% of cashiers but only 5% of executives and what can be done to change this. Young women (and a young man!) in the group shared about the struggles within their own communities.

Meeting with Amee
The Young Women's Event wrapped up with a panel of five women from around the globe who were engaged in the Girl Scouts and are now very respected in their chosen careers (all of which were very different). Afterwards, girls were given a 5 minute session on how to be more affirmative and assertive, skills needed to be leaders within your community as well as in a business setting. We finally concluded with a song "The Key" which was written by the team at Sangam, a WAGGGS World Center in India.

Be sure to follow the World Conference on Twitter at #35WoCo! If you're attending the event, be sure to share photos and quotes from the event using the hashtag!