34th WAGGGS World Conference – Day 1 (Monday 11th July 2011)

Well, the GGA delegation has arrived at the 34th World Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Conference is being held at Heriot-Watt University, just outside Edinburgh.

Along with us (Ally, NT and Renée, NSW&ACT), the delegation is made up of Helen Geard (TAS), Chief Commissioner, and Natasha Hendrick (WA). There are also a number of WAGGGS Honorary Associates who are Australian and present at the World Conference.

Amy Spark (VIC) is also attending the World Conference as a Young WAGGGS Representative, and is a participant, along with Ally and Renée, of the Young Women’s Leadership Program. This offers a variety of opportunities, and is also conducting an Intergenerational Zone, to encourage sharing of ideas and experiences between young women and other participants at the Conference.

We thank everyone for helping us with swaps and products for the International Evening. These were all packed last night in preparation for the International Evening and World Market on Wednesday.

Monday morning began bright (hang on, we are in Scotland, rainy) and early for some of us, when there was a false fire alarm. This was all forgotten when we got to breakfast, and the mountain of food, as well as sharing the breakfast table with people from a variety of countries and making friends straight away.

We moved into the auditorium (or Plenary Hall) for the business part of the Conference. It began with Reflections by members of Girlguiding UK, with the theme “we’re going to let the WAGGGS light shine”. The Chairman of the World Board, Margaret Treloar, welcomed 104 Member Organisations (MOs) to the Conference. This led into a roll call of MOs and all Guides present saying the Promise in their native tongue. This is when we really realised we were at the World Conference!

As the Conference is conducted in English, French, Spanish and Arabic, we were all given interpretation equipment, as well as a voting pad. We were allowed a play with the electronic voting pad before getting serious and beginning World Conference business and voting on proposed motions. This included voting on MOs to become full members of WAGGGS. This was an exciting moment for the Asia Pacific Region as Cambodia were successful in becoming full members.

We heard from Lakshmi Puri, who is the Secretary-General for UN Women who spoke about the importance of investing in and supporting girls and young women, and how WAGGGS has a role in this worldwide. It was made so clear that WAGGGS and UN Women have similar goals and that Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are at the heart of the solution for gender equality.

Other sessions today included:
• A presentation by Centenary Ambassadors from Nepal and Ecuador;
• Oprah-style TV chat sessions with the 5 Regional Chairs and Margaret Treloar;
• Young Women’s Panel - Renée was one of 6 young women on this panel and they discussed the ‘perfect leadership experience’;
• Introduction of the WAGGGS Vision 2020 that “all young women are valued and take action to change the world”; and
• Introduction of the 8 World Board nominees (voting will be held later this week).

We are now heading offsite to the official opening ceremony organised by Girlguiding UK. This promises to be a celebration of everything Scottish (so we can all feel some deep Scottish love, particularly for the bagpipes) and a fantastic way to end the first day of Conference and look forward to the rest of the week.

Renée Bianchi & Allison Hooper

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