Monday, March 24, 2014

Unfinished Business on Capitol Hill

On March 20, 2014 Girl Scouts of the USA hosted a brown bag lunch briefing for staff on Capitol Hill to highlight the findings from the Girl Scout Research Institute’s report, The State of Girls: Unfinished Business. The panel included coauthor of the report, Dr. Kamla Modi from the Girl Scout Research Institute, Communications Director of Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast council, Marcy Germanotta, and a Girl Scout from the council, Lily.  Dr. Modi highlighted many of the key findings in the report which includes major trends affecting girls’ leadership and healthy development in the U.S. today. In particular, she addressed key findings relating to girls’ emotional and physical well-being; 33% of girls in the U.S. are obese or overweight, while 30% of girls struggle with their emotional health, stating they feel sad or depressed.

The panelists from Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast Council, Marcy Germanotta and Girl Scout Cadette Lily, offered perspective on what Girl Scouts does to address many of the issues emphasized in the report in their area in Southeast Virginia. Specifically, Ms. Germanotta spoke about her council’s many community partnerships that work to bring Girl Scouting to girls from various communities. As stressed in The State of Girls: Unfinished Business, many girls do not have the opportunity to engage in out-of-school activities. The report states that participation in regular and long lasting out of school activities such as Girl Scouts allows for girls to avoid unhealthy and unproductive behaviors by providing a safe environment that will empower youth to make a difference in their communities.

One of the highlights of the panel was Lily, a Girl Scout from Colonial Coast council , who shared  examples of activities she is involved in through  her council’s advocacy committee which allows adult and teen members to speak up for policies that support the well-being of girls through addressing policy makers and fellow stakeholders. She also spoke about her experiences with bullying/relational aggression in school, and how she has learned to navigate unhealthy social situations in a way that allows her to overcome the scenario and recognize the positive people in her life. According to The State of Girls, 30% of girls have experienced some form of bullying from their peers. Lily is working on bringing a Girl Scout program called BFF (Be a Friend First) to her community with the hope that girls will learn new ways to develop healthy relationships with one another while building self-esteem and confidence.

The briefing was an opportunity to share the data compiled from The State of the Girls report with staff on Capitol Hill to help inform policy on many of these issues which impact girls today.