My name is Sophie, I am a member of 3rd Holywood Rangers and I am currently in my second year as a Girlguiding Advocate.
What is the Girlguiding Advocate panel?
The Advocate Panel are a group of eighteen girls and young women, aged 14-25 who shape Girlguiding’s research and lead their campaigns. The panel is made up of Girlguiding representatives from across the UK who are passionate about social change and discussing issues that concern girls and young women’s lives. As an Advocate you attend four meetings every year, which usually take place in Girlguiding HQ in London, which is such an exciting opportunity, especially when Girlguiding pay all of your expenses!
When did you begin your Advocate journey?
I joined the panel in 2017, as a young woman who wanted to see more political representation for woman, as well as tackling the stigma surrounding mental health in Northern Ireland. I have always been someone who is passionate about feminism and labelled by my friends as the ‘argumentative one’, thus you can imagine when I discovered Advocate, I was extremely excited!
What are your Advocate role highlights?
Some of my highlights from the panel include being involved in the launch of Girlguiding’s Period Poverty campaign, which aims to provide free period products to school girls across the UK to ensure no one misses school because of their period. As part of the research for this campaign I protested outside Westminster, calling on the Prime Minister to implement this policy. I also spoke at the British Youth Council and proposed a motion to provide all UK school girls with free period products. I was also proud to attend at the Conservative Party Conference, where I gave a speech on ‘growing up a girl’, and our Girlguiding conference team has been nominated for a Public Affairs Award for our event. The highlight of my Girlguiding career, to date, was being invited to the European Premiere of Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, as a Female Lead Icon, where I, alongside Oprah Winfrey, discussed the need for more young women to become involved in STEM, meeting Oprah herself (and getting a selfie!).
Another Northern Ireland advocate, Victoria Hunter, from 12th Lisburn Rangers, also spoke of her experience on the panel:
In July 2018 I had the opportunity to meet with the Shadow Health Minister, Paula Sherriff at the Houses of Westminster and discussed
mental health issues affecting young women and girls. It was an amazing experience I would never have, had I not been given the opportunity to be an Advocate.
More recently I was asked to be an ambassador for Girlguiding Ulster at a PWC conference discussing University vs Apprenticeships. At this, many leading figures from education and business met to debate the advantages and disadvantages of both career paths. Being an advocate has shown me the many issues girls from all social and ethnic backgrounds face and as a panel member I have the chance to contribute in a positive way, an opportunity I hope many other young girls in Girlguiding Ulster will avail of in the future.
How do you begin your Advocate journey?
The application process is competitive, however it is really straight forward to complete and definitely worth 30 minutes of your time! It involves filling in an online application, and if you are successful in this, a short skype interview will follow. I would encourage you, even if you are unsure about it at first, to fill in an application as you never know where it could lead you. I have changed my university choices because of Advocate, and have a number of plans for the future I would have never thought I would be doing as a result of joining. It definitely equips you with the confidence, leadership and discursive skills to take into your future. So, I will leave you with this thought, in the hope that you will consider applying for Advocate:
“How will you know it is the right decision if you never make it?”
Find out more about Girlguiding Advocates here