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World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts

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World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts
HeadquartersWorld Bureau, Olave Centre, London
Country152 countries
FounderRobert Baden-Powell
Membership10 million
Chair World BoardCandela Gonzalez
CEOAnna Segall
 Scouting portal

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS /wæɡz/) is a global association supporting the female-oriented and female-only Guiding and Scouting organisations in 152 countries. It was established in 1928 in Parád, Hungary, and has its headquarters in London, United Kingdom. It is the counterpart of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM). WAGGGS is organised into five regions and operates five international Guiding centers. It holds full member status in the European Youth Forum (YFJ), which operates within the Council of Europe and European Union areas, and works closely with these bodies.


The mission of the WAGGGS is to enable girls and young women to reach for their potential as responsible citizens of the world.

WAGGGS provides a non-formal educational program that provides training in life skills, leadership and decision making. It also offers projects and programs at an international level that enable Girl Guides and Girl Scouts to be responsible world citizens through action and activity in the community.

WAGGGS is run by women for girls and young women. Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are trained in leadership and decision-making, and are encouraged to participate in the governance and leadership of WAGGGS. Each individual unit is democratically run with Girl Guides and Girl Scouts actively involved in leadership and in decision making.

Girl Guiding/Girl Scouting is open to all girls and young women without distinction of creed, race, nationality, or any other circumstance. WAGGGS believes that the education of girls, and the education of boys, includes education for equal partnership. Young men and young women are taught to recognise their differences and their similarities, and to respect each other as individuals.

Girl Guiding/Girl Scouting is a voluntary organisation that relies on over 100,000 volunteers around the world to implement programs for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and to give girls and young women support and leadership. There are over 10 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in 152 countries. Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from around the world can meet each other at international events at one of the five World Centers.

There are many opportunities to attend international events run by the United Nations or other non-governmental organisations (NGO) on behalf of the Association. The WOSM is the non-governmental organisation, that represents the Scouting movement at the United Nations.[1] The WOSM and WAGGGS both have General Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.[2]

Educational methods[edit]

Girl Guiding/Girl Scouting is based on a core set of values that are found in the Girl Guide/Girl Scout Promise and Law. Each Girl Guide and Girl Scout promises to do her best to her faith and to others, and in so doing she realizes her fullest potential as a responsible citizen.

Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting uses non-formal educational methods. Non-formal education is organised educational activity outside schools and colleges. The key components of non-formal education are that:

  • Young people can develop life skills and attitudes based on an integrated value system based on the Promise and Law.
  • Young people learn from their peer group.
  • Young people learn through activities and practical programs that are created by young people for young people
  • Young people volunteer to join non-formal education organisations that are led also by volunteers that ensure commitment and maximum learning.
  • Young people learn by progressive self-development through:
    • Learning by doing,
    • Teamwork though the patrol system and training for responsible leadership, and
    • Active cooperation between young people and adults.

Each Guide/Girl Scout defines her own progress and development according to her needs and aspirations within the framework program provided. This contrasts with many formal education systems where young people must fit themselves into a rigid structure with little recognition of individual needs and differences. The Girl Guide/Girl Scout method is the specific way that the leadership works with girls and young women to achieve the mission of WAGGGS. It is an integrated approach with certain key elements: The Girl Guiding/Girl Scouting method can be used equally effectively with girls of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. In his book "Girl Guiding", Lord Baden-Powell (1918) wrote:

  • "Our method of training is to educate from within rather than to instruct from without; to offer games and activities which, while being attractive to the girl, will seriously educate her morally, mentally and physically."

Since the organisation's founding, many Girl Guides and Girl Scouts have achieved positions as leading politicians, writers, businesswomen, and leaders. Senator Hillary Clinton (United States Senate), the Rt. Hon Dr. Marjorie Mowlam MP (politician in the United Kingdom), Roberta Bondar Ph.D., MD (first Canadian woman astronaut), and Betty Okwir (leading politician in Uganda) are a few former and current Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

In 1965, Dame Leslie Whateley of the then-Girl Guides World Bureau was awarded the Bronze Wolf, the only distinction of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, awarded by the World Scout Committee for exceptional services to world Scouting.

Amongst its global initiatives, Free Being Me, a collaboration between WAGGGS and Unilever's Dove Self Esteem Project was launched in October 2013, with the aim of increasing "self-esteem and body confidence" in girls.[3]


Girl Guides were formed in 1910 by Robert Baden-Powell, with the assistance of his sister Agnes Baden-Powell. After his marriage in 1912, his wife Olave Baden-Powell took a leading role in the development of Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting.

As the movement spread, independent national Guiding associations were set up; however, a need for international cooperation was felt. Lady Baden-Powell founded an informal International Council in London in February 1918. At the fourth World Conference held at Camp Edith Macy in 1926, representatives from several countries suggested the formation of a World Association to take the place of the informal International Council. After the 1926 International Conference the Baden-Powells were approached about setting up a formal association and in 1928 the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts was founded at the 5th International Conference held in Parád, Hungary.[4] Rose Kerr was Vice Chairman, later Commissioner for Tenderfoot Countries. From 1930 to 1939 WAGGGS occupied a room at the headquarters of the British Girl Guide Association, until it moved to 9 Palace Street, next door to Our Ark.

In 1920, two leaders from each known Guide country were invited to the British County Commissioners Conference held at Saint Hugh's College, Oxford. This became known as the First International Conference. The 13th World Conference was held in the same college in 1950. The member organisations continue to meet every three years (initially every two years) at World Conferences.[5]

List of chairs of the World Committee / World Board[edit]

List of directors / chief executives[edit]

World Conference[edit]

The World Conference is the governing body and meets every three years. If a country has more than one association, the associations form a federation for coordination and world representation.


WAGGGS consists of national Member Organisations which are run independently but agree to abide by the WAGGGS constitution. The national Member Organisations are split into five regions. The member organisations in turn elect the World Board, originally the World Committee, which governs the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. It is made up of 17 active volunteer members from around the world who are democratically elected by all Member Organisations and include the Chairs from each of the five WAGGGS regions. In addition there is the permanent staff of the World Bureau based in London and headed by the WAGGGS Chief Executive (formerly Director of the World Bureau). Every three years representatives from the member states meet in a World Conference to discuss and vote on policy. The World Committee changed its name to the World Board in 1996. The job title of the head of staff was changed from Director of the World Bureau to Chief Executive between 1964 and 1997.

Each WAGGGS Member Organisation chooses how it believes it can best promote these goals, taking into account its culture and the needs of its young people. Some choose to work with girls alone in a single sex environment in order to break down stereotypes and to give girls and young women the confidence to take their place in society. Other Member Organisations prefer to work with mixed groups to enable young women and young men equal partnership within their units. Some Organisations choose to mix co-educational and single sex approaches according to the age and the preferences of the young people.

World regions[edit]

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has offices in five regional divisions:
  There is no WAGGGS Region corresponding to the World Organization of the Scout Movement Eurasian Region; post-Soviet nations are divided between the WAGGGS-Europe Region and the WAGGGS-Asia Pacific Region
  grey areas such as North Korea, Laos and Cuba have no Scouting

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has five regions: Europe, Arab, Africa, Asia and Western Hemisphere.

World Centres[edit]

WAGGGS operates five World Centres that offer training programmes, activities and lodging for girls and leaders, as well as members of some other groups and independent travellers. Activities are primarily focused on international friendship and cooperation, personal development and leadership training, enjoyment and service. The Friends of the Four World Centres organisation supports and promotes the centres.

The five World Centres are:

A new centre, Kusafiri, meaning "to journey" in Swahili, was announced in 2015. Unlike the other centres it will be a roving centre and exist for a fixed period of time in different places with a particular theme in Africa.[7] While testing the idea, starting in 2012, the country organisations involved include Ghana, South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, and Benin. Focuses so far have included "Stopping the Violence" training in Rwanda and developing entrepreneurial leaders among others.[7]

World Trefoil[edit]

WAGGGS membership badge

Miss Kari Aas designed the World Trefoil emblem that was adopted at the World Conference in 1930, a gold trefoil on a blue background.[8]

The three leaves represent the three duties and the three parts of the promise, the two five point-stars stand for the promise and the law and the vein in the centre represents the compass needle showing the right way. The base of the trefoil stands for the flame of the love of humanity and the colours blue and gold represent the sun shining over all children in the world.[9]

The World Badge, incorporating the trefoil, was first adopted at the 11th World Conference in Evian, France in 1946.[10]

The World Association Badge, similar in design to the World Badge, was first adopted at the 7th World Conference in Bucze, near Górki Wielkie in Poland, in 1932. It is worn by members of the World Board, its Committees, World Bureau and World Centre staff.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "World Scouting and the United Nations".
  2. ^ "WAGGGS and the UN".
  3. ^ "PRESS RELEASE" (PDF). WAGGS. 11 October 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  4. ^ "History of WAGGGS".
  5. ^ "World Conference".
  6. ^ "Heidi Jokinen elected World Board Chair".
  7. ^ a b "Kusafiri". World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  8. ^ "World Association of Girl Guide and Girl Scouts". www.vintagegirlscout.com.
  9. ^ "The World Trefoil". wagggsworld.org. WAGGGS. Archived from the original on December 31, 2006. Retrieved March 30, 2006.
  10. ^ a b "Symbols of the movement". WAGGGS.
  • Scouting Round the World, John S. Wilson, first edition, Blandford Press 1959 page 203.

External links[edit]