Beyond the badge – how Girlguiding reflects our society

As Girlguiding launches a new badge for mental health, Dr Sarah Mills explains how a closer look at the organisation’s evolving badge programme reveals wider changes in society over time.

A quick glance of the badge programme for any uniformed youth organisation in the UK will give a sense of their regular activities and educational programme. However, read a little deeper, and you see an insight into some of the social and political issues young people face today.

Girlguiding has today announced the launch of a new badge on mental health called ‘Think Resilient’. This reflects the latest chapter in over one hundred years of this organisation designing and delivering an informal education programme for girls and young women.

Although many of the first Girl Guide badges reflected domestic ideas of homemaking – ‘florist’ and ‘cook’ badges in 1910 and ‘needlewoman’ in 1912 – there were adventurous (if not controversial) elements in its early activities including camping and cycling.

Over the decades, the badge programme has become more progressive. Indeed, tracing the history of the organisation’s badges reveals the changing roles and attitudes towards girls and women in the UK, as well as new issues facing its youth membership. The last few years have seen the introduction of a range of badges and campaigns surrounding disability, healthy relationships, body confidence, and global gender equality.

Early Girlguiding badges (from left to right): Cook (1910), Cyclist (1912), Poultry Farmer (1917)

Early Girlguiding badges (from left to right): Cook (1910), Cyclist (1912), Poultry Farmer (1917)

Think Resilient

The new ‘Think Resilient’ badge on mental health has been designed in conjunction with the charity experts YoungMinds and comprises a peer education resource.

In launching the badge, which will be available to Brownies and Guides from April, Girlguiding stated that “62% of girls aged 11-21 know a girl or young woman who has experienced a mental health problem”, drawing on research from their Girls’ Attitudes Survey.

The new badge and peer education resource have been designed in consultation with its youth membership, and the organisation explained today how “Resilience helps girls cope when they’re faced with the pressures of everyday life – whether that’s in their schools, families or friendship groups – so that they can have fun, take new opportunities and have good mental well-being”.

The badge also reflects a much broader groundswell of focus and activity surrounding mental health within the voluntary youth sector, and ties into wider debates about the role of schools and other youth services in supporting young people’s wellbeing in the UK.

Click here for Dr Mills’ open-access research on the geographies of youth movements, including Girl Guiding.


millsnewDr Sarah Mills in a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Loughborough University. She researches youth organisations and volunteering from both a contemporary and historical perspective.

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