New Girl Scouts Badges Emphasize Importance of Civic Engagement

As the 2020 elections draw closer and women-led countries are dominating in response to COVID-19, women’s leadership skills and opportunities are being showcased all over the world. And women politicians, educators and medical professionals are consistently proving that women are more than capable of being equitable, inclusive and thoughtful leaders.

Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) is working to equip the next generation of women with the tools they need to become strong leaders and effective decision makers: They recently released 24 new badges designed to prepare girls to make a difference in their community. 

New Girl Scouts Badges Emphasize the Importance of Civic Engagement
The new civic engagement badges for each age range (K-12). (GSUSA)

The new badges focus on entrepreneurship, STEM career exploration, automotive engineering and civics, and are tied to age-appropriate activities for girls in grades K-12, with the goal of helping them acquire skills they may be unable to or discouraged from learning at school or at home.

In fact, many Girl Scouts credit their badges with teaching them how to be civically engaged in their communities.

Madison, age 16 (Girl Scouts of Nassau County), reflects:

“When I think of Girl Scouts, I think of an organization for leaders— leaders in diverse fields from business to medicine, but especially leaders in government. In fact, it was Girl Scouts, not school or history class, that provided me with a relevant and inspiring civic education.

“From learning about recycling with local officials as a Daisy in Kindergarten, to traveling to my state capital to advocate for the homeless as a Cadette in sixth grade, my experiences in Girl Scouts not only allowed me to realize that I, a young woman, could impact real change, but also empowered me with the leadership skills and confidence necessary to actually impact this change.”


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Of course, Girl Scouts have been doing civic engagement work for decades, and have received plenty of backlash for it. But now, these new badges send a strong message that young girls are not intimidated by politics, and aren’t afraid to wade into the fray to fight for their communities. 

New Girl Scouts Badges Emphasize the Importance of Civic Engagement
Girl Scouts holding a voter registration event in their community. (GSUSA)

The badges center the importance of political engagement and activism, and also walk girls through the fundamentals of our political system. The Girl Scouts are even encouraged to reach out to their own representatives to become comfortable speaking up in the political world.

Badges Address a Critical Absence in U.S. Education

The civics badges address a critical absence in our education system. Just 24 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in civics, and only two in five American adults can name the three branches of our government.

The goal of the new activities is to empower girls by giving them the necessary tools to enact change in areas they are passionate about. These skills will stick with girls throughout their lives and pave the way for them to become leaders in their communities.

Julia, age 18 (Girl Scouts of Colorado), believes that being a Girl Scout has given her the confidence to speak up for what she believes in:

“When I was a young girl, my troop was always a place where I was told my ideas were valuable and my dreams were worth pursuing. This shaped how I saw my place in the world today.

“Every time I look at the state of the world around me, especially recently, it can be easy to get discouraged, seeing the rampant injustice and inequality that is often the foundation for the world we know today. I know so many young people feel the same right now which is why I think the Civics badges are so needed and so valuable for young girls.

“There is a new kind of passion for social and environmental change among today’s youth and this passion is so powerful and important. Knowing how to take this passion and use it to create material change within our government is the key to building a better tomorrow. Any program that will allow and encourage young women to learn how to engage with their governments is exactly what we need right now.”

Now, more than ever, we need leaders who are knowledgable, empathetic and responsible.

For too long, women have been underrepresented in politics. These new badges demonstrate GSUSA’s commitment to supporting the next generation of women leaders and provide a path for girls to reach their goals and make a difference.


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About

Katie Fleischer is a senior at Smith College, majoring in the Study of Women & Gender, and a former Ms. editorial intern.