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Guiding towards womanhood
 

Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association (SLGGA) will host the next Asia Pacific Regional Conference in 2007. Over 400 delegates are expected to attend it.

The conference will be held in a hotel outside Colombo for five-days. In addition to main deliberations such as girls' rights, child and women trafficking, adolescence and HIV/AIDS issues, there will be cultural events and tours for the delegates during the five-day conference, President, SLGGA, Siromi Rodrigo told the Daily News.

This is the first time that the SLGGA is hosting an international event of this magnitude, although they had earlier organised many international events of modest level.

The event will draw much attention to the tourism sector in the country as this 400-odd delegate members will be tourism ambassadors for the island after the event.

Two representatives of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts were in Sri Lanka last week on a progress assessment visit prior to the regional conference. Regional Director Asia Pacific Region, Mei Lee and a Member of the Asia Pacific Committee, Nighat Arshad visited many places which come under the purview of SLGGA, including the Girl Guides' training centre in Kadawatha.

World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts is the largest voluntary organisation for girls and young women in the world. It has 10 million members in 144 countries in five regions; Africa, Arab, Asia Pacific, Europe and Western Hemisphere. It also has one million volunteer leaders, Nighat Arshad said.

The Association's main mission is to enable girls and young women to develop their fullest potential as responsible citizens of the world irrespective of their age, religion, ethnic group or ability. Under the world Association there are 145 member countries including Sri Lanka.

Every three years, there is a World Congress of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and prior to that there will be regional conferences to find out the most stressing issues in each region to be taken up at the World Congress.

"Regional conferences are very much important because each region could have a unique issue pertinent to their own countries. For us Asia, it could be child trafficking, and for Africans, it would be HIV/AIDS issue. Therefore, a regional conference is an ideal platform to discuss this need ahead of the next World Congress," Mei Lee told the Daily News.

In Sri Lanka Girl Guides movement is becoming larger. The Education Ministry has given its utmost support towards forming Girl Guides groups in schools. A set of hard working volunteers continue to train more and more students. "Discipline is one of the key aspects of Girl Guides' program.

In a society where discipline is a diminishing character, programs such as Girl Guides are very important," Rodrigo said.

Girl Guides activities also help students to look at their own personal and professional outlook in a different way. Being a girl guide means a lot for one's own life, she added.

Through this programme, we have allowed the children to come out with their own problems, issues so that they can overcome their psychological and mental issues as well, Rodrigo said.

However, she lamented that the current number of volunteer leaders is not sufficient enough to expand its activities to benefit more school children. "We need adult volunteers. Those who are interested in our work, especially those who have been girl guides in school, could join us to support this endeavour," she said.

To host the regional event, the SLGGA needs at least one million rupees going by the initial budget. As the first step, the organisation will hold a drumming and dancing event. They also expect a grant from the Government and also seek support from the private sector.

To look into the issues with regard to the regional conference, SLGGA have appointed a working committee and several sub committees.

All the members are in these committees are former girl guides who are currently holding reputed positions in various organisations. The committees meet once a month to organise pre-conference events.

"We have a lot of short-term projects for which we need volunteers. We would like to invite everybody to join us," the President said.

As far as the world body is concerned, they support Sri Lanka by way of offering training programs, scholarships and grants.

During the tsunami, the international members helped the affected families in numerous ways. Currently they have undertaken a program to foster a large number of children, affected by the tsunami.

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