As a director of a private secondary school for girls in Nigeria, part of my responsibilities included overseeing enriching, character-building extra-curricular programs, beneficial to our students. One of such programs was a school's chapter of the National Girl Guides Association, which in turn, falls under the umbrella organisation, known as the "World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS)." The ubiquitous, voluntary movement, which was founded by Lord Baden-Powell in 1928 is dedicated to girls and young women and represents over 10 million women and girls from 150 countries. The mission of the empowering, female oriented initiative is "to enable girls and young women to develop their fullest potential as responsible citizens of the world." wagggs.org/en/about-us/who-we-are/
The International character of the WAGGGS is a valuable and significant dimension, in the pivotal task, of building bridges accross national, racial, cultural, social and religious divides. Over the several years of my involvement in the sorority, I witnessed first-hand the promise and harmony, of adolescent girls from varying demographics, as they enthusiastically and happily, interacted and learned from each other. Teamwork, is a thread that runs through every aspect of local and international guiding.
International summer camps are highly anticipated, cherished events, within the annual calendar of the movement. They provide the perfect and unique environment, for girls to not only discover common ground with international peers, but to celebrate and respect diversity. Bubbly, energetic campers participate in well-organised activities, geared towards engendering self-development, personal responsibility, community service, nature preservation, team building, leadership skills and camaraderie.
The life-changing experience leads to positive, bonding relationships outside of their familiar personal cloister. These fortunate girls are willing "ambassadors" of their respective countries at the gatherings. Following which, they become agents of international understanding and cooperation, as they share their rewarding camp experiences with members of their local communities.
It is against this backdrop, that I led a group of excited girl guides to summer camp in Denmark from Nigeria. According to the UN World Happiness Report, Denmark, ranks second after Finland, another Nordic nation on their index. I certainly found the indigenes to be very friendly and trusting - no doubt a reflection of their inner-state of equanimity and bonhomie. A staple, starring, event of international summer camps, is a welcoming reception arranged by the host country for leaders of country delegations. At the "meet and greet," leaders enjoy the hospitality on offer, whilst engaging collegially with each other as well as with key members of the camp's various organizing committees. A highlight of the reception is when each guest-country leader, is introduced to national or local dignitaries present at the formal occasion.
As part of the planning phase of camp preparations, each leader would have received a detailed programme of events and activities, which may or may not include information on v.i.p visitors to the camp. It is customary to present a thoughtful gift that represents and showcases, one's national culture, to such distinguished persons. Therefore, in keeping with the Girl Guide motto - "Be Prepared," one travels to camp, with a few appropriate options.
As it happened, on the morning of the reception, we were informed that Princess Benedicte ll of Denmark, was expected to join us in her official capacity as national patron of The Green Girl Guides, Denmark. Princess Benedikte is the second daughter and child of King Frederick IX and Queen Ingrid of Denmark and is second in line to the throne. She is the younger sister of the reigning Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, and the older sister of Queen Anne-Marie of Greece. Her birth occurred during Nazi Germany's occupation of Denmark.
Awareness of the contemporaneous, inauspicious, state of world affairs at the time she was born, likely helped to shape who she is today. Her tireless dedication to female empowerment and selfless commitment to fostering understanding, cooperation and peace in the world speaks for itself.
Princess Benedikte heads the Scout/Guide organization in Denmark with unabashed passion. Equally significant is her highly noteworthy involvement at the global level. She is a patron of the Olave Baden Powell Society (OB-PS), a WAGGGS support organization. On a personal basis, I found Princess Benedikte to be kind, affable and down-to-earth. She is unequivocally a universal role model for women and girls of all backgrounds.
I hope that with the roll-out of a successful global covid vaccine program, international summer camps will resume as soon as possible. The importance of such events cannot be overstated, in light of increasing world polarization, and divisive demagoguery emanating from certain faithless, unscrupulous, autocratic, world leaders. I would counsel these leaders engaged in such shameful, dangerous and abhorrent behaviours, to take a leaf from the book of the young WAGGGS summer camp attendees, and learn how to live in peace and harmony. The lesson will be a masterclass in decency and responsible leadership.