‘It inspired me to be my best . . .’

Nikos Savvas, principal at West Suffolk College ANL-160104-110812001
Nikos Savvas, principal at West Suffolk College ANL-160104-110812001
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In the month we celebrated International Women’s Day (March 8), with this year’s theme being ‘pledge for gender parity’, and with damning reports being published about the global gender pay gap and inequality of labour and childcare in homes, it was fitting that we had the honour of hosting a movement that has been called ‘the ultimate feminist organisation’.

The Girl Guiding Anglia’s ‘Time Out’ event was held on Saturday across our campuses. The large scale annual event is organised by the Girl Guiding Association to say thank you to all its committed volunteers who give up their time to help with Guiding Associations in the East of England. In total the organisation relies on a network of 100,000 incredible volunteers nationally.

Over 450 blue uniformed ladies came to enjoy a wide range of workshops and activities (over 2,000 sessions in total) which West Suffolk College staff and students hosted throughout the day. All our vocational departments were involved, which meant our wide provision could be experienced to its best. Classes were offered in everything from beauty treatments to plastering, to photography, to removing the mystery of the iPad. As one participant said in her feedback, “Floristry, self-defence, pastry masterclass and wine tasting all in one day. Lots of giggles along the way and I had a brilliant time”.

The Girl Guiding Association is the leading charity for girls and young woman in the UK, in existence since 1909, and evolved from girls wishing to take part in the boy-only Scout movement. Today the organisation prides itself on its inclusive and progressive culture, inspiring young woman to ‘be their best’ regardless of religion or socio-economic backgrounds and very relevant for the 21 Century. Gone are the days of badge earning for things like hosting and sewing as their Chief Executive, Julie Bentley says, “It is not about itchy brown uniforms and sewing and baking. It is a modern, contemporary and vibrant organisation”.

Lindsey Johnson, our Vice Principal of Curriculum and Quality and who gave the keynote speech at the event, said: “It was a fantastic day and a wonderful opportunity for our students and staff, everybody found it was thoroughly rewarding. In particular our Second Year Diploma and Foundation Degree Event Management students had a terrific experience, as they organised the entire event”.

She added: “There is much synergy between their strategic objectives and ours, we both believe strongly in the importance of developing positive character traits in our young people, shaping opportunities and rewarding effort as much as results. Resilience, commitment and determination are characteristics both our organisations respect”.

As a father of three young daughters, I have a deep admiration for organisations that empower young women. The world is not equal, but with organisations like the Girl Guiding Association inspiring the woman of the future, we may soon see the balance in the boardrooms, childcare responsibility and pay gap begin to be addressed.

Thanks to the Girl Guiding Association for giving us the opportunity to host the event. It was an honour and we are thrilled that the feedback from everyone has been so positive. One lady’s comment sums it up: “It was a great day, thanks and well done to everyone involved in organising it. It inspired me to be my best.”

-- Nikos Savvas is principal at West Suffolk College, Bury St Edmunds