Are you a feminist organisation?
Yes, GFS is a feminist organisation in that we support and advocate for women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
Why do you only allow girls to take part in sessions?
The Equality Act recognises that some equality groups (e.g. women) are disadvantaged in some areas of life as a consequence of past or current discrimination and exclusion. The Act enables employers and providers of services to take steps to help particular groups overcome disadvantage and meet needs that are different from the needs of other groups. Focusing attention on the needs of girls does not dismiss the serious issues facing boys and men.
Why do you only recruit female volunteers and staff to work directly with girls?
Under the Equality Act, employees may provide girls and young women with personal services, promoting their welfare or education, which can be provided most effectively by a person of the same sex. This could entail counselling in areas such as sex, pregnancy, health and welfare. The young women also need positive role models to build self-esteem and help them take responsibility for their lives. Due to the nature of our work many of our posts are restricted to female applicants only.
Safety, both physical and emotional, is a key benefit of women-only services. As a result, women feel supported and comfortable. They become empowered and develop confidence, greater independence and higher self-esteem. They are less marginalised and isolated and feel more able to express themselves. Women using these services feel that their voices are heard and listened to. Through sharing their experiences to make sense of the world together, they develop a sense of solidarity.
Studies have shown that accessing single-sex space is important for girls and young women. A review by YWCA and Girlguiding UK found that girls and young women were enthusiastic about having time away from boys and benefited from having women leaders as role models. They also found that single-sex spaces encouraged girls to take more risks, express themselves and develop their self-confidence. In mixed gender settings, boys tended to dominate the space which reduced girls’ confidence. A single-sex environment also helps girls and young women to think about and challenge gender stereotypes.
Is GFS a Christian organisation?
GFS was established in 1875 with close links to the Anglican Church and, for many years, worked under the patronage of the church and established branches within church settings. Over the years, the work of the organisation has changed and broadened to keep pace with changes in society and the changing needs and outlook of girls and young women. Today, as stated in the society’s registration with the Charity Commission, the purpose of our work is ‘to advance education and any other charitable purpose for the benefit of women and girls’. The society’s Articles of Association state that GFS works with women and girls of all religious faiths and of none and, with this in mind, we currently work with church, community, college and school based groups and welcome the establishment of new groups in all settings where our work can bring enrichment to the lives of girls and young women. Whilst the focus has broadened, GFS’ values are informed by its Christian heritage and the motto of GFS remains “Bear one another’s burdens”.
What makes GFS different from other female youth groups?
At GFS we provide an informal, unintimidating environment that is accessible to all girls and young women.
We deliver activities designed to develop self-esteem, making GFS a positive and relevant service due to our emphasis on personal development over formal achievement. The goals that GFS girls and young women achieve are personal and appropriate to them, and we discourage comparison of status and ability to others.
We offer a participatory programme, providing girls and young women the opportunity to choose for themselves the activities and issues they feel are relevant to them, and both plan and deliver elements of the programme, leading to regular informal peer mentorship and support.
As well as our universal service, we also run targeted programmes for girls and young women with specific needs including looked after children, young mums, girls and young women with anxiety and depression, and those at risk of child sexual exploitation, amongst other risk factors. Many of our groups are in areas of social or economic deprivation where provision of other services for girls and young women is limited.
We are a feminist organisation in that we support and advocate for women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. We aim to address exclusion and lack of access to opportunities due to gender inequality.
Is GFS only for girls and young women with low self-esteem or other issues?
No. If you identify as a girl or young woman then GFS is for you, whether you have low self-esteem or not. All of us need a confidence boost sometimes! Unfortunately many of the issues we face as girls and young women, such as stereotypes, discrimination and everyday sexism, are common to all of us. Having fun and joining a supportive network of peers and role models, who come from all types of backgrounds is essential to reaching your potential and thriving
Can men work or volunteer for GFS?
Yes, provided that the role does not require regular engagement with girls and young women participating in GFS sessions. These could include office-based roles, occasional roles (such as driving a minibus) and guest instructors, speakers and facilitators.
Is there a uniform?
We like to keep sessions as relaxed and informal as possible, so do not enforce an official uniform. Some girls and young women go straight to GFS after school and attend in their school uniform, However, if a girl or young woman would like to purchase a GFS t-shirt or other item of clothing, these can be organised through their group leader. They are welcome to wear these at sessions if they would prefer to.