What makes GFS different from other girls’ youth groups?
Our groups are…
At GFS we provide an informal, unintimidating environment that is accessible to all girls and young women. While sessions do have an outline, they rely less on a standardised structure, and place emphasis on personal development over formal achievement.
At their heart, our activities are designed to develop self-esteem; 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 girls and young women the opportunity to contribute to planning and delivery of activities based on what they enjoy and the issues they feel are relevant to them. This is great for building confidence and helping girls see themselves as potential leaders.
We are a proudly feminist organisation in that we support and advocate for women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. We are committed to tackling exclusion and lack of access to opportunities due to gender inequality.
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 also enables organisations to take steps to help particular groups overcome disadvantage and meet needs that are different from the needs of other groups.
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. 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.
What about boys?
In the same way that a charity addressing one kind of illness does not negate the importance of others, focusing attention on the needs of girls does not dismiss the serious issues facing boys and men.
While we specialise in empowering girls and young women, we fully support organisations that work to tackling issues faced by boys and young men, such as Future Men, Mengage and Lads Need Dads.
Why do you only recruit women volunteers and staff to work directly with girls?
We believe that girls and young women need positive women role models to show them that they can achieve anything, regardless of their gender. It is important to us to inspire GFS girls by exposing them to women from all walks of life.
A sense of physical and emotional safety has also long been a key benefit of women-only services.
How can men support GFS?
One of the best ways for men to show their support for GFS is by becoming members. Being a GFS member costs £20 a year, which funds our activities. It makes you part of a community of people who believe in our work towards empowering girls and gender equality.
They can also take on staff or voluntary roles that do 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 GFS only for girls and young women with low self-esteem or other issues?
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 important for all girls to reach their potential and thrive.
Who runs the sessions?
All sessions are run by women volunteers from the local community.
All volunteers are over 18, background checked and fully trained. Volunteers are required to complete training around safeguarding, health and safety, running a group and first aid in order to ensure the happiness and health of your child while at the group.
The volunteers have the support of the full time GFS Volunteer Support Coordinator, and a Regional Development Coordinator based in their region. This helps us to ensure that volunteers always have the professional support they need to run an excellent group.
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.
GFS strives to play a part in building a fair society for everyone. This requires an intersectional approach that recognises and respects the rights of all people. We are asked about whether this includes those who identify as transgender. We are proud to say that at GFS, trans women and girls will always be welcome, valued and supported.
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 groups within church settings.
Over the years, the work of the organisation has evolved to keep pace with the changing needs of girls and young women. Today, as stated in our 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’. Our Articles of Association state that GFS works with women and girls of all religious faiths and of none.
We do not provide groups with religion-based content, however those groups who choose to are free to incorporate elements of faith. These groups are clearly identified to ensure parents are aware of any elements of faith.
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 like to.