Girlguiding UK closes overseas units after more than 100 years


Girlguiding UK has today closed its overseas operations more than 100 years after its first unit was established in Portugal in 1911.

British Girlguiding Overseas (BGO), the international arm of the charity, has units in the Middle East and Africa, Asia, Benelux and France, which cease operations today. 

Units in British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean and Atlantic will remain part of the organisation until 31 December.

Girlguiding UK announced the decision to end its overseas operations in April this year, which it said was “based on the charity’s future ability to run an overseas operation in 36 countries and territories, each with separate laws and regulations”.

A petition created by the BGO to oppose the decision gained more than 19,000 signatories and there were calls to establish the outfit as its own independent charity.  But in a statement posted at the beginning of August, BGO said its efforts had been “in vain”. 

It said: “Despite our sadness and disappointment, we continued to fight for our survival. Since we were first informed of the closure plans, we have, in true guiding spirit, done our best to find a solution for all of our members, at great personal cost in terms of time, emotions and energy. We did this willingly to try to find a future for BGO.

“We repeatedly requested further information from HQ so that we could understand the decisions, but we have not received this.

“We lobbied at the highest level of Girlguiding with a request to become a charity in our own right or to set up as a different charity as a franchise of Girlguiding. These alternatives, amongst many others, were repeatedly rejected by the board and CEO.” 

The end of operations will affect 2,600 members but will result in no redundancies as BGO has no paid staff.

In a statement released earlier this week, Tracy Foster, the chief guide of Girlguiding UK, said: “Over the last few months we have made some announcements to let you know that we are changing the ways we deliver guiding to girls living overseas, and these changes will happen shortly.

I know that lots of you have felt the sadness at this decision. I too have felt that. But I know that times have changed and girlguiding has changed too.” 

Foster also thanked volunteers and leaders at BGO that have continued to run overseas events since the decision was made, saying she recognised it will have been an “emotional term” and she valued their work. 

A statement released by Girlguiding UK said: “We want to take the time to look back and celebrate the difference that guiding overseas has made to girls lives for over 100 years. 

“And we want to thank each and every person who has been a part of BGO over the years. 

“The sisterhood, support, empowerment and safe spaces that you have provided for girls across the world has been amazing and will always be remembered.”

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