Report from the 16th European Guide and Scout Conference which was held in Split, Croatia from the 24th – 28th of August


This event was attended by Emily McCann, Chief Commissioner and Suzanne Lenihan, International Commissioner as delegates, and Michelle Finnerty, Assistant Chief Commissioner and Patricia Derwin, National Commissioner for Ranger Guides as observers. We arrived in Croatia in the early hours of the 23rd August at Split University where the conference was being held.  The rest of this day was free, and we got to spend a little bit of time exploring Split itself.

Saturday 24th August was the beginning of the sessions. In the afternoon we had an Orientation session, which Suzanne and Emily went to as our delegates, and a session on Exploring the Leadership Model, which is the new model of leadership that WAGGGS are going to roll out, Trish and Michelle went to a short session on this by Manuela and Mel from WAGGGS. Emily and Suzanne also met with Guilia, who is our country representative at WAGGGS.  Afterwards, we had the official Opening Ceremony in a Fort in the city centre.  The ceremony was attended by various Croatian government officials and dignitaries.

Sunday 25th August was the beginning of the joint sessions, an official welcome and opening of both the WAGGGS and WOSM meetings. There was a short section where the candidates for election were introduced and then the meeting split up so that everyone could go and speak to, or question, the candidates of their choice. After lunch we had the opening of the WAGGGS sessions and some presentations by members of the World Board. We then had the international evening and Europe market, and everyone had fun in the end.

Monday the 26th August began in the WAGGGS room with a reflection from Marin Miletic the Chief Scout of the Croatian Catholic Scouts, who are actually in a similar situation to Ireland, in that they have two different scouting organisations in the country and are looking to join WAGGGS as a Federation of two. After the reflection we had a session discussing the proposed motions, and we had a presentation from the World Board.  In the afternoon we had the Forum, where we could choose between several different sessions taking place at the same time. Michelle and Trish attended a session called: Social Return on Investment in Volunteering.  Suzanne and Emily attended the Leadership model session which discussed the new WAGGGS model for leadership. The new leadership model is a model of leadership practise.  That evening we were taken by bus out to Kliss Fortress, which is famous for being used in Game of Thrones, apparently, and we had a Croatian evening there; exploring the fort and listening to local singers and a demonstration of different fighting techniques.

On Tuesday the 27th August we once again began with a Reflection, then we had a session to Meet the Nominees for our WAGGGS Regional Committee, we then had some Regional Consultation. We had a discussion on why young women under 30 are not in decision making roles in WAGGGS and whether people thought there were barriers to young women taking up positions.  We then had a discussion on the barriers to young women taking up positions and some of the comments included, from a number of country delegations, that it’s difficult for women in their 20s and 30s to commit the necessary time to such a position as there is so much change and uncertainty in their life at this stage, with college, finding first jobs, perhaps moving city or country, finding themselves in a first serious relationship.  In the afternoon, we again split up for the Forum sessions.   Michelle attended Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming Europe Region, which was very interesting. Trish attended Working towards SDG 17 – partnerships which was presented by IGG. Suzanne attended Taking Action on Body Confidence which was very interesting.  This programme is a follow on to Free Being Me and meant for the older girls and young women.  For the last group of sessions Michelle and Trish attended Engaging with Girls and Volunteers from all backgrounds.

Wednesday the 28th August was the final day of the conference. We began with another reflection, then we went on with voting on motions. This session took much longer than expected because they were trying out a new app-based system which apparently lots of people had difficulty with, we eventually returned to the “hand in the air” method of voting and concluded the session only two hours late. Some of the motions included raising the cost of the European Voluntary Contribution which was increased despite some opposition and many amendments to the motion.  Also voted in was that there would be a youth led event held in conjunction with the next European Conference. We then had the election of new committee members and close of the WAGGGS only session. We then went back for the final sessions of joint conference, votes and elections. When the gavel fell for the final time, we all went outside for a group photo and then it was time to head into the city centre for the closing ceremony and dinner.

All in all, we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and it was made more enjoyable by the company.  It was a very busy conference and by the end of it we were all exhausted and headed home for a rest.

Suzanne Lenihan

International Commissioner