Credit: Girlguiding Luxembourg

British Girlguiding Overseas (BGO) in Luxembourg has expressed its “deep disappointment and concern” over the decision of Girlguiding UK to cease its overseas operations.

On 19 April 2023, the board of trustees of Girlguiding UK announced its decision to end overseas operations from 1 September 2023. The news came as a shock to many, not least BGO in Luxembourg, which reported in a press release that the decision, which impacts some 2,600 BGO members in 36 countries and territories, had been made “without prior consultation with girls and volunteers”.

"We are disheartened by the lack of transparency and empathy demonstrated by Girlguiding UK in this decision," said Samantha Furbush Taraskiewicz, a BGO volunteer in Luxembourg. "We have worked tirelessly to create a supportive and empowering environment for our girls, and this decision without consultation is deeply disappointing and frustrating."

More than one month after this announcement, reached out to both Adriana Coppola-Finegan, District Commissioner for BGO in Luxembourg, and spokespeople at Girlguiding UK for an update on the situation.

Adriana Coppola-Finegan lamented that the overseas branches had still not received satisfactory answers to their questions regarding the decision to cease BGO operations. “It’s quite disappointing. They don’t consider our questions or concerns,” she said, adding that the main reason given was that the overseas branches were too much of a “corporate risk”, with no further clarification offered. She added that the board of trustees had still not shared the minutes of the meeting during which the decision was taken.

The only alternative proposed, according to Adriana Coppola-Finegan, was that BGO members join local scouts and guides. She noted how “deeply disappointed” all the girls were following this “very sudden” and “heartbreaking” decision, recalling how many of them had been involved in girlguiding for most of their lives.

For their part, Angela Salt, CEO of Girlguiding, Catherine Irwin, Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Tracy Foster, Chief Guide, told in a statement that the board of trustees had been “examining” BGO over the past year, particularly considering “how best to manage risk and our future ability to run an overseas operation in 36 countries and territories across the world, each with separate laws and regulations.” They added that this ultimately resulted in the decision to “change how Girlguiding UK operates overseas and end organised guiding run by Girlguiding UK [...] in these countries and territories from 1 September 2023.”

They assured that Girlguiding UK was “working with volunteers to provide information, guidance and support to girls and volunteers living overseas and in British Overseas Territories on the options available to continue to be part of worldwide guiding in new ways in the future”, with discussions ongoing.

The statement went on to acknowledge the “valued part” played by BGO throughout Girlguiding UK's 113-history and to thank “everyone involved over the years for showing girls a world of opportunities big and small.”

Whilst this decision “does not affect international trips for girls who live and are part of units in the UK”, it does impact overseas branches like BGO in Luxembourg, the future of which remains uncertain.

British Girlguiding Overseas has existed for more than a century- the first unit was set up in Portugal in 1911.

An online petition asking Girlguiding UK to re-examine its decision to cease overseas operations has already garnered (at the time of writing) more than 15,800 signatures.

(Pictured: Adriana Coppola-Finegan, District Commissioner for BGO in Luxembourg)