1st Claremont is a mixed gender group. Girls were first admitted to scouts in the year 2000 and there are still quite a number of groups that are boys only (in Liesbeek District 2 out of 5 groups are boys only). The question of the boys only groups allowing girls in is a vexed one with strong opinions on both sides.
Older adult leaders who were in scouts grew up in an all boys scout movement. For some it is difficult to make the shift to a mixed gender environment with its added requirements and complexity. For others mixed gender scout groups are more pleasant to run.
For us, the presence of mixed genders is an opportunity to deal with questions of gender based violence and to encourage good and healthy relationships between the genders. With many children still attending single sex schools, there continues to be a distance between the genders. Media stereotypical portrayal of genders and the easy access to pornography can influence the view of the other gender so that they are seen as objects and not people.
A mixed gender group can help to ameliorate these effects. The opportunity to mix easily and freely with the opposite gender and to have good role models helps scouts to see every other scout as a person and not an object. Being a patrol leader means that you must actively engage with your scouts and understand their motivations and issues. It requires empathy on the part of the patrol leader and the assistant patrol leader.
Scouts practices “learning by doing”. This is true not only for scout skills but also for how our scouts interact with each other. We may discuss GBV at times but ultimately we want our scouts to learn by doing – by seeing the example others set and to follow suit. We may never see the direct effects of this but we believe that scouts has a positive unmeasured effect on our scouts in their future relationships with others.