I Am Guiding: Eleanor TeatherMonday 12th April 2021
Eleanor Teather, a 23-year-old leader with the Weoley Rangers in Birmingham, created the Racism Awareness Challenge Badge as part of her Queen’s Guide Award.
Girlguiding Edinburgh: How long have you been involved in Guiding?
Eleanor Teather: I’ve been involved in Guiding since I went to Rainbows aged 6 and never left!
GGE: What inspired you to create the Racism Awareness Challenge Badge?
ET: I’d been thinking a lot about how white Girlguiding is. Hatfield [England], the town I grew up in, is about 75 percent white, 25 percent not. Our Rainbow and Brownie units, broadly speaking, reflect this. But by the time you get up to Rangers and especially the leaders, everyone is white. If you look at the county leadership team on our website—again, it’s all white faces. Even in Birmingham, every leader I’ve so far met has been white, and it’s one of the most diverse cities in the country. I’m worried Girlguiding is doing something that’s putting off women and girls of colour, and I think we need to do something about it. So, I started thinking about what I had in my power to do—stuck in lockdown and, at that point, without a unit. We used to have a disability awareness badge, and there are pride badges you can get, so I thought I’d go off that idea and create a badge about racism. It then also occurred to me I could count this towards my Queen’s Guide Award.
GGE: In what year was the pack launched?
ET: The pack launched summer of 2020.
GGE: What was your process for creating the challenge pack? How did you choose which activities to include?
ET: I did a lot of research! I spent several months coming up with a full list of activities and putting all the information together. Some activities I adapted from other anti-racism resources I found online, although I discovered there’s not a huge number of games and activities based around racism, so I had to make others up. I tried to make sure my list would cover any country, so I included clauses like researching the slave trade near you or local Indigenous peoples. I was also aware this pack would most likely be done under lockdown, so I tried to pick things that would work online or in-person. Finally, I split the pack into three sections: Research, Create, Act!
Research is really important, because you can’t tackle racism if you don’t understand it; create is fun and helps share awareness; act is about trying to use this new understanding to make a more active change. I also did a lot of research to check I was using appropriate language and confirm my own understanding of racism, so I learned a lot from the process, too.
GGE: From whom, if anyone, did you receive guidance for creating the pack?
ET: I had previously made a challenge pack as fundraising for a trip to Our Cabaña, so I already had some idea of what I was doing from the practical side of things. However, because I am white, I got some friends who are not white to read it over for me, to check everything was suitably respectful and I hadn’t made any massive blunders. They actually suggested the name of the pack—originally I was going to call it the ‘Anti-Racism Challenge’—and I really like the change because it’s a bit more subtle.
GGE: What did you learn from the process?
ET: The biggest thing I learned was how important it is to have the self-confidence to back yourself. I was quite worried no one would want to do the badge because it’s a difficult topic to talk about, or that I was overstepping my role as a white person. If I had backed myself a little more, the process would have been more enjoyable and I think more successful, instead of nearly giving up every time I got negative feedback. If you’re going to put something out into the world, other people will believe it’s good if you believe that, too! And since it was a success, I see this as [a] reason to have more faith in myself next time.
GGE: What response have you received since launching the challenge badge?
ET: I have had some lovely feedback from units who’ve done the badge, especially hearing about the effort they’ve put in—like the Edinburgh Guides creating a BAME book swap and speaking to activists (I’m jealous, wish I could have come!) or my old Guides unit who did presentations on inspiring women of colour. Because of creating this as part of my Queen’s Guide, I got people who’d done the badge to fill out a survey. From that survey, I discovered several people weren’t sure if racism is an issue today before doing the badge, but after almost everyone strongly felt it is. This is incredibly important, because a major issue that hampers progress towards racial justice is if people think it’s something from the past or something that happens in other countries, so I’m really proud to have made that change.
GGE: What is it like knowing people around the UK (and possibly beyond) are learning from something you created?
ET: It’s really heartwarming. I was so happy when I got the survey results back, to know that the challenge achieved what I was hoping … and will hopefully make a difference to people’s lives.
GGE: How much money have you raised (and donated) through the challenge pack? Where did those donations go?
ET: I raised £65 for Southall Black Sisters, who are a charity and activist group who do various things to support the lives of Black and Asian women in London—especially supporting women experiencing domestic violence. It seemed appropriate as a Guide to support a charity specifically for women of colour.
GGE: What would you tell someone who’s interested in creating their own challenge badge?
ET: It’s fun, but don’t expect it to be easy! You have a lot of competition, and to make the badges affordable you have to buy quite a lot to begin with. I would say do it because there’s a badge you really want to make, not because you want to make money from it.
GGE: What advice do you have for other Girlguiding members looking to use their voice to make a difference?
ET: Whoever you are, even if you’re the smallest Rainbow, there is something you can do to make a difference. Don’t wait to be higher up the ranks. If you spot something that’s wrong, you can do something about it. There’s also so many amazing activism and change-making groups out there in the world, so if you’re not sure what you can do, find a group to do it with.
GGE: What have you been up to since creating the Racism Awareness Challenge Badge? Are you still active in Girlguiding?
ET: I have been finishing up the rest of my Queen’s Guide Award (which is very nearly there—yay!) and volunteering for SSAGO [Student Scout and Guide Organisation]. I’m also hoping to meet my unit in real life for the first time later this year! In the rest of my life, I’m busy finishing my degree, as I’m due to graduate this summer.