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The ‘Brownies’ are no more. Why Girl Guides of Canada is changing the name

Click to play video: 'Girl Guides of Canada changes name of ‘Brownies’ to be more inclusive'
Girl Guides of Canada changes name of ‘Brownies’ to be more inclusive
WATCH: Girl Guides of Canada (GGC) informed volunteers Tuesday morning that the organization will be changing a branch name – Nov 15, 2022

The Brownies are getting a new name.

Girl Guides of Canada (GGC) informed volunteers Tuesday morning that the organization will be changing the name of the branch that involves seven- and eight-year-old girls, saying they are striving to be more inclusive.

“We have heard from racialized girls and former members that the name Brownies has caused them harm. Some do not want to be part of this branch because of the name,” read an email sent out to volunteers. “Some skip this branch or delay joining Girl Guides until after this branch.

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“We cannot continue to use a name that causes harm to any girls.”

The aim, says the organization, is to foster an environment where “more girls … can just be themselves.”

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“As the leading organization for girls and women in Canada, it’s critical that we listen to girls’ voices and take action when they speak up,” GGC CEO Jill Zelmanovits said in a press release.

“We are changing the name of this branch to further remove barriers for belonging for racialized girls and women. It is clear that this change is the right thing to do – Girl Guides cannot be represented by a term that causes any girl harm.”

The organization also shared a video detailing the reason behind the name change.

We won’t know the new name for the branch, however, until next year.

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The organization says it has short-listed two undisclosed names, which will be announced to GGC members later this month. Members will be asked to select the name they like best. In late January 2023, the new name will be announced.

Under a Frequently Asked Questions page detailing the name change, GGC says the two short-listed names are “inclusive, fun and reflect how girls see themselves in Guiding.”

The names, they said, were developed in consultation with racialized girls in GGC, the National Indigenous Advisory Circle, community partners and organizations, along with other stakeholders.

GGC says the Brownies’ Promise, law, song, activities and badges will remain in place, with small updates made to reflect the new branch name.

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“Throughout this transition, the focus for all girls in Guiding remains on fun, friendship, exploring her world and sharing new experiences — this will not change,” GGC said.

The organization said it will ask members not to wear clothing with the Brownies name after Sept. 1, 2023 when representing GGC. At this time, members will no longer wear a Brownies unit title tape on their badge sash and will be given a new title tape with the newly selected branch name.

It’s not the first time the Brownies have undergone a name change, nor it is the first time GGC has updated its materials and programming to be more inclusive.

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Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts movement, who went on with his sister, Agnes Baden-Powell, to establish Guiding as a program for girls, originally named the branch “Rosebuds.”

The girls, however, did not like the name, and the branch was changed to “Brownies” — helpful, magical elf-like figures that appeared in English and Scottish folklore.

In Canada, the Brownie and Guides Promise has changed multiple times. Its most recent change, in 2010, removed any mention of God or religion.

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