When The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award first started in 1956, like many organizations of its time, it was an all boys club. Ironically enough, the Duke of Ed was started by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh – the husband of the world’s most powerful woman. First launched in The United Kingdom in 1956 for boys aged 15-18, the program set about to motivate these young men to become involved in a balanced program of voluntary self-development activities. There was a great demand for a similar scheme for girls, and this was launched in September 1958.
As women, we have always needed to demand more for ourselves. Opportunities have never been handed to us – our mothers and grandmothers demanded them. Girls learn at a young age that we must work twice as hard, to garner the same level of respect as men. We must motivate ourselves, and we must motivate each other.
Canada has often been at the forefront in the fight for inclusion, and equality. We are extremely lucky to be living the life we choose.
And yet, in Canada today, too few women are advancing into leadership roles, and continue to be under represented in politics. In 2015, women made up only 28% of municipal councilors, and only 18% of mayors. These statistics aren’t surprising, given that women continue to be responsible for the majority of care-giving in their households, and among family members. These statistics have ricocheting effects, as a recent article in the Globe and Mail pointed out. It may be 2017, but women in the workforce are still earning 74.2 cents for every dollar a full-time male worker makes.
For over 50 years, the Duke of Ed has been empowering Canadian youth throughout the country to reach their full potential and to be their best selves. We know that the vitality of our society is intensified by championing the varying perspectives, talents and skills that our young women have to offer.
To view the world through the eyes of a woman is to know compassion, perseverance and strength. Too often, the female narrative is overlooked. Too often, the female narrative is rooted in adversity and pain. Too often, the female narrative is viewed as ‘lesser than.’
At the Duke of Ed, equality means creating a female narrative of courage, and hope.
Equality means building a community where our differences are respected, admired, and utilized.
Equality means recognizing that we are all a piece of a greater whole.
When we empower the girls and the women around us, we empower a globe.
The Duke of Ed may have started as an all boys club, but as any woman today can tell you – it doesn’t matter where you’ve started – it’s how you’ve persevered.