Celebrating inclusion at Girls’ Brigade Ministries


Deputy CEO Catherine Burt shares her thoughts on inclusion for International Women’s Day…

GB Leader Steph Davies, 25, from our 8th Portsmouth community group in Hampshire, is registered severely sight impaired, has ME, depression, emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), and a history of anorexia.

She says ‘I’m seen as a fellow leader not Steph with a disability and, if there is something I can’t do, we approach it with a sense of humour. I think it’s good to show the girls that disabled people are the same as everyone else and can still do things, but we might need some adjustments.’

At Girls’ Brigade Ministries we’re 100% behind International Women’s Day (IWD) 2024 and the theme of #InspiringInclusion – creating an equal world where all girls can thrive. We invite you to join us and make a stand on this issue.

For 130 years we’ve worked to transform and enrich the lives of girls and young women, supporting, equipping, and empowering them to live life to the full.

We give them the confidence to take up leadership and decision-making roles, we help them make informed decisions on a variety of issues, we teach new skills, give them exciting opportunities where they can learn what their talents and gifts are, and we celebrate their achievements. We aim to equip young people for life so they can grow in confidence to change their communities.

The IWD campaign for 2024 says to truly include women means to openly embrace their diversity of race, age, ability, faith, body image, and how they identify. It dovetails so well with Girls’ Brigade (GB) being an organisation with volunteer-led community groups for young people to explore life together in a safe and welcoming space for everyone.

However, saying we’re inclusive is one thing but what really matters is how inclusivity is actually lived out in our 330 groups across England and Wales, and in our other activities.

I’m in the privileged position of working for Girls’ Brigade but I’m also a volunteer in a local group so I see inclusivity embedded at a number of levels across our organisation.

Nationally we’ve just completed an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion review and, although there are some goals we’re now setting ourselves as a result, it was great to be thoroughly examined in this area and the strength of our commitment – and practice – acknowledged and recognised.

Across England and Wales, our groups welcome girls and young women with SEND or disabilities – many of whom have struggled to find welcoming spaces to belong to in the past.

Motivated by their Christian faith, Girls’ Brigade leaders get the chance to practise their inclusion skills every week during their group meetings – looking past difference and intentionally building relationships and investing in the diverse girls and young women who attend, not just those with a Christian faith. Many of our leadership teams are multi-generational – we have volunteers aged from 18 to 94!

And it’s not just the leaders, but our members who show inclusivity. This was brought home to me recently by one of our 8-year-olds welcoming a new girl to our group and making her feel she belonged straight away. What a powerful story and one which I know is modelled up and down the country.

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