Guiding has taught me age is not a barrier to leadership

By Allisa Sallans, Volunteer World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts


For me, I find the more I learn about the environment, the more I want to change my own actions and challenge the way other people perceive the environment. Our world is more than a “resource” – it is a living planet.

In my personal life I do my best to live waste-free. I have launched a blog to share my experiences and inspire others to think about the waste they generate.I do a lot of public outreach on environmental issues, talking in schools about plastic pollution, climate change and the Polar Regions. I use social media to spread awareness and delivered sessions on living plastic-free for the Girl Guides of Canada’s national youth conference and other local conferences.

Another way I am advocating for a cleaner environment is by volunteering with a project called Blue Dot. I’ve initiated a branch of the organisation in my home town. We do outreach in the community on the importance of having a right to a healthy environment. We rally people together to target politicians and express concerns directly to them in order to call for change.

It’s ok to start with small, manageable changes

People need both external and internal motivation to create change. By motivating people to try to alterhow they consume resources on a daily basis, it can lead to long term changes in attitudes and beliefs.

Contrary to popular belief, in my opinion you do not have to ‘go big or go home’. To reduce the amount of waste you produce you can start with small, manageable changes.This can include being mindful about your purchases and consideringhow the items you’re buying are created. You can choose reusable over disposable where possible. Things like reusable water bottles, bags and cutlery are a great start. You can make a point of refusing plastics where possible, like asking for “no straw” in your drink when dining out.

People can also take action by speaking up and lending their voices to causes they are passionate about. We don’t always need to reinvent the wheel to make a difference. Everyone has the power and the right to reach out and talk to their political leaders.

Women can, and are, driving environmental action

To address sustainability and other environmental issues, women have to be part of the solution. Without their input nothing will happen. On a global scale, women are disproportionately impacted by climate change. There is a clear and direct connection between protecting the environment and the empowerment of women.

Across the world, women are finding creative approaches to solving environmental issues. When I was in Mozambique delivering a project with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), I met with a local woman working with young people to upcycle plastic bags from the street and weave them into mats. Simple, practical solutions like this are a perfect example of how women are driving change in every community.

We need women in leadership roles to show young girls what they can achieve if they put their minds to it. These role models are essential - which is why it is so important to have gender representation in every field.

Guiding has been my biggest platform to speak out about the environment

Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting play an important part in showing girls around the world how they can take action and drive change. 

I joined Girl Guides of Canada as a Spark when I was five. I learned about pollution and wanted to fix it. My leaders encouraged me to plan an “anti-pollution” march around the school. While I’m not sure anyone actually saw the march, I remember feeling like I could make a difference from this very young age.

As I’ve grown older, opportunities to develop my leadership have continued through guiding. For the last five years I’ve volunteered as a leader with a group of younger girls. I’m helping them to understand how they can make a difference. I run meetings on protecting the environment and I take girls camping to show them the importance of protecting our planet.

Guiding has also taught me how much my voice matters. I’ve had many speaking opportunities at conferences, seminars and events. I’ve taken on leadership roles as a youth advisor for my local guiding area and as the youth lead for an international ‘twinning’ project connecting Guides from Canada with Guides in South America. Throughout these experiences I’ve learnt so much from incredible women – I’ve seen great leadership in practice and I’ve experienced the power of international guiding.

In 2017 and 2018 my leadership journey continued with WAGGGS. I was brought on to the team of facilitators for the Helen Storrow Seminar, an annual WAGGGS event focused on environmental sustainability and young women’s leadership. I worked with an international team to plan and deliver sessions on leadership, the environment and creating change.

At national and international levels, guiding has been a platform for me to explore, pursue and share my passions. It has challenged me to learn more so I can share more with other people. It has helped boost my confidence to speak up and take action on the things I’m passionate about. This supportive environment nurtured my love for the environment and showed me I can take on leadership positions and drive change. 

Guiding has taught me age is not a barrier to leadership. Mo matter how young or old you are, there is a place for everyone.

Guiding has encouraged me to seek out knowledge and learn as much as I can about the things I care about. Growing up I had leaders who were so supportive of my love for the environment and constantly challenging me to learn more in order to do more. They have inspired me to do the same. Now I get to show girls and young women they can make a difference too.

It’s time for young women to take action

It is so important for young women to take action on environmental issues – after all, our futures depend on it. Humans as a whole are not living sustainably. We are polluting our air, water and land at unprecedented rates. We are contributing to anthropogenic climate change which is in turn causing more frequent, severe storms and weather patterns.

We are living in a time when thinking about the future can be scary. But when I volunteer with Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting I see women who are a force to be reckoned with. I see innovation and dedication to creating a better world - and I see hope.

To effect change, women need to be at the forefront of environmental issues and they need to advocate for their beliefs. The world needs solutions to environmental and climate issues. Women have the power, skills and innovation to create and drive these solutions. **



At just 19 years old, Alissa Sallans is leading key environmental, leadership and outreach projects for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and her local community. She joined Girl Guides of Canada 14 years ago and since 2015 she’s supported other young women through international Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting projects. Most recently, Alissa has facilitated environmental leadership sessions for WAGGGS and travelled to Mozambique to help train local women starting a Girl Guide organisation.

Alissa fits these volunteer positions around university, where she’s studying a double major in International Development and Environmental Studies – her two biggest passions. Her love for the environment has taken her to both the Arctic and the Antarctic to learn about conservation and climate change.

Whether she’s supporting young women’s leadership or calling for environmental protection at national-government level, Alissa is passionate about making a difference and driving change.

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