Talk to Scout.org… Marie Mullet-Abrassart, President, Scouts and Guides of France
Kuala Lumpur - Marie Mullet-Abrassart was elected President of Scouts et Guides de France (Scouts and Guides of France) last June, the Movement's youngest-ever leader and the first woman to hold the job.
French Scouting is already the largest educational youth movement in France, but Mullet-Abrassart is determined to expand membership further and reach out to all members of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion.
The political science graduate has been a Scout since she was seven years old and joined the Board of the Scouts and Guides of France in 2012 when she was 28. Three years later she was elected Vice President.
Scout.org spoke to Mullet-Abrassart to mark International Women's Day.
She told us about her plans for the Movement, how proud she is of the new initiatives for young people in the countryside and poorer parts of the city and shares some of her most memorable moments in Scouting.
Q1: You're the youngest ever leader of the Guides and Scouts in France. Some have described your election as a "small revolution". How would you describe it, and how does it feel to lead France's biggest movement for young people?
MMA: I feel very proud, strongly and incredibly proud! As we are so attached to the education of girls and boys, to the assumption of responsibility and to commitment, I am proud of taking on this responsibility and to serve this National Scout Association that has done a lot for me, and means so much to me. Being a woman, being a young woman at this level of responsibility is surely what gives this election a taste of revolution.
Q2: You once said that you didn't think the organisation was really ready for a woman leader. What changed?
MMA: Nothing. And everything! I think, as in many areas of our society, we say "of course we are ready to have a young lady as our leader" but in fact there are natural brakes, a self-censorship of women or just other types of commitment that do not allow, in a busy life, women to take on this kind of responsibility. Finally, it is also about habits and a certain fear of change.
In my case, by taking my time, pushing further little by little, demonstrating my abilities, and sowing trust, more and more people believed in me, and encouraged me to move forward with my ambitions.
Q3: How important is it for girls and young women to see a woman in the top post in Scouting?
MMA: It shows that what we live in Scouting and what we learn are for specific goals and can lead us somewhere. It also proves that the confidence the (Scout) educational method has in women, is justified! I was this little girl who grew up little by little, no more extraordinary than any other little girl, who ended up with this amazing opportunity of being a leader for the one of the biggest French Scout organisations. These girls will gain confidence from having the proof that Scouting truly opens up great possibilities.
Q4: Scouting is a partner of HeForShe and a champion of diversity. The theme for this year's International Women's Day is "The Time is Now". What are you doing in the French Scouts to further these aims? Any special plans?
MMA: Thousands of young women have taken on responsibilities at French Scouting, and become leaders in rural and urban areas. This week, I met Carine, a Scout Leader in rural areas. She enables 30 young people from eight to 18 years old, from villages 30 km around to grow up in Scouting. She provides a Scouting that's adapted to their different needs and, between Scout weekends, she sends out informative mails to the youngsters who do not have access to the Internet so they know what's going on. Carine is one of many women transforming the lives of these young people through Scouting.
Q5: You've been in your post for eight months now, with a goal of expanding the movement to rural areas, smaller towns and the city peripheries. Tell us about some of the initiatives you've put in place and the ones that you're most excited about?
MMA: A few weeks ago, French Scouting was active in the northern districts of Marseille. I received messages, photos that told me that it was right to push the Scout method to the doors of these young people who do not know about the organisation. That we were right to believe in it and give ourselves the means to reach out. That's it, we try to give ourselves the tools to spread Scouting through different ways.
In 2018 we are launching the "Brownsea" dynamic. It is both a major communication campaign to recruit Scout leaders and specific proposals addressed to each unit to encourage them to welcome more young people from the suburbs and countryside and for the newcomers, Scouting will start with attending their first summer camp!
I am happy to see the dynamics of our movement: the willingness to work for a quality Scouting and also the belief that being opened is beneficial. Initiatives are increasing and become more and more various, they can be small, medium, more visible but whatever, it's great that many groups and territories try things such as partnerships and actions concerning refugee. Last summer, for example, on the Camp Nature and Environment "forest fire monitoring" we welcomed a Syrian refugee as a Scout leader.
A Cub section for Roma children living in slum-like conditions has also been set up, and more and more groups for refugees are opening up all around France.
I am very glad to see some of my friends taking part in these incredible human adventures, and I'm proud of all these adults who enable this diversity to be welcomed and accepted. Thanks to them, the question is not, "Why should we mix?" but "How will we welcome differences properly?" and that's a huge step forward!
Q6: You joined the Scouts when you were just seven years old. Name a few of your most memorable moments.
MMA: So many! When I was making chewing gum grinding wheat ears and adding mint syrup, during Cub camps, when we slept under a tarpaulin that collapsed under the weight of the rain during a Scout camp, got soaked, and ended up in a barn, when I lost my Scouts while I was leading a treasure hunt because I had no sense of direction, and a memory that truly made an impact on me was Citécap. I worked with my national team for 18 months to organise the event for Venture Scouts. I remember exactly what I felt when they arrived in the fort where the event took place for the first night vigil: a crazy happiness, a sense of accomplishment after working together so long, but also the beginning of what we were working towards.
Q7: Finally, what you would tell a young girl thinking about joining the Scouts today? How can it help her?
MMA: Woooooooow!!! Scouting is growing up with other girls and boys to learn and respect others! It is gaining self-confidence and learning to trust each other, it is building oneself in the eyes of your Scout leaders and it is dreaming and realising we can make our dreams come true. It is also an incredible adventure of life, where we can meet friends who become our rocks, our very own team for life.