On September 20, 1898, Josefa Llanes Escoda, noted civic leader, educator and founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP), was born in Dingras, Ilocos Norte.
Escoda, who obtained her teaching degree in 1919 at the Philippine Normal School in Manila, was a social worker for the Philippine Chapter of the American Red Cross.
She was sent to undergo training in Girl Scouting in the United States under the sponsorship of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.
GSP is the national Guiding association for girls and young women of the Philippines. Its mission is “to help girls and young women realize the ideals of womanhood and prepare themselves for their responsibilities in the home, and to the nation, and the world community.” The girls-only association serves now a million members.
Kid’s Girl Scout troops were organized in the Philippines as early as 1918 by American missionaries and servicemen. These Scout troops were directly registered with the Girl Scouts of the USA.
Pilar Hidalgo-Lim and Escoda spearheaded the organization of a Scout movement for girls, and requested the assistance of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP).
In 1939, Escoda was sent to the United States and Britain for training through the help of Joseph E. Stevenot of the BSP. Upon her return to the Philippines, she immediately started to set up the GSP with the help of other civic organizations.
On May 26, 1940, the GSP was chartered under Philippine Commonwealth Act No. 542.
In 1946, the GSP was accepted as a tenderfoot member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) during the 11th World Conference held at Evian, France.
In 1948, the GSP became a full member of WAGGGS during the 12th World Conference held at Cooperstown, New York, USA.
Since 1995 the organization lost nearly half of its members; the membership number shrunk from 1,275,113 in 1995 to 671,267 in 2003.
In reaction to this, the BSP opened the Senior Scout Section for girls in summer 2006 which led to a public conflict about the focuses of both GSP and BSP.
The GSP’s program focuses on “well-being, family life, heritage and citizenship, world community, preparedness, economic self-sufficiency, arts and environment.”
Center of the program is the “eight-point challenge”, a merit-badge program. The highest award is the “Chief Girl Scout Medal” which was introduced in 1976. (Joel C. Atencio)