Girls Group Mentoring Toolkit

This Girls Group Mentoring Toolkit provides the tools, resources and support to create, implement, deliver and evaluate a quality group mentoring program for girls, ages 9-13, in your community. The Toolkit is intended to be used in a range of communities, and can be adapted to the unique values, needs, strengths and challenges that each community encompasses.

Program Population

Girls in Canada

While it is true that Canadian girls share some similar experiences, there is not one universal experience of girlhood in Canada. Various factors impact the way that girls grow up, making their lives complex and distinct. Girls in Canada possess resilience, passion and strength. We must recognize the ways in which girls are thriving and the progress already made. As programs working directly with Canadian girls, you are encouraged to discover and highlight the ways in which the girls in your programs exhibit strength and passion.

Although girls in Canada are strong and resilient, they also experience a unique set of challenges. Recent survey results show that equity between girls and boys is thought to be an important Canadian value. More than nine in ten Canadians (93%) agree that “the belief that girls and boys should have equal rights and privileges is fundamental to what it means to be Canadian” (Girls Action Foundation, 2013). While progress has been made for both boys and girls in Canada in the last decades, many challenges remain for each gender—and new challenges have presented themselves. Girls, in particular, experience some of the following challenges:

  • Between the ages of 5 and 12, Canadian females are approximately 5 times more likely than males to be diagnosed with an eating disorder (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2003).
  • As girls grow older, they experience a steady decline in their confidence that is not seen in their male counterparts. In 2002, 4.7% of Grade 6 girls reported not feeling confident compared to 17.5% of Grade 10 girls (Boyce, 2004).
  • Boys continually outperform girls in mathematics (Kerr, 2010).
  • Canadian girls’ rates of participation in sports and physical activity continue to lag behind those of Canadian boys’ (CFLRI, 2011).
  • Higher rates of depression are consistently documented among adolescent girls and women than their male counterparts (Ackard, Neumark-Sztainer, Story & Perry, 2006).
  • In Ontario, 27% of girls in grades 9 through 11 reported having been pressured into doing something sexual that they did not want to do (Wolfe & Chiodo, 2008).
  • Girls under the age of 18 report a rate of sexual violence that is nearly 5 times higher than their male counterparts and substantially higher than that experienced by young adult females aged 18 to 24 (Statistics Canada, 2008).
  • Girls are more likely to be bullied than boys (Freeman, King & Pickett, 2011).
  • Young women are more likely to report feeling constantly stressed than young men; 44% vs. 28.7% (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2005).

 

The challenges that girls in Canada experience do not exist in a vacuum; rather, they occur within social, political and historical contexts. Gender expectations for acceptable roles and identities have a significant effect on young girls in Canada. Many girls will benefit from teaching and support that allows them to deconstruct these gender roles, identities, expectations and stereotypes. During pre-adolescence, many girls in Canada become aware of what it means to be “popular” and how others perceive them. They often turn to mass media for cues about how girls and boys should look and act.

Because media often presents a narrow definition of boys’ and girls’ roles, the bombardment of these stereotypes can have a pervasive effect on how gender is understood and internalized. The media often works to control or limit gender expression. For example, the majority of the images seen in advertisements and in the media portray heterosexual women (and men) in stereotypical roles. Women are often shown as sex objects and/or doing traditional female work. Many of the images have been Photoshopped or altered to portray an unrealistic image of the female body. Variation of gender expression and sexuality in the mainstream media is almost non-existent, and when this variance is portrayed, it is often centred on stories of violence and oppression. As a result, many young people are left to explore gender, sexuality and identity on their own.

It is important to support young girls in Canada in deconstructing gender roles, identities, expectations and stereotypes. This will help them to think critically, challenge sexism and homophobia, and make decisions on how to look and act based on their own thoughts and feelings rather than on societal expectations. When female empowerment is strengthened through mentorship, the whole community benefits.


Contact: mentoringgirls(at)canadianwomen.org