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.
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:
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.