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 Rural and Remote Communities

“In Canada, rural women and girls experience difficulties with jobs and opportunities, unemployment, underemployment, education and training, transportation, and a variety of governing and corporate business practices that affect them in their everyday living and working.”

- UFCW (2014)

The 2011 Canadian Census reported that approximately 6.3 million Canadians lived in rural areas. Their definition of rural is an area with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants and a population density below 400 people per square kilometre (UFCW Canada, 2014). Girls in rural and remote communities often have less access to supports and programs. Girls aged 5−19 living in rural areas have an overall mortality rate 2.5 times higher than girls who live in cities (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2006).

The Girls Action Foundation (2012 & 2013) reports some key facts about girls in rural Canada:  

  • Rural girls face many challenges related to living in remote or isolated communities, such as lack of access to supports and vulnerability to violence (Girls Action Foundation, 2013).
  • Girls and young women—who often already face social, economic and geographic barriers when attempting to access services—are disproportionately feeling the burden of service reduction in rural communities (Girls Action Foundation, 2012).

Other frequently cited challenges for rural youth include:

  • geographic and social isolation;
  • continuing effects of colonization and residential schools (for rural Aboriginal girls);
  • anonymity, confidentiality and privacy issues;
  • prejudice across community norms, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, racism and transphobia;
  • lack of accessible and anonymous or confidential health care resources and services;
  • lack of public transportation and lack of spaces and activities designed for girls and young people;
  • lack of access to shelters and services for those who have been victims of abuse;
  • poverty and lack of employment.

- Girls Action Foundation (2012)

Girls group mentoring can be an important support to counteract the potential feeling and experience of isolation for rural girls. Eustis (2012) points out that “isolation for vulnerable rural youth is literal, not figurative.” Mentorship opportunities help to reduce that isolation, both physically and emotionally.

Running a girls group mentoring program in a rural community can present additional challenges, especially in terms of transportation. Some organizations manage this challenge by utilizing technology. In addition to in-person meetings, they utilize social media and online platforms to allow for continued dialogue and relationship-building with mentors. To ensure program and participant safety, policies around the use of technology in mentoring relationships should be created.

Outreach to girls in rural communities can have added challenges, particularly when trying to engage more marginalized girls. The school system provides access to girls and provides a space where girls are already gathered. Many rural programs have found local schools to be a helpful resource when developing their programs. It is best to have a ‘champion’ in the school system early on to facilitate the development of programming. Tying the program into already established school initiatives or priorities can offer additional incentives for the school’s active participation and promotion of the program.

Also carefully consider the appropriate steps for setting up a rural program in a community that you are not a part of. If you are coming from outside of the community to host a group within their community space, take the time to first seek permission from community members. This ‘permission’ should extend beyond the formal consent of decision-makers and include many discussions. You might consider speaking with teachers, checking in with youth and empowering stakeholders at all levels to consent to, and support, the implementation of the program. Engaging the community as partners in this process will support a more seamless acceptance and integration of the program.

In order to ensure that girls in rural communities are welcome and have access to programs, mentors and staff can:

  • Plan the programs to take place where girls are already gathered. Leverage school space and/or arrange for mentoring programs to take place during lunch hours or directly after class.
  • Source out a champion in the community and seek their partnership in outreaching and gaining the support of other community members and stakeholders.
  • If transportation is proving to be a barrier to participation in the program, consider hiring a bus or taxi, or organizing a carpool. Be sure to explore what liability requirements exist when transporting youth.
  • Coordinate group travel for mentors to a shared site to meet with the girls (via public transit or by carpooling).
  • Consider using technology as an add-on to in-person meetings. In this case, it’s important to ensure that appropriate safety and security measures are in place to monitor any electronic communication between mentors and mentees.

Contact: mentoringgirls(at)canadianwomen.org