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

Immigrant and Refugee Girls

Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office delivers a girls group mentoring program to one of Canada’s most diverse neighbourhoods. Girls are matched with high-school age mentors so they can share the challenges they face in balancing their competing cultural expectations at home and as part of a new Canadian community. The girls group mentoring relationship provides an opportunity to discuss and explore their too-often ‘conflicting’ identities.

The number of new immigrants and refugees in Canada has been steadily increasing. Before 1960, over 90% of immigrants came from European countries. During the period of 2001−2006, almost 80% of newcomers were of Asian, African or Caribbean origin. Newcomer youth often face a number of challenges, including but not limited to exclusion, poverty and separation (Rhodes, Roffman, & Suarez-Orozco, 2003). Newcomer youth must adjust to a new culture and language, as well as new surroundings and peer expectations. Many immigrant and refugee girls also deal with a third cultural identity, after having moved more than once. For example, a girl may have moved at a young age from her homeland due to war or violence, lived somewhere for several years, then moved again to Canada. Immigrant and refugee youth may be forming and discovering their identity while considering several cultures’ norms, expectations and experiences. Despite these challenges, newcomer youth demonstrate high aspirations and skill in cultural negotiation (Girls Action Foundation, 2013).

Immigrant girls face potential subjugation and oppression which has a significant impact on their cultural and ethnic identity. Some of these oppressions and difficulties include:  

  • Tension can build as immigrant girls attempt to fit in with peer groups while simultaneously being pressured by their families to maintain more traditional values. This tension can result in family conflict which will likely impact a young girl's identity formation (Carranza, 2007). 
  • Immigrant youth face barriers in the unequal education opportunities they face, such as “teacher biases, economic inequality, and institutional or systemic discrimination” (Killbride, Baichman-Anisef & Khattar, n.d.). 
  • One of the highest ranked settlement challenges for immigrant and refugee youth is “a lack of proficiency in one of the official languages […]. It affects the integration of youth into all aspects of Canadian life.” (Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, 2009).
  • In 2014, the unemployment rate in Canada for recent immigrant youth (aged 15−24) was 19.5%, compared to 13% for Canadian-born youth (Statistics Canada, 2014).
  • The low-income rate for recent immigrant youth was 3 times higher than that of Canadian-born youth (Statistic Canada, 2009).
  • One study found that “the majority of stressors, barriers and challenges faced by newcomer youth and their families are related to settlement and discrimination/exclusion” (Shakya, Khanlou & Gonsalves, 2010).

Research also shows that immigrant youth who are able to assert their cultural identity are more resilient in the face of adversity (Grossman & Liang, 2010). Immigrant girls also hold immense potential to resist assimilation and promote their own cultural identity for future generations. Formalizing the process of mentoring within immigrant communities and for immigrant girls will support immigrant youth to recognize, utilize and strengthen the assets they possess. In order to include and welcome immigrant and refugee girls, girls group mentoring programs and mentors can:

  • Acknowledge the reality immigrant girls face in living with two conflicting identities and establish a safe platform for discussion within the group.
  • Create space for girls to share their culture and experiences, whether that be by teaching the group traditions, enjoying a cultural meal, celebrating cultural events together or teaching their language.
  • Reduce potential language barriers by making the program and materials more accessible. This could include translation of forms and program material, meeting with the girls and their families to discuss the program or involving an interpreter.
  • Ensure strategies are in place to communicate effectively with girls’ families/guardians where language barriers may be present.

Contact: mentoringgirls(at)canadianwomen.org