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

Racialized Girls

YWCA Toronto runs a girls group mentoring program in the highly diverse Scarborough neighbourhood. They embrace diversity and celebrate visible and invisible differences through workshop activities and discussion. Two ways in which they accomplish this include:
1. Their deconstruction and analysis of media images. They consider not only the media emphasis on physical thinness and beauty, but also the lack of representation of different cultures.
2. Through food! Their program offers dinner to the girls each week, and they feature different cultural meals each time.

Racialization refers to “the social process whereby certain groups come to be designated as different and consequently subjected to differential and unequal treatment” (Galabuzi, 2006). Unlike the term “visible minority,” which is generally restricted to those who are non-white, using the term 'racialized' makes clear that race is a social and cultural construct that can expose individuals to racism. This includes individuals that experience racism because of their ethnicity, language, religion, politics, culture, skin colour, manner of dress or accent. It points to groups of people who share the common experience of discrimination, whether based on skin colour, facial features, accents or histories of colonization and assimilation (Girls Action Foundation, 2010). For example, young women of colour see fewer images that look like themselves in the media and advertising campaigns. Mainstream media sources regularly depict women of colour either as oppressed victims, enemies or threats (Jiwani, 2010).

Racialized girls often face institutional and systemic forms of violence, poverty, and discrimination:

  • Girls from racialized and impoverished communities are more likely to experience violence (Falconer, 2008).
  • Black girls were approximately twice as likely as white girls to report physical dating violence (Howard & Wang, 2003).
  • Children face additional powerful stereotypes, such as the message that white kids are smart and black kids play sports, leading to feelings of inferiority (Acton & Lloyd, 2008).
  • Female minorities interact less with teachers than their white counterparts even though they attempt to initiate conversation more frequently (San Vicente, 2006).

Though racialized girls often face unique challenges due to racism and its impact on well-being and identity, they also show strengths such as higher rates of school enrolment (Girls Action Foundation, 2013). Despite some of the distressing facts listed above, there is evidence that acceptance of diversity among youth is improving. In 2006, the Girl Scout Research Institute found the following about youth in the US:

Most youth today value diversity and accept others. Fifty-nine percent of girls in grades seven to twelve say that being around people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds is important to them. This is particularly important to girls (63% vs. 55% of boys).

Group mentoring programs can also positively impact such welcoming and open-minded attitudes. Girl-focused programs, policies and spaces, which are specific to culture and community contexts, provide crucial support for girls and young women from racialized communities (Girls Action Foundation, 2010).

Girls group mentoring programs can make their spaces safe and welcoming to racialized girls by:  

  • Creating space where girls can voice their experience and discuss their representation and identity.
  • Utilizing the group to challenge stereotypes through discussion and analysis of the media.
  • Taking part in community and advocacy projects to encourage the media to better represent racialized girls and reflect their diversity. 
  • Finding mentors from within their community so that girls can see themselves reflected as leaders in the program. This can be particularly valuable for bridging cultural or racial gaps between the girls and staff.
  • Matching girls with diverse ethnicities, countries of origins and family backgrounds can allow for girls to learn more about one another, broaden their perspective and celebrate their similarities and differences.

Contact: mentoringgirls(at)canadianwomen.org