Girls Club; A space for Immigrant and Refugee Girls

The Cause

A weekly girls club that provides an opportunity for immigrant and refugee girls to explore their daily lived experiences around identity and belonging in a safe and culturally responsive environment. The goal of the program is for the girls to develop a strong sense of self and be equipped with the tools to navigate the challenges and opportunities of growing up in two cultures. Using a strength based participatory approach, youth leaders will guide the girls in activities that critically examine the topics of racialization, decolonization, body image, sexual health, media representation, and cultural and gender stereotypes. The program will be designed based on the girls interests and will imbed discussion topics in creative activities such as: popular theatre, photovoice, un-labeling fashion, collective kitchen, body mapping, visual design, physical activities that promote coping strategies for stress. Throughout the year, the girls will develop a project that will give voice to their story of identity and belonging. Projects may include documentary shorts, photo/art exhibit, spoken word, zine, and theatre skits. The girls will present this body of work at the year-end celebration. As a result, they experience increased self- confidence, critical thinking skills, leadership opportunities, and building a community of support.

Who Will it Benefit?

Research highlights the high vulnerability of immigrant and refugees, especially children and youth, who often experience post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, shifts in their identity, and struggle as they navigate a new reality. At the same time, immigrant and refugee girls and women are survivors and bring to countries of resettlement not only hope for a safe and peaceful existence but knowledge, strengths, skills, and resilience. In the course of settlement, some continue to experience risks and abuses (e.g., bullying, racism, family violence, mental health), which destabilize and challenge their safety and ability to settle into their new Canadian life. Failure to acknowledge these strengths and risks and a lack of effective responses to their concerns significantly affects their social and mental wellbeing. Currently, there is a lack of programs that support young immigrant and refugee girls as they experience their new lived realities. The MFRS Girls Club aims to make a difference in the lives of newcomer girls by providing them with a safe social-emotional space to claim their own identity and a sense of belonging.
In the program, girls will explore topics that matter to them. Through conversations with their peers and youth leaders, they will be able to engage in a project that gives voice to their journey and will empower them to build a strong sense of identity. They will develop strategies and tools to navigate their daily challenges and opportunities at school, home, and in their communities. In recognizing the complex needs of immigrant and refugee girls in Canada, the goals of The MFRS Girls Club are to:
a) Co-develop (with girls) tools that can strengthen their sense of identity and belonging as a racialized girl;
b) Enhance their skills and confidence to be leaders in their communities;
c) Provide space, resources and supports to build connections, tell their own story and counter imposed narratives and stereotypes (i.e. sexualized identity of racialized girls);
d) Create a safe environment for girls to speak about issues of racialized violence and gender equity;
e) Empower girls to share their invisible reality as a racialized girl, refugee, newcomer; and
f) Generate social change and counter perceptions of the other in general public discourses.