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Opportunity for Refugee Girls

GirlForward connects refugee girls to opportunity through mentors, friends, and safe spaces.

Photo of Blair Brettschneider
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

We are in the midst of the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen. Over 65 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes. In conflict, girls are especially vulnerable to violence, isolation, and being kept out of school. Girls who receive resettlement in the United States face huge challenges: poverty, language barrier, limited or disrupted education, isolation, and trauma. But we know that when girls succeed, everyone benefits. That's where GirlForward comes in. GirlForward supports girls ages 14-21 in grades 9-12 who identify as refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers. This support comes through three core programs: Mentoring, Education, and Safe Spaces. Our Mentoring Program pairs girls with mentors to engage in "4W" activities (Wellness, Wisdom, Wallet and World) in order to explore their passions and graduate from high school. Our Education Program provides a space for girls to simultaneously build their English skills and succeed academically while exploring their identities and learning about the world around them. The Safe Spaces Program provides safe spaces for girls to explore their identities, connect with other girls, and access the resources they need. Together, our core programs connect girls with mentors, friends, and safe spaces - the three critical ingredients they need to fully access support.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

GirlForward targets cities in the United States with diverse refugee and immigrant populations. Currently we operate in Chicago, IL and Austin, TX and plan to expand. These communities have need for support programs, strong volunteerism culture, and access to universities and other institutions.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

GirlForward directly connects girls who identify as refugees and immigrants with mentors - women in their new community - for a relationship that involves exchange of learning and ideas. Even outside of the Mentoring Program, we connect people from very different backgrounds around a shared love of learning and exploration.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

GirlForward exists to support girls in pursuing their passions and goals. We believe in the limitless potential of each girl in our community. For us, pursuing passions and goals most often starts with access to education and cross-generational relationships.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

For the past several years, 100% of Mentoring Program seniors have graduated from high school with close to 90% going on to enroll in college. Each year, 100% of girls participating in our summer education program demonstrate English language growth. Beyond the statistics, when girls speak about GirlForward, the words that come up most often are "home," "love," and "family."

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

At age 15, Domi was resettled in Chicago from a refugee camp in Tanzania with her mother and siblings. After three years of living in Chicago, Domi was at risk of not graduating from high school. It wasn’t for lack of motivation, but because barriers - such as language, disrupted education, poverty - stood in the way of her success. When Domi received support from a mentor and peer group, she gained new opportunities and optimism, and soon became the first in her family to graduate from high school. Domi’s experience was the catalyst for GirlForward.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

The communities GirlForward serves have differences, but also many commonalities. These communities face challenges such as rising housing costs, limited school resources for immigrant and refugee populations, and a need for opportunities for neighbors to get to know each other across differences. Our communities are facing increased negative rhetoric and even violence in the wake of the political climate.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Our community has incredible diversity in terms of countries of origin, ages, religions, work experiences, education experiences, and more. This connects girls with an incredible array of opportunities and experiences, and connects our organization to the resources we need.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

We currently work with partners in the community such as refugee resettlement organizations, community-based organizations, and schools. We hope to work with more organizations in the future whose clients are immigrants and asylum-seekers outside the formal refugee resettlement program.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Majority Adoption: We have expanded the pilot significantly and the program product or service has been adopted by the majority of our intended user base (i.e. 50% to 83% of the target population or 50,000 to 1,000,000 users).

Group or Organization Name


Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

At GirlForward, we understand that in order to have access to opportunity, girls have specific challenges that need to be addressed. Our deep knowledge of the issues and structural barriers they face make us the right group for this opportunity. GirlForward's model is based on best practices of girl-centered design, and we know this model creates a ripple effect that creates benefits for entire families and communities.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State

Chicago, IL


Join the conversation:

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Is your organization willing to collaborate with other social organizations in order to make the most positive impact possible around the world?

Photo of Blair Brettschneider


Photo of George

Thank you Blair!

Please send us your email address and we'll provide the additional information for us to move forward. We're looking forward to getting to know you soon!

Best regards!