The Girls Action Foundation is a youth-driven non-profit in Montreal that supports the development of all gender-marginalized people by providing them with educational tools, such as workshops, webinars and academic research about gender-based discrimination. We spoke with communications manager Naoual Laaroussi to learn more in detail about what this organization does.
Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.
Girls Action Foundation inspires and supports the empowerment, leadership and healthy development of girls, young women and gender-diverse youth by increasing their access to resources and opportunities. We are a national movement of empowered girls, young women and gender-diverse youth taking action to lead social change in their communities. To create a world where youth are strong, confident, and engaged leaders.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Girls Action aims to overcome the systemic oppressions and issues that girls, young women and gender-diverse youth experience. Thanks to the support of our diverse network, we notably tackle issues around gender-based violence, youth isolation, and the lack of resources for racialized youth, particularly in terms of mental health, the development of professional and interpersonal skills, self-esteem, etc.
When did you start/join it?
What made you want to get involved?
I have always been passionate about social justice and advancing the rights of marginalized people and especially those of BIPOC girls, women and gender-diverse people. I wanted to join a team and an organization that carried progressive and innovative values and who genuinely cares about what those involved experience, feel and desire. It’s inspiring to be part of a movement that aims to amplify the voices of girls and young women in all their diversity!
What was the situation like when you started?
I arrived at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a reduced team, working from home and little active programming. It was a destabilizing experience, but so formative at the same time. Indeed, this has allowed the organization to focus even more on new technologies and digital tools, both for the workers and the communities we serve. In addition, at this time we launched the first fully online Girls Action projects. Given the needs of youth and the isolation experienced due to the pandemic, these projects were a success! I am thinking in particular of the Feminist Summer School that we launched in collaboration with Platform, as well as Support is essential, which has since become one of our flagship programs.
How has it changed since?
The past few years have been transformative for Girls Action. There have been many internal and community organizational changes. Girls Action is experimenting with a transition from a hierarchical to a flat structure. This means that the leadership that runs the organization has become co-responsible for all aspects of the organization. At the community level, in recent years, Girls Action has become more gender inclusive and BIPOC-oriented. We have also seen our programming expand and we have developed stronger and more aligned relationships with our community, collaborators and partners.
What more needs to be done?
Like many nonprofit organizations that serve more marginalized populations, we struggle with funding and organizational sustainability. This is a reality we are used to being faced with and we continue to advocate for feminist or youth organizations to have access to core funding.
On the side of our communities, we are aware that young people have many needs that we cannot fully address. We believe, among other things, that there is still a lot of work to be done to provide more mental health resources for young women and gender-diverse youth, especially BIPOC ones. We need more space and resources for youth-led initiatives, whether in terms of climate change and therefore the environment, around gender-based violence and prevention, systemic racism, etc. The communities we serve are diverse and so are their needs, which is why it is important for us to always use an intersectional approach to ensure that we serve as many people as possible in all their diversity.
How can our readers help?
The best way to support us is to talk about us and get involved in our programs or activities by volunteering for example or by becoming a member of our network. In addition, it is also possible to make a donation to support the Girls Action effect or to support a particular project that is close to your heart. Every gesture makes a difference!
Do you have any events coming up?
YES! In the coming months of this new year, we will have important and exciting activities and programs for our communities. In January, we launched our Expression program in partnership with La Converse. Expression is a program that aims to support and strengthen the cultural, artistic and heritage expressions of young women, and gender-diverse youth living in Montreal, through mentorship, training and podcast creation. In February, we screened the documentary For a culture of consent by the collective La voix des jeunes compte. There was a discussion led by the youth of the collective. You could better understand why they are fighting to put in place a framework law aimed at preventing and combating sexual violence in elementary and high schools in Quebec. In February, as part of Black History Month, we also offered micro-grants to support Black youth involved in our community. Finally, in June 2023 we will have the return of our Book Club for BIPOC young women and gender-diverse youth between 13-17 years old. This edition of the Book Club will be in English only.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local community organization you love?