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Empowering, inspiring, and connecting refugee girls

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Refugee girls and IRC staff participate in an outdoor activity at the Girl Scouts Parson Leadership Center in South Phoenix.

Photo: Danielle Luna

The first question posed to the 40 refugee girls was “what is your dream job”?

The girls quickly wrote their answers on a sheet of poster paper: doctor, nurse, teacher, chef, soccer player, veterinarian, painter, lawyer.

This marked the start of the day of activities held in celebration of International Day of the Girl by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Girl Scouts – Arizona Cactus-Pine Council (GSACPC). Forty refugee girls, ages 13 through 18, participated in the all day event, which was held at the Girl Scouts Parsons Leadership Center in South Phoenix. The girls were from a number of countries, including Burma, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Mexico, and Rwanda.

Refugee girls participate in a Girl Scouts closing ceremony to reflect on the day. Photo: Danielle Luna

During the event, 40 refugee girls took part in a variety of skill-building activities alongside Girl Scouts. The group also received a donation of hygiene products provided by Days for Girls and other items. The girls had the opportunity to dream about their goals and learn essential skills. The purpose of the all day event was empowering, inspiring, and connecting girls to the larger community.

“Our goal for the day was to make sure that these girls knew that they could achieve whatever they wanted,” said Riley McMahon, IRC Job Training AmeriCorps and one of the organizers of the event. “We wanted to make sure they were empowered to pursue their dreams.”

The day of activities was the latest in partnership between the IRC and GSACPC. Over the past 2 years, the two agencies have previously partnered on International Day of the Girl activities as well as on a summer camp for refugee youth.

“Girl Scout Leadership Experience programs empower girls to develop a strong sense of self and to strive to be leaders, and our volunteers and staff help nurture and foster that development,” said Jenny Sharbaugh, Outreach Coordinator for Social Impact Programs at GSACPC. “The Girl Scout program helps girls not only make friends but also to learn how to successfully collaborate with other girls and lift one another up. We’re excited to partner with IRC, because we know that what girls gain through Girl Scouting positively affects all areas of their lives. And the benefits of Girl Scouting are not exclusive to any demographic, which means that no matter where girls live or what their age or background, Girl Scouts can help them develop to their full potential and excel in all aspects of life.”  

Refugee girls complete dream boards by creating goals and imagining their futures. Photo: Danielle Luna

Since 2012, the United Nations has marked October 11th as the International Day of the Girl. The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges that girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. This year’s theme is “GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable,” celebrating achievements by, with, and for girls. 

During one of the final activities, each refugee girl created a dream board to reflect on her experience and think about her future. One girl’s board read: “Girls are amazing. Girls can do anything. Girls have the right to [make] their own decisions.”

IRC and GSACPC wholeheartedly agree.

Women and girls—worldwide, but especially in crisis zones—face violence, discrimination, and a lack of opportunities that threaten their lives and rob them of their potential. But, with the right support, they can change their futures. Learn more about our work to empower women and girls globally: https://www.rescue.org/women

Learn more about the work of the Girl Scouts – Arizona Cactus-Pine Council at their website: https://www.girlscoutsaz.org

Story by Stanford Prescott, Community Engagement Coordinator. Photos by Danielle Luna, Microenterprise Development Coordinator.