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    Date submitted
  • 14-Aug-2012



GirlForward is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Chicago, and is the first organization in the United States dedicated to empowering adolescent refugee girls who have been resettled from countries around the world. Our mission is to provide adolescent refugee girls with individual mentorship, educational programs, and leadership opportunities, creating a community of support that serves as a resource and empowers girls to be strong, confident, and independent.


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Introduction Video


Additional Questions

Who is your customer?

GirlForward serves adolescent refugee girls who have been resettled in Chicago from countries around the world that include DR Congo, Iraq, Bhutan, Burma, Ethiopia, Somalia, and others. Our programs reach girls ages 12-21. All are English language learners and live below the poverty level.

What problem does this idea/product solve or what market need does it serve?

GirlForward was founded in Chicago in 2011 as the first organization dedicated to empowering adolescent refugee girls who have been resettled in the United States, harnessing the unique potential of girls to end cycles of poverty. While there are no precise records of how many refugees currently live within the city limits of Chicago, there are between 1,000-1,200 new refugee arrivals in Chicago each year. At an estimated 15-20% of this number, adolescent girls comprise a small but critical group. Living in families splintered by war, with parents/guardians with limited or no education, girls take on overwhelming responsibilities and are more isolated than their male counterparts. They become translators, caregivers, and financial contributors, all while trying to adjust and thrive in a new environment. GirlForward is uniquely designed to support this transition and empower girls to reach and expand their full potential.

What attributes will make this idea/product successful? Why do you believe that those features will create success?

GirlForward applies the Population Council’s Safe Spaces Model – a recognized best practice in many developing countries – to refugee girls in an American setting, understanding that although resettled girls now live in the U.S., their challenges are not unlike those of girls in the countries where this model is more frequently put into practice. Our programs specifically target the following key challenges among refugee girls ages 12-21: poverty, language barrier, limited/interrupted education, social isolation, and a need for positive role models.

Explain how you (your team) will execute to make this idea/product successful? What gives you (your team) an advantage over others already in the market or new to this market?

Since launching our programs in 2011, our team has worked to build a network of support in the Chicago refugee-serving community and beyond. Our programs have demonstrated success, and we have effectively communicated this success to key stakeholders. We have been savvy at driving resources to GirlForward, especially in terms of funding and media attention.